ANU Sport: Be Careful What You Wish For

I’m all for student representation. For too long now the governance of ANU sport has been severely lacking in this capacity. However, at the same time I am wary about the potential consequences of a landslide victory to students. “Your ANU Unions” have had the incredible foresight and drive to field an extensive ticket of students, including a previous director of ANU Sport and the President of the Interhall Sports Organisation. There are many other candidates who would make a fantastic contribution to ANU Sport and shape its direction. What I am afraid of is the potential for a loss of valuable corporate knowledge, know-how in the University and professional governance experience.

When I was in year four of primary school, one of the candidates for school captain threw a bag of Freddo Frogs out into the audience. He then ran around a bit and shouted “VOTE FOR ME!”. The difference between him and some of the student candidates in past ANU elections is that I actually ended up receiving my bribe. It’s all very well to promise Brodburgers (or in this case: free squash and tennis court access and referral memberships from counsellors). The problem is, someone has to put in the hard yards to make this happen. It also has to be costed and paid for. In recent history ANU has shown absolutely no willingness to significantly contribute towards the expansion of ANU Sport. In the past fortnight we have heard of ANUSA stepping in to push for the renovation and expansion of the Counselling Centre through the use of SSAF funds. SSAF money is not a bottomless pit and there is no guarantee that it will continue in the long term.

The large number of “external” (that is, non-student) ANU Sport members is alarming, as is their control of the association. But, we cannot forget that the membership fees they provide is a significant source of revenue (whether or not it can be expanded can and should be explored further). What we as a community need to do is strike a careful balance between appropriate student representation and effective corporate governance. Long term corporate knowledge is crucial to the success of any organisation (nonprofits like ANU Sport included). Yes, some of the current crusty Council members have outstayed their welcome, but not all of them. We also need to assess whether a continual mass rotation of the same students from different on-campus organisations year by year is the best approach for the organisation long-term. This is the model of the ANU Union and in that regard things are pretty bleak. We cannot let ANU Sport slide into Sully’s Creek with it. Renovations, strategic plans and master plans may take decades to implement – continuity of representation in this regard is crucial.

If, like me, you are sick and tired of people making promises they know they can’t keep, then take the time to read through the candidate profiles wisely. I would submit that voting out every non-student member on the Sport Council (including the all-important role of Treasurer), is not the smartest thing to do.