News Editor Oliver Shaw reports on the Sports Officer candidate interviews in the run-up to the Guild Elections
On Saturday 12th February, three candidates for Guild Sports Officer accepted the invitation from BURN FM to be interviewed by Ellie Reed, Jasmine Sandhar, and Oliver Shaw about their campaigns. This is what they had to say. The candidates are listed in alphabetical order by their surnames.
Frances ‘Frantastic Fox’ Atkinson
One of the key points of Frances Atkinson’s manifesto concerns the expansion of social sport for all at the university. During her interview with Jasmine Sandhar, Frances explained how as a person who is keen in taking part in social sport and runs a campus league, she believes that with an extra year, she would be able to address some of the key improvements that need to be made with social sports at the University of Birmingham. She talked about the demand for social sports at the uni with membership at her local netball club rising from ‘four members to around 200.’ She discussed her plans to organise, ‘big one day events,’ in terms of large sports tournaments for all and even considers planning these in conjunction with other universities. In addition, in her manifesto she plans for a decrease in the price which students must pay in order to enjoy social sport on campus, with a target entry fee of £1 per session.
Communication between UBSport and development sport is another area which she said she would like to address during her interview, highlighting the level of ‘misunderstanding,’ which takes place within teams at the university. She plans for an open-door policy whilst also hoping to improve communication by increasing the number of meetings with club development from two meetings to four per year. It is not only communication with the sports themselves which she hopes to promote but also with the student community. She outlined her desire to help more people learn about university matches that go on with sports ‘which are so successful but somewhat less known,’ and would hope to have large crowds for hockey matches for example.
When asked whether she believes whether the current sports community is representative of the student population at the University of Birmingham, Frances believed that this wasn’t necessarily the case, stating how coverage for the most popular sports teams was rather top heavy and believes as a result that, ‘everyone deserves a fair chance to be represented.’ She also noted however the groups of friends or societies which have chosen to create a sports team and sports teams which have chosen to branch out into other sports and hopes to push for more of this to happen.
Frances also talked about looking back into the workings of past Sports Officers to notice their actions regarding PARA sports with the intention of improving accessibility to sports for all. This will be achieved through learning collectively in committees what they can provide for those who feel they’re not able to take part in sports for a particular reason. In her opinion although many of the clubs on offer may be inclusive for everyone who wishes to join, that may not be the case, ‘from the outside looking in,’ and hopes to change this with the use of social media at sports fairs on Welcome week for example.
The campaigns for the position of Sports Officer at Guild Elections usually come with some sort of a gimmick and this is certainly also the case with Frances! When coming up with her manifesto and campaign ideas, she chose to call herself Frances ‘Frantastic Fox,’ Atkinson and when asked how it relates to the campaign herself, she talked about the catchiness of the name, how it works with her own name and how it makes her memorable. It was actually her art teacher who gave her the nickname Frantastic Fox, and it just stuck with her from there!
Florie ‘Floz the Frog’ Craddock
Florie is a final year Sports Exercise and Health Science student who is also running for the position of Sports Officer. During her interview with Oliver Shaw, she mentioned how keen she was over the past year to run for this position, saying that ‘she wouldn’t shut up to her friends about it!’ She discussed how being surrounded by sports people for the duration of her university career and the positive impact that it can have on people’s lives and minds is what pushed her to run for this role. In comparison to the other candidates running for the same position, she believes that her enthusiasm, tied with her organisational skills and her excitement to work in a team with ‘like-minded people,’ is what sets her apart. She also wanted to stress that in her opinion, running for a position such as the Sports Officer in the Guild Elections is in no way political and instead would rather ‘put in the effort to see where things could be better.’
Florie also chose to go with, ‘Florie the Frog,’ as the gimmick to her campaign for it being memorable and for being rather fun. She mentions how she could have gone into the elections as a straight face candidate but as mentioned before would be fun, not just for herself but for everyone involved in the campaign if she dressed up as, ‘a bit of a wally!’
The first of some of the key points in Florie’s manifesto is sports welfare. Safety and comfort for those who engage in sport is extremely important to her and during this interview, she focused particularly on the level of training given to the welfare secretaries of each sports club and society. She discussed how they were given, ‘one training session at the beginning of the year and that’s it.’ In order to combat this, she proposed training sessions for welfare secretaries every two months in order to help keep memories fresh so therefore, ‘when people come to them with concerns about mental health or sexual harassment, then they will feel more equipped to handle them.’ When asked whether this rule would be compulsory, voluntary or more like a referral service, she responded that it would be a compulsory measure.
Amateur participation is another key part surrounding Florie’s manifesto and during her interview, she stressed that although we should celebrate all the elite athletes representing the University of Birmingham, we must not forget those who simply like to go and play sports for fun. Changing the way in which sport societies advertise in making them more approachable and easier for those who may find it worrying to join was a key area raised by Florie. Other measures which would be used to improve amateur participation in sports included an online service in order to help find and create campus league teams, regular mixed tournaments and even a Vale Summer Sports Day!
Oliver then proceeded to ask Florie about the gym membership crisis which takes place at the beginning of almost every year, requiring a response from the acting Sports Officer and asked what her plan of action would be with regard to this particular problem. ‘Floz the Frog,’ proposed the introduction of a reduction of fees and also the possibility to buy memberships on a monthly or termly basis in order to combat this issue.
2022 is also an especially important year for the person taking up the role as Sports Officer as this is the year in which the Commonwealth Games is being held in Birmingham, with sports such as hockey and squash even taking place on campus. When asked about what plans she had during the Commonwealth Games when the University of Birmingham will be on the world stage, she emphasised the need to support those who were successful in obtaining a volunteering role, whilst also reminding people how special an event this is an also how lucky we are as a community to have such facilities which will be used by some of the world’s best athletes in the summer.
Joe ‘Dredge the Dragon’ Dredge
The third and final candidate interviewed was Joe Dredge. Interviewer Ellie Reed began by asking why he chose to run for the position of Sports Officers for the election. Joe responded by saying that sports had been very important in his university life from being a referee for football, a social sec and as a sport science student. He continues by explaining how this will be an ideal opportunity to give back to, ‘a student community which needs to be put first.’
Joe then explained the reasoning behind the adoption of the gimmick for his campaign, the dragon. ‘Firstly, it’s a bold animal […] and with the colour being red, it’s something you see all around campus with the Playerlayers and resonates therefore with the university.’
‘It appeals to everyone,’ was the response given by Dredge the Dragon when interviewer Ellie asked him what makes his manifesto stand out in comparison to the other candidates running for this position. Wellbeing has been a key theme in the manifestos for Sports Officers and it is also the case for Joe’s too. ‘It applies to people 24/7 so that’s really important. Also, it’s important to unite Birmingham students, especially after the times we’ve had with COVID,’ were just a few of the comments he included regarding the health, safety and wellbeing of sports on campus.
Joe also made clear throughout the interview that simple participation in sport isn’t one of his only aims if he were to be elected, but to also focus on employability skills which sports can help achieve. Getting people involved in coaching positions and first aid courses were examples provided by Joe which would help achieve this.
When asked whether the current Sports Officer had done a good job, Joe thought that George Christian had to the most part been successful but also added ‘there are still gaps which can get everyone involved, especially with coach officiating.’
‘Being proactive,’ is what Dredge thinks is the best way of solving the almost annual gym membership crisis. He referred to the timings which are advertised by the university gym, stating that off-peak times are usually in fact the busiest times for the gym on a daily basis. The candidate continued by saying that he actually believes that the membership fee can be somewhat affordable following the experience he gained on a work placement with UB sport and believes that the main area concerning cost is to create options of monthly, termly, or annual memberships to cater for students from all types of financial situations. Another interesting policy which he raised in the interview and hopes to instate would be the creation of a women’s only section in the gym in the hope it may help female members of the university community perhaps feel less intimidated when working out.
Ellie proceeded by asking how he will change the stereotype that elected Guild Officers do not achieve must during their times in office and Joe replied, ‘first and foremost, I’m a County Durham lad and there’s not many people who get more done than me!’ He carried on by saying that communication is the key to efficiency in this position. ‘People want to see the results and with weekly updates, hopefully it’ll be like a snowball effect and will keep going and going.’
As well as in Florie’s interview, Joe was asked how he will be able to take advantage whilst the university is on the global platform. He touched on creating a legacy by hosting large events for all and taking pride in the sporting excellence on show by students who study here at the University of Birmingham. These large events which could hopefully reach capacities of up to 20,000 would be able to build up steam and carry on the momentum of playing and also watching sports on campus.
In the final question of the interview, Joe believed that it is the ‘wide scope,’ of what he is offering is what sets him apart from the other candidates running for Sports Officer. From health and well-being to providing online workout plans to do at home for those who may not be able to afford a gym membership or may feel more comfortable working out in the comfort of their own home, and from ensuring spiking measures on Sports Night to having policies in for female and disabled athletes. Joe believes these ideas will prove successful should he be made the Sport Officer and rounded off the interview with his campaign slogan, ‘Be a Ledge and Vote Dredge!’
The other candidates running for this role are Aryan Saharawat, Shaikh Ali, Panashe Majuru, and Curtis Jack Maltby. Voting opens at 10am on Monday 28th February on the Guild website and closes on Friday 4th March at 4pm.
Read more candidate interviews here: