Stirling University Boat Club (SUBC) has made clear its intention to establish its own boat house on the River Forth, after many years operating in the Riverside boat house alongside Stirling Rowing Club.
In an interview with Brig, SUBC president Niels Henning stated the club was in the process of looking for a new location for the club, with the support of Scottish Rowing and the Stirling Students’ Union.
The decision was made following a failed renegotiation of their contract with Stirling Rowing Club (SRC), which owns the majority of the boats and holds the keys to the Riverside boat house.
Henning told Brig the relationship between the two clubs had been strained for some time, with Henning stating that “accidents happen”.
One such accident took place last semester, when SUBC damaged one of the boats that belonged to SRC, but this matter was largely resolved at length.
However, when the contract came up for renewal for SUBC to use the club house, Henning stated: “Afterwards, we started renegotiating the contract we have with them, and they have made some proposals we tried to negotiate; but after we sought the advice from Scottish Rowing and the Students’ Union, we decided that contract wouldn’t allow us to grow us a club. Looking in the long term, there comes a point when the financial side wouldn’t be feasible.
“And, for that reason we decided not to sign that contract and to go our own way, and try to establish SUBC as an independent club. That idea has been around for a while, but I think for the first time we have the chance to do that.
“We have a strong committee who want to make it work, and we have communications with people from Scottish Rowing to get the support there. It won’t happen overnight, but this decision, which could last a long time, is the way to go.”
SRC declined to comment on the details of their relationship with SUBC and the contract between them, but stated: “In this latest of our annual re-negotiations, we as a club made every effort through repeated negotiation and discussion, including our offer to fully fund Scottish Rowing Coaching training courses for their student members, to offer a fair and reasonable contract agreement to SUBC, but unfortunately, we were unable to reach agreement on the terms of the contract.
“They will have a long and arduous path ahead of them but if it is their aspirations to be a fully independent rowing club, own their own boats and build their own boathouse, we wish them every success in this ambitious venture, and that they will get the full support of the university behind them.”
The relationship between the two clubs spans several decades, with SUBC having access to the fleet of SRC boats, only one of which they own themselves.
Henning acknowledged there will be a significant challenge in procuring boats and a suitable location, but appeared optimistic.
He said: “What we currently have is one boat – build in 1989 – a rowing machine and some tools. We have removed those from the boat house on Riverside and stored them on campus just now.
“We have spoken to people who have set up rowing clubs before; there is Tay Rowing Club, near Perth, and we are using their experience. They just found a space next to the Tay, put a container down, and just row from there.
“I am currently sourcing some boats from people I know in Germany, and then we are looking at second-hand boats around Stirling or down south.
“Really, use our networks as much as we can to find boats, funding, support and a location.”
Henning reiterated his current main aim is to keep the club operational, and make sure the members know they are a fully active club.
He said: “It is always hard when you are charging people for less, but it is amazing how many people say ‘I am on board with this’, ‘I want to help’ – it is very encouraging.
“The consensus is that, yes, it is a challenge, but it isn’t every day you can start a new rowing club.”