An Interview with: Franki Riley


Nouse Sport sat down with the York Sport Union President to talk about Roses, transgender participation, and which sport deserves to be banished

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Image by YUSU

By Jack Bleksley

What is your favourite thing about sport at the University of York?

Probably the sense of community. All the friendships that you make. So many of the people that I still interact with, even though they’ve left uni and even if they’re not local, has been because of sport; and I’ve never felt so supported by a community than I have through sport and some of the strongest connections that are made.

That bond with your teammates - you win together, you lose together - it creates these really strong relationships with people. It’s the memories of it; you don’t remember the game but you remember the people and the celebrating together. It gives you this feeling of being unstoppable but it’s the people around you that make it that way.

If, for the rest of your life, you could only spectate one sport, play one sport, and banish a sport off the face of the earth, what would they be?

American football to spectate. My boyfriend plays American football and until this year I hadn’t really seen much American football and I have to be honest, if I remember back to first year and I saw the weird tunnel thing, I was like “What the hell?” But now having seen it, knowing how much goes on in such a short space of time, it’s so exciting and I love it.

To play, it would have to be rugby because that is my sport. I absolutely love it and the community aspect of it is brilliant. One sport to banish... Oh my God. Is there a sport we don’t have at university, so I don’t upset anyone? What’s a really scary sport? Oh, absolutely no disrespect to them, but the thought of caving and potholing, it scares me. I’m quite claustrophobic, so that’s a sport I could just never do. I wouldn’t want to completely banish it, but it’s not for me I could never do it.

Which campus’ sports facilities do you prefer?

Most of my memories have been at West Campus, so I think I would say West Campus.

I like West Campus gym a lot for my needs. I used to really not like it before we did our refurb, but now we’ve had this amazing refurb it looks absolutely brilliant. We have a ridiculous amount of squat racks and you’re never normally waiting for equipment.

So many of my memories are tied to 22 Acres. My last game on those pitches is going to be very emotional. One of our best facilities has got to be the athletics track. There are not that many unis that have an athletics track to that standard on their campus and it’s such an underused facility and it doesn’t get much attention a lot of the time.

Has there been any progress in the consultation to improve the inclusivity of transgender and non-binary people in sports at York?

Yes. We’ve met with two college teams that are merging. James women’s and men’s football are becoming James football.
My sport committee and I are working on drafting an accessibility and inclusion in sport policy as we speak. I’ve been doing a lot of research around other policies that exist at other unis and other student’s unions. NGB guidance, BUCS guidance and then how can we actually use that and try and create more inclusive cultures here, understanding that a lot of the rules when you get into competition are very exclusive, which is making it very challenging.

I’m going to be starting to have initial conversations with our gendered clubs very soon, to start having conversations around whether they want to work together more on things.

It all has to be quite light touch to start with to see where people’s feelings are with that. I don’t think we’ll be in a position where clubs are going to completely re-ratify as a whole new club this year, but there’s very important conversations to start a new long term view of sport in the future.

My sport committee are also working to put together a series of guides and resources for transgender and non-binary students. We know that we don’t do very well on having gender inclusive facilities and changing spaces. I don’t want to be making excuses but the buildings were built in the sixties and the agenda wasn’t where it is now. We are now struggling with limited space and figuring out how we can provide for everyone.

There’s a lot going on but there’s a lot of research and guidance and policy stuff that takes some time, but we’re getting there and definitely taking really big steps forward.

Roses is coming up soon, with York looking to overturn what happened last year, how are preparations going for Roses?

Very, very well. There’s some exciting announcements coming. The easiest way to describe Roses this year is that there’s quite a lot of out of the box thinking with regards to how Roses is running. It’s very exciting and it’s very nerve-wracking.

Bearing in mind last year, there’s a lot of work that we should be doing in preparing competitors for Roses. We need to make sure we are preparing students well enough to go into what is often a very high pressure environment, especially at home when there is going to be a lot of home crowds, so we are thinking about how we can get students hyped up and ready and excited but also feeling prepared to go into it. It’s starting to come together very well.

What is your proudest achievement as President?

In July last year, I was able to secure just under £25,000 of funding from the University for accessible sports equipment. For a union of our size and the sports budget we’re given, it’s a significant amount of money.

I’m about to launch a consultation alongside the Disabled Student’s Net-work and Disabled Student’s Officer, Freya, that is asking what people want to see. We want to see if students would like us to invest in aiming our current clubs more accessible, or providing specific spaces for them.

That was one of the days where I was actually improving people’s lives because there is a whole cohort of students that cannot access sport that are now going to be able to.

We’re going to start a really cool pilot project in term three in accessible sport week where we’re hoping to launch a lot of this stuff.

If there was one thing you could change at the drop of a hat at York Sport, what would it be?

More 3G pitches. We are at the point of really struggling to fit everything in. A huge part of that is because everything goes on on facilities that are very weather dependent .If our pitches get churned up too much, we can’t put stuff on there. We can’t train late at night because they’re not floodlit. We are working on that, and things are slowly moving forwards.

If I could have it at the drop of a hat I absolutely would because that would solve a lot of problems for a lot of clubs.