Brig talks to Sports President candidate Craig Bathgate

22 mins read
Credit: Craig Bathgate/Facebook

I know it’s all coming thick and fast with these interviews, but just hold my hand, and we’ll get through this together.

We now turn our eyes to the sports race, as we interview the first candidate for Sports President, with triathlon president Craig Bathgate.

Craig is a polished type of fellow. The kind of person you would expect would be a good politician, but who doesn’t actually have any political experience or interest.

I met Craig in Underground this morning to have a chat about his campaign.

In the first question, the elephant in the room had to be addressed.

The previous night, Craig had been on Air3’s news show with Tom Flanagan and the other Sports Union candidates.

In that interview, Tom re-asked a question that was posed to the candidates at Hustings about what the candidates would do to help non-binary people in sport.

During Craig’s answer, he repeatedly referred to non-binary people as “them”, “these students” and “people like this”.

In his answer, Craig also talked about how clubs should be running sessions for non-binary people.

When the other candidates, Rebecca Blair and Alex Duke, took issue with the way that Bathgate was speaking about non-binary students, he again referred to non binary people as “these people”.

After the show, Tom wrote an article about what was said, and I wanted to give Craig a chance to respond to the article published by Air3.

Craig had already prepared a statement, which is also available on his Facebook page where it can be viewed in full.

“I advocate for the inclusion of all members of the LGBTQ+ community starting in my personal life, in my own club Triathlon, and will continue to do so if elected sports president.

“I plan to do this by upholding a strict policy of acceptance throughout all of our clubs, particularly focusing on respecting the identities and pronouns of non-binary individuals.

“I regret my poor choice of words. I was not trying to dismiss the issue but was instead trying to highlight the difference between equality and equity which is fundamental to my stance on inclusivity.

“However, I do not wish to permit this to become a sensation which derails the conversation from the key issues at hand which I have worked carefully to implement at every stage of my campaign.”

I asked him after he had given his statement if he believed that it was just a poor choice of words, he replied: “Yeah. I think, looking back, and chatting to members of the community in my club. First of all they can’t believe that it’s got to this level.

“At that time I honestly felt that I was referring to non-binary students as a group, as if I would refer to an American Football team as ‘them’.

“Looking back I can see that for some people that did cause offense and I do regret that, and actually that’s something that I need to perhaps learn more of.”

Craig says in his manifesto that he wants to increase the links with the School of Sport as well as the Sports Development Services to boost management nutrition and coaching.

I asked if he had been in touch with these bodies already, to begin a dialogue. “Yeah, I have indeed. I’ve been in email contact for quite a time now actually, probably at the start of this month when I was drawing up the manifesto.

“We as a triathlon club haven’t actively been involved in the psychology program that goes on just now, but it’s something that with the development of our performance side we’re going to be bringing in next year.

“When I looked at it, I saw that’s one of our postgraduate degrees that we do and one of the areas that we specialise in as an academic sporting university.

“It makes sense to tap in and to harness the knowledge and expertise in these other areas.

“I think it’s often batted around that we’re the University of Sporting Excellence and we often forget that sporting excellence isn’t just on the field and in play.

“But actually the people that work behind the scenes in the School of Sport are world renowned in their fields and we as clubs need to be harnessing that.”

Bathgate suggests that teams should put in place a club development plan, which would set out their goals for the future. I asked him if he thinks that the more established clubs, such as men’s football or American football, would need such a plan.

He explained: “As a triathlon club we’ve grown massively in numbers and on a performance level as well and we saw that it’s key for us to bring in a club development plan so that we’re focusing on all areas of the club.

“That we’re not just getting carried away with the fact that we have really great athletes and just focus all our time and investment in them.

“As a club, we need to make sure that as a club we’re catering for all our students involved.

“A club development plan sounds like a big, scary thing, it’s not. You see some of them that are pages and pages long, I’m not saying that.

“If we as clubs outline say three key areas that we want to progress in each year, and if we’re setting suitable targets for that, then it helps shape where these clubs are going, rather than just thinking ‘it’ll be great if we get more members this year.’

“Really focusing our attention on how they’re going to do that, what they’re going to do for those members and how they’re can accommodate and grow as a club.

“It’s not something that I would expect swimming, football, golf to already have these, but I think it will help the smaller clubs actually get to a level like that.”

Bathgate also states in his manifesto that he wants to raise awareness of sports teams available funding options.

I asked him if he felt that the Sports Union weren’t doing enough to advertise these options. “Yeah, I do. As someone who has used these avenues, and it’s all personal opinion, I think that’s key to highlight.

“We do get emails saying that the Vice-Chancellor’s fund or the alumni fund is taking place, and those are great.

“However there’s no real guidance in terms of actually encouraging clubs to go for it and use it.”

Craig then gave the same anecdote that he gave at Hustings about the plight of the volleyball team, who only have one net available to them.

He says that they should be able to purchase portable nets that they can use.

If you haven’t heard this anecdote, it’s all there in black and white in Brig’s coverage of Hustings, you lucky people.

The facilities redevelopment could cost as much as £17m, as we reported recently. With there being a lack of counsellors, and the need for the maintenance of teaching rooms and study space, I asked Craig if this money could be better spent in other areas.

“I’ve got mixed feelings about the sports facilities,” he said. “When we saw a presentation on the proposed plans, what was thrown up before us was the plans for other universities and their sporting facilities, and apart from St Andrews, all the other universities like Warwick and Birmingham were all more than double that.

“For something that’s going to be a one off, they’re saying that it will be maybe 20 years before we get another thing, the money is not being spent wisely enough to justify that amount of money being invested.

“I think you’re dead right, we need to be looking at other areas of the Union, of University life, where this money can be invested more efficiently.

“I’m not saying that I’m against the facilities, I feel that we need artificial space and sports hall space. That is vital.

“Outwith that, we don’t need a fancy glass building, that looks great.

“We’re there to play sport.

“There’s been a lot of chat about the needs of sports clubs, when actually, we need to be engaging with students. We need to be taking into consideration what students need.

“For me, on a student level, the facility plans don’t offer the best opportunity for students to get involved in sport.”

He later discussed why the facilities were not a major part of his manifesto, saying “the consultation period ends in June, so for us coming in at the start of June, being realistic, the majority of decisions in terms of how this is going to look, could already have been made.

“It might not, I know that the Sports Union are not happy with the plans, so that might extend that period.”

Bathgate stressed in his manifesto that he would look to institute an open door policy, so that he was accessible to students as much as possible.

I asked if this could be distracting him from his main role, and Bathgate answered by clarifying that instead of being strictly available all the time, there would instead be a mechanism on the Union website which would allow students to see when he was in the office, something that he says has frustrated him in recent times.

He also said that it goes further than his office, and could mean that he would drives teams to events, or helps run sessions when clubs need help.

“Sports President isn’t a job, I love sports, it’s a chance to invest in all types of sports club. And actually the job’s not a nine to five.”

Bathgate proposes that clubs should run more Give It a Go (GIAG) sessions throughout the year, to increase engagement. A proportion of GIAGs mean that clubs do not take part in usual training, and instead focus on activities that are aimed at new people.

I asked Craig if having to divert from their usual training in the middle of their season would distract clubs. “My vision with GIAG, is that it’s not forced on any club. No club in our university should be forced to do anything.

“I think that’s the beauty of our clubs, they are all run very differently. They all have things that they do really well, and they’re very diverse.

“In terms of them giving up valuable training times, to me that’s not an issue. It’s a clubs choice to run these sessions.”

He was clear about his reasons for wanting more GIAG sessions. “What clubs find is that a lot of their members come after those sessions, they get a lot of emails saying ‘is it okay if I come along? I didn’t make it along because there was so many other things going on.

“That’s the truth, you have clubs and societies battling over a two week period in the year to try and get members. It’s something that I don’t think is just a Sports Union issue, but actually could be spread wider to clubs and societies.”

Changing pace quite drastically, we touched on the issue of lad culture. We all remember the Hockey team’s ‘busgate’ scandal, and the football team blacking up for a night out. It’s something that has been discussed at length, and I wanted to know how Craig would tackle this issue.

“First and foremost, I think that lad culture is unacceptable,” he explained.

“I think if we look at what Jess has done, coming off what was a very bad time for the university with a lot of bad press, it’s just about educating our students.

“That’s something that I would want to be involved in, but I also think we could perhaps look to outside groups. We’ve got some amazing organisations that work within these areas.

“It’s an individual’s choice and students have their own views and that should be respected, however, something that attacks and almost criminalises things, we shouldn’t tolerate that as a Sports Union.”

I followed up by asking if he thinks that the issue of lad culture is one that can be tackled. After some thought, he said: “I think you would be naive to say you could govern it.

“As a Sports Union, we don’t know what goes on on nights out and I think that in terms of governing it, I would hate for it to get to that stage. I would hope that with the progress that we’ve made over the past few years would it wouldn’t happen.

“But I think at the same time, that if it does arise then it’s dealt with in the correct and official manner.”

We’ve been trying to ask all the candidates the same final questions – Bathgate was no different.

When asked what he would take from other candidates manifestos, if he were to be elected, he said: “That’s a good question. All the candidates running are great. They are all very qualified and have great visions for sport here.

“Alex touches on a great point in terms of kit, again we’re not sure when this is going to happen and it could be something that comes in perhaps before our time, I was hesitant to include it in mine.

“The deal that we’ve got at the moment, triathlon kit is great, and we love it, but it’s £50 a pop for a hoodie.

“We’re looking at barriers to sport, and kit’s a huge barrier. It’s a huge barrier for people feeling part of a club. That they go and take part in a club and they find that they can’t afford the kit because it’s extortionate. We can’t underestimate the influence that has on an individuals belonging.

“It is key that we work specifically on that level and ensure that we get what’s best for the clubs, the students and for the university on a whole.”

The final question, you know the drill, what would Craig do in his first 100 days in office? I know you’re dying to find out.

“I think we’ve got to be looking at facilities, if that’s not solved, ensuring that we do get what’s best for our students and our clubs.

“Publicising sports, the Sports Communication Officer does an amazing job and we need to take it further than that, we need to learn from organisations like Brig, the Photography society.

“I really want to see this interaction between sports clubs and actual societies. We have physical activity societies involved in the Students Union at the clubs and societies level, and I think it’s important that we support them.

“For me, it’s facilities, it’s kit but I’m also working with focus groups on the Park Run, a weekly free 5k. It’s an opportunity for students to get involved in sport. We’re not saying that you have to come every week, it’s just about the opportunity to participate.”

So ladies and gentlemen of the world. Go out and vote until your heart’s content. Voting opens on Monday March 13 at 9am and will close at 6.15pm the following day.

If you’re reading this, you’re more than likely late for Alternative Hustings. Which start at 6pm tonight in Venue, it’s currently 5:25.

But don’t you worry. Brig has you covered, our roving reporters will be tweeting from the scene, so if you are there, keep your drunken antics to a minimum, unless you want to be the subject of a Brig tweet.

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