The reality is that when it comes to sport in a small Students’ Union, sport is a privilege, not a right.

I want to talk about sports. For those who know me, that’s not a surprise.

I’m a Rugby boy, number 8 through and through. I’m a diehard Southend United fan. I devour sport as some parts of our movement devour red squares. I played Table Tennis at Uni and even had a short term and entirely unsuccessful career as a Cheerleader.

So I know how important sport is to students — I’ve lived it.

UWL is a very small students’ union — I’ve been proud that it’s come a long way in the last couple of years. We started the Big Conversation and spoke to every single first year during Freshers Week. We hired over 50% BME staff to reflect our student population and our Make it a Thing project where students came to UWLSU give them resources to set up businesses, events companies and liberation networks.

But all of those wins have one thing in common — they didn’t cost much money. We listened to our members, tried new things and redirected limited resource.

The reality is that when it comes to sport in a small Students’ Union, sport is a privilege, not a right.

And that’s a proper shame. Students’ Unions know anecdotally that being involved in sports raises attainment, makes life changing memories and keeps people in education.

But despite repeated promises — NUS hasn’t been able to stop fighting itself long enough to deliver support and data for Students’ Unions to prove it. If I’m elected, proving the clear link nationwide between Sports and Educational attainment will be my key priority. Once we’ve got that — we will be able to support Students’ Unions to get more resources.

Because currently it is a jewel in the crown — unobtainable, shiny and elitist. It’s about cost, it’s about other responsibilities and it’s about facilities.

For a lot of students at University and College, sport just isn’t an option. At UWL, our members had kids, caring responsibilities and jobs. We simply don’t have everything to put on all the sport our members want. For some SUs, they don’t have sports teams, let alone ownership of sport. So it’s not just about cost.

Free sport is great, but are we going to give them free time as well?

So sport for the majority of our membership — FE, Small and Modern Universities — there is an issue and its complicated.

It needs a nuanced answer — are we making sure Students’ Unions are offering a variety of different options to take part in physical activity? Are we supporting poorest students — often those who would get the most from being involved in sport — to take part? If our rugby and football teams aren’t diverse — have we asked ourselves why?

And I can never understand why BUCs sport is always the focus when we talk about activity in our SU’s. Don’t get me wrong, being part of a team that competed in BUCs was incredible, but it’s not the only way our members can take part in sport.

When I was a sabb we decided to move away from the more traditional model of persuading our students to take part in competitive BUCs sport. We wanted to find a new focus on ways students could stay fit and be part of a community without having to commit to regimented training sessions and match days. We used a model that consisted of non-competitive sport and get active classes to give those who didn’t have time to take part in some form of physical activity. Money wasn’t the main factor in our students being able to engage, it was the time and commitment they already had outside of their courses. Students who work full time, or care for others don’t always have the ability to be part of a sports team and why should those reasons mean they miss out?

So — I know Sport is important, because it was for me. I know what NUS needs to do to reflect what the thousands of students who play sport want and need. And I will make sure that whatever NUS does if I become VP UD, it won’t forget about the majority of our membership — FE, Apprentices, Modern Unis and Small SUs