In a blow to college sports teams, just days after the cancellation of Roses due to the pandemic, LUSU has announced that it will be cutting their staff support, and recreational sports leagues will be scrapped entirely. Ironically, the cuts will also end promotion and relegation within college leagues, which was only introduced this year, and which the embattled LUSU President listed as a major achievement of his first term, in his re-election manifesto.
LUSU's statement said that students would have to wait until the University's Sports Review delivered a 'sustainable funding model' for sports at Lancaster, before finding out if the cuts would be reversed. The statement identifies the uncertainty caused by the University's delay in finishing the Sports Review as the reason for LUSU having to cut college sport support.
The cuts also mean the end to Active Lancaster, LUSU's recreational sports scheme. Active Lancaster was launched in October 2019, and delivered daily 'Turn Up and Play' sessions for a range of sports. Students had to pay £2 per session to participate. Active Lancaster has its roots in the All In sports inclusivity initiative launched by the last years' sabbs.
The June 2019 Trustee Board meeting discussed a £45,473 spending proposal to fund a LUSU staff member to deliver the sports strategy for 2019/20. The minutes also record that there was hope that 'there would be commitment from the University to support a post in the longer term.' In the meantime, LUSU was to approach the UPP Foundation (the 'charitable' arm of the offshore private company that owns most campus accommodation) in an attempt to secure external funding.
It's unclear why LUSU has decided now, amidst a global pandemic, to announce the cuts. The current sabbs have known about the delays in the Sports Review process since at least October 2019, so they have had ample time to take action to guarantee that student sports wouldn't be detrimentally affected.
The cuts represent just £45,000 from LUSU's annual budget of over £8 million, so it would be hard for the sabbs to argue that they couldn't have found money from elsewhere to protect the funding. The 2019/20 funding was pledged from LUSU's reserves, which sit comfortably at over £1 million, and surely could have afforded funding another year of LUSU's sporting provision.
This isn't the first time that LUSU has made an unpopular and arbitrary decision to cut funding to student services. Last year, the Trustee Board attempted to remove funding for Bailrigg FM's broadcasting licence, despite admitting that the money saved would be negligible. After national outcry, the Board was forced to reverse its decision.
The lack of financial transparency in LUSU is something Spineless has reported on before. With yet another unpopular spending decision, it's high time that the Budget Committee that LUSU's members voted to establish at October's AGM is actually set up, so that unnecessary cuts can't keep being imposed on students against their will.