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Frequently Asked Questions

Will sport be happening this year?

Yes, some sport can happen at the moment but because of the COVID-19 pandemic it will look very different.

Each sport’s National Governing Body (NGB) has published a government-approved action plan for the safe return of competition. The plans involve a phased return starting with modified activity and eventually ending with the return of competitive sport. Dependent upon the nature of the sport, different sports sit at different stages of their planned return. It is not certain when sports will be able to fully compete again.

The situation is constantly changing. While the latest government guidance means that social gatherings of more than six are banned, the government has confirmed that organised team sports which have been through ‘return to play’ protocols can continue, with one exception. From 24 September, people aged 18 and over playing indoor team sports must adhere to the ‘rule of six’, which means playing in a group of no more than six. Because of this, sports such as netball, basketball, volleyball, indoor cricket, futsal and five-a-side football amongst others cannot be played competitively.

How can I participate in sport and physical activity if I am in an accommodation bubble?

There are exceptions to the government guidelines where groups taking part in physical activity can be larger than six people. These include exercise classes, organised outdoor sport or licensed outdoor physical activity, supervised sporting activity for children (indoors and outdoors), and indoor organised team sports for disabled people.

What is happening to the leagues and competitions that BUCS (British Universities and Colleges Sport) organise for student clubs?

A number of BUCS events have already been cancelled including the Indoor Athletics Championships and the Swimming Short Course Championships. However, BUCS are planning to run adjusted leagues and competitions which will start in semester two. The final details are yet to be confirmed, so it will become clearer whether or not these competitions can go ahead nearer to their planned starting dates in semester two.

What does this mean for St Mary’s student sport clubs?

Unfortunately, the new government guidelines make it impossible for some clubs to participate in BUCS. We are talking to the clubs concerned and will be exploring whether or not there are opportunities that meet the ‘rule of six’ which will allow these sports to safely go ahead on a recreational basis.

At this point, other sports (mainly the outdoor team sports and those indoor team sports that involve fewer than six players) can at least train, albeit in a modified capacity. It is possible that their BUCS competitions will go ahead. For the clubs that can train, the impact of the pandemic means that there will still need to be significant changes made to how they normally operate. The main changes are the listed below:

  1. A reduced number of teams and a set number of members – this is necessary to meet all the safety requirements outlined in NGB guidelines and the capacity limits that have had to be put in place for certain sport facilities. This will mean that the ‘concentrated’ BUCS season can be supported. We will work with the Club Presidents so that they know how many teams and members there can be.
  2. Risk assessments - ahead of training starting, every club will need to put in place a revised risk assessment that accounts for all the necessary COVID-19 measures. This needs to include ‘track and trace’ details and a designated COVID-19 Officer. Clubs will receive guidance with this – the process of creating these assessments has already started through the ‘return to training’ clinics held in early September.

How can I learn more about a club, what does my membership cover and how can I pay?

All 24 of our sports clubs will have stalls at the Virtual Welcome Fair on the 1 October where they can answer your questions.

As it is necessary this year to limit the number of members within each club, at the Fair you will be able to register your ‘expression of interest’ to join. Following this, a selection process will be held for each club. If possible, this process will involve a trial.

Ordinarily, any student that wished to join a club at St Mary’s would be eligible to do so. However, in order to meet safety and operational requirements there has to be a set number of teams and members within each club. The Club Presidents will be fully involved in the process of selecting these.

We did consider allowing you to sign up on a first-come first-served basis, but this would not work as team sports in particular require players that can fulfil specific positions. For some sports it could be dangerous for individuals to play out of position, and/or if they have not participated at the required level of competition.

Once the members of a club have been allocated, memberships will be paid in two instalments. The first instalment will need to be paid after selection and before the club’s first training session. This payment is necessary to enable the student paying to become a member and to give them the insurance they need while playing. The second instalment will be paid in January, and this will cover the majority of a club’s running costs to compete. These include any travel, accommodation, officials, and kit costs amongst other things. The University recognises the importance of students participating for their clubs - accordingly, St Mary’s will pay for BUCS affiliation, insurance, the cost of using the University’s sport facilities, for qualified coaches and for the support provided by the Sport Development Team.

Please note that in order to use the University’s sport facilities for training and competition and to be insured to do so, you must be a paying sport club member. You can pay your club membership online – more information on how to do this will be available soon.

How many clubs can I join?

To support the involvement of as many students as possible, at. this point you will only be able to join one club.

At the Virtual Freshers' Fair, you will need to register your ‘expression of interest’ for up to three clubs. You may just register for one club if you wish to, however your first choice should be your favoured choice, and your second choice should be either Athletics or Cricket if you wish to be considered to play a winter and a summer sport. The third choice will be your reserve choice. You will be considered for this choice if you are not selected for you first choice club. Subject to the selection process which will make the final decision, if two students are applying for the same club, the student that has identified that club at the higher ‘expression of interest’ level will be selected.

Unfortunately, regardless of how many ‘expressions of interest’ you decide to make, it cannot be guaranteed that you will be selected for a club.

What happens if I pay to join a student sport club and the BUCS competitive season does not go ahead?

The first membership payment will be a small payment that is non-refundable. The second instalment cost will be set when more is known about what the BUCS season will look like. This will need to be paid in January when hopefully there will be greater certainty around the BUCS competitive season.

If it isn’t possible for me to join a club. Can I still get involved in sport and physical activity?

Yes, there will still be a range of safe ways in which students can participate in sport and physical activity. These include the following:

  1. Recreational opportunities - the government decision that adult indoor team sports that do not meet the ‘rule of six’ cannot be played was only recently announced on 22 September. The possibility of providing some recreational opportunities for these sports whilst involving six players or less is being explored.
  2. The Fitness and Conditioning Suite - flexible student memberships for the Fitness & Conditioning Suite are available, with prices remaining the same as last year. The Suite has been deep cleaned, it is set up to support social distancing, daily cleaning has been enhanced, and students can book individual slots. Memberships and the booking of sessions can all be done online. Click here to find out how to do that.
  3. SIMMSactive – SIMMSActive will be providing weekly free sessions for students and staff to participate in. These sessions will include activities such as yoga, and led group running sessions. These sessions will be bookable online – more information on this will be available soon, and will be announced here on the Sport St Mary's Instagram page.
  4. St Mary’s Endurance Performance Centre - students that want to improve their running can be part of the Centre and receive expert coaching. They can also be part of the training groups and benefit from specialist seminars.
  5. Coaching and volunteering opportunities – students can get involved with the running of a club and volunteer as part of the Sport Development Team. Dependent on their coaching qualifications, they can also volunteer or be paid to coach on the SIMMSport programme.
  6. Sport scholarships – the selected sport scholars will receive tiered financial support, a virtual induction evening, specialist seminars and kit to help them to achieve their dual sporting and academic goals.

Will there be any further changes to student sport this year?

It’s impossible to say with any certainty, but it is likely that the pandemic will result in further changes to our lives. It’s also likely that these changes will affect sport and physical activity. Hopefully we will see improvements if the situation eases and restrictions are lifted, but further restrictions and requirements could potentially be necessary.

St Mary’s is known for it’s sporting reputation, and we understand that it forms a significant part of your student experience here. We also know that sport helps you to support your health and wellbeing, and that it can maintain your friendships. When further changes happen in reaction to the COVID pandemic, we will continue to communicate transparently with you so that we can work flexibly together to gain the best sporting outcomes possible.

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