In a summer where Stirling University sport has been focused on our swimming scholars preparations for international competition, three Stirling students have taken part in a historic triumph for Scotland’s rowers. Gregor Maxwell, Joe Wilson and team psychologist Vista Beasley were present as the Senior Men’s team retaining the overall gold medal against English and Welsh squads containing multiple World Championship medallists.
The extraordinary progress of Scottish Rowing has been the result of diligent work by the High Performance Programme, initiated in 2002. At the core of this programme have been the three giants of Scottish rowing; Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen Universities.
So where does Stirling University Boat Club fit into all this? The campus is obviously notable for its long stretch of loch, but scenery aside it is quite depressing. Despite being a students at Stirling University Gregor Maxwell and Joe Wilson have to row under Edinburgh University’s colours, and when one looks at the statistics it is easy to see why it’s a necessary sacrifice. Edinburgh Boat Club has invested almost £1 million in its rowing performance centre over the last two years and has 5 full time coaches, while Stirling has no boats, no oars and no coach.
In a personal interview given in the aftermath of the victory, Gregor Maxwell claimed that despite strong support from the Stirling Sports Union, “Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence” is neglecting a vital asset. Maxwell has since stated that
“its pretty sad as I want to race for my uni, feel proud of my uni…but you don’t get the team atmosphere which is essential for pushing for higher standards”
So why is Scotland’s premier University for sport attracting athletic talent, which it then passes on to its rivals? Why are two Scotland internationals, who should be treasured for their efforts, being ignored by the Head of Performance Sport, Raleigh Gower, and forced to compete as “outsiders with Edinburgh”? While it is conceivable that funding would be an issue, Olympic standard rowing boats cost between £8,000 and £30,000, it is clear that attracting talent can equalise the funding deficit while bringing an abundance of prestige. Edinburgh’s high performance centre has had £250,000 invested in improvement within the last year, and with this investment the team has competed international for attracting future stars of rowing. This year Edinburgh has attracted 2 international rowers from Asia, and given trial sessions to ambitions rowers from Canada, Australia and the USA. If these young rowers are willing to pay £9,000, and more, per year then over the course of 10 years with as many as 50 ovearseas recruits then the financial returns would compensate for the initial investment plus the costs for maintenance by itself.
If Stirling University wants to retain its prized accolade as Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence, it will have to wake up to the reality of the situation which some of its most decorated athletes now face.