How important is sponsorship to Lancaster’s sports teams?

666

Few people go through university life without getting involved in some sort of sport. It is an integral part of the lives of many students, but it can also be an expensive part as well. With membership fees, hiring equipment or pitches, and transport, to name just a few costly aspects of taking part in a sports team, it can be vitally important for many sports teams to get additional funding.

Recently, LUSU Council became torn during a debate over the sponsorship deals that many sports teams and societies feel are necessary. Should there be an ethical investment policy to screen possible sponsors of university teams and societies? Some took the line of argument that Lancaster should be an ethically and morally responsible institution so should not have sponsors who are deemed unethical. Others, however, believed that although this was a noble idea, sponsorship is so integral that the Union would have to ensure that this would not be limiting the sponsorship opportunities available to societies.

This discussion reared its head, however, because confusion over ethical sponsorship had already confronted the University Rugby League Team. The team had accepted a sponsorship fee, believed to be about £1000, from KPMG, a financial services provider who specialise in auditing and tax. Concerns had been raised over the company due to their involvement with tax evasion schemes. However, no decision was made by the Union or the Trustee Board as they just referred the issue between themselves.

At Council, Furness President, and member of the Rugby League exec, Will Hedley, showed frustration with the process, saying: “there was no communication between the executive committee and the rugby league team after the sponsorship deal was made.” Because of the lack of communication between LUSU and the team, according to Hedley, the team had no choice but to take the sponsorship deal. Few sports teams would disagree with the notion of ensuring that sponsorship money is from an ethical source, but all will agree that they do not have sponsors out of choice, but out of the need to make competing financially viable.

In which case, would not being able to secure sponsorship funds significantly hamper a team’s chance of sporting success? It’s hard to disagree. Not only does more funding from sponsorship allow for better equipment and make renting pitches more affordable, but it would also avert high membership fees that are bound to put off new students.

However, sport funding seems to be on the increase within the Union. LUSU and Lancaster University have recently secured a grant of £240,000 from Sport England’s University Sport Activation Fund with the aim of getting more students involved in physical activity at university. Whilst a lot of this money will be pumped into the recently announced ‘Just Play’ initiative, it is inevitable that this funding boost will significantly benefit many of the University’s sports teams.

The Cricket Club are one of numerous sports team’s to recognise the importance of being well funded, both on the field and off it. Speaking to SCAN, Cricket Club Secretary and Indoor Captain Matthew Haley said that it was key for the society to have significant funding. “Being well financed in my opinion does make a society more successful, because it provides flexibility and the scope for growth.”

Cricket Club membership is £40, but Haley said that membership fees will never stretch far enough unless you charge people over the odds to become involved in their favourite sport. “Cost wise for members, it’s the price of a membership, plus playing and training kit which may come to around £80 maybe, as well as any equipment we need to replace, plus the cost of socials.”

“The money we raise from sponsorship and memberships in particular tends to be spent on things like paying umpires, buying teas, buying lower end equipment such as cricket balls, fees for coaching for example. The money adds up, so extra funding is always important.” Haley praised the involvement of LUSU, particularly due to the society’s sponsorship deal with LUSU Living, as well as Revolution, whose sponsorship helps to make the club financially sound. Although not all sports teams rely on the same amount of funding, sponsorship and supportive funding is vital to many for their competition and success.