Viewpoint Editor Joe Waters takes aim at the lack of staggered payment options to join the St Andrews University sports centre.
I don’t have the best memory, but one thing I do remember from the cacophony that was last year’s student elections, at the hall hustings, was each AU President candidate falling over each other to say that they wanted to make sport more inclusive. Each, in turn, would rail against things such as dodgy initiations, cliquey committees and the overall image problem that some sports teams have in the student community. What I found surprising was the seemingly complete lack of awareness, in my opinion, that any of the candidates showed regarding the astronomical upfront cost to join Saint Sport.In fact, when I suggested some-thing such as instalment plans to then-candidate, now-AU President Leah Allcock, the response was mild, suggesting that she would “consider” ideas such as that as well as similar ones.
I, personally, got the impression I was being palmed off.
The thing is, the cost for the gym membership isn’t that bad if you spread the cost out. If you’re in St Andrews nine months of the year (most students are), the £160 Fitness+ membership works out just over £17 per month. Now that is a reasonable monthly fee for the gym. However, most gyms don’t expect you to pay the full whack upfront for the year. This is with good reason, for if they did, their gyms would lay empty.
However, in typical St Andrews’ fashion, the AU have made paying the membership as unreasonable as possible. And, unfortunately, the Saints Sport gym is the only shop in town, unless you fancy a bit of a trek to Dundee for your workout; now that gets me sweating just thinking about it. And while £17 monthly is within the reach of many, £160 in one go is a lot for anyone who hasn’t got swagbags stuffed in their wardrobe.
Worse still if you dare even take a shine to any sports clubs during Freshers’ Week. This year I tried Rifle and Mountaineering, and I quite like both. However, before I even get started with renting or buying any equipment, my Sports Centre bill has reached an eye-watering £230. Again, not so much a problem if I could pay that bit-by-bit each month. However, when I see a quarter of my Student Loan for the term gone before I’ve even considered a Pablo (or a ‘Fablo’ if it’s a school night), it really does put me off a bit. This, of course, brings me to my ultimate conclusion, that I, and many others, simply cannot afford the up-front cost of joining the Sports Centre.
Now you could say that I could simply get the club access membership, but that still puts my bill at £140 with the clubs I want to join, not to mention that those two are two of the cheaper ones; and while that might be a drop in the bucket for some, it isn’t for many others – and certainly not those who Ms Allcock and others are worried might be put off by initiations or how posh the golf team is.
We’re not put off by that; we’re put off by the fact you’ll take our maintenance loan away faster than an athletic sprinter. And that’s just not cricket.
It’s simply bizarre that Saints Sport doesn’t have an instalment plan available. No other gym in the country I’ve ran into insists on a year’s worth of membership paid upfront. Frankly, there’s no reason not to have the option to pay in instalments. If you want to make sure people pay and the Sports Centre is funded, ensure we are contracted to pay the monthly fee throughout the year. Hell, even if it was £20 per month, putting the cost at £180 a year, it would be a lot easier to pay than to blow it all at once as it would allow students to better adjust their finances to accommodate the cost.
This would mean that Saints Sport gets more money and students can pay their athletic fees easier, which is surely a win-win. Of course, you can spread the cost somewhat by purchasing the semester memberships separately, which costs £171 in total, but why should you have to? Again, no gym in the country in their right mind would charge so much, even in two goes, and even then with club membership costs, a student is still looking at about £150 in their first term to get active.