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This week, Oxford University Sport announced the launch of a free mobile app to provide information about bookings, virtual classes and the reopening of university sport facilities.

The new app is set to facilitate access to virtual classes as well as updates on when the Iffley Road Sports Centre facilities are set to reopen after they closed on 17 March following the coronavirus outbreak in the UK. It exists alongside an ‘Active Anywhere’ membership, which allows users to access virtual classes online and via the app.

University teams, both in Oxford and across the country, lost out on a term’s worth of sport practices and fixtures and there is no guarantee that normal sport life will be able to resume next term.

It remains unclear what form sports will take when students return to university for the next academic year, and it is likely that social distancing measures will have a significant event on the way that practices take place. With the integral role that sport plays for many students during notoriously intense term times, the possibility of changes to team sports is a cause of concern to many students.

When asked about the importance of sport to personal welfare, one first year student told The Oxford Blue: “Playing sport brings variety to my experience of an Oxford term, bringing me out of essay tunnel-vision and the routine of lectures and tutorial work that sometimes seems monotonous. However, more importantly for me, sport has been a way of feeling an easy togetherness with my teammates which has definitely helped prevent the loneliness that often comes with starting at uni.”

OUS have been active on social media throughout the pandemic, providing numerous workout ideas, particularly during what would have been the university Wellbeing Week as they shared students’ top tips for staying healthy during lockdown. With the launch of their new app, OUS stated that they are “eager to get news from the Government and University on safe re-opening”, as the app tries to somewhat fill the space left by the hiatus of many university sports.   

With the government allowing the reopening of outdoor pools and theatres from 11 July, as well as measures outlined to allow the reopening of indoor gyms, swimming pools and sports facilities from 25 July, many are welcoming increased opportunities to return to their fitness routines. However, OUS are yet to confirm when they will be reopening the doors to the Iffley Road Sports Centre.

The British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) governing body, responsible for organising inter-university fixtures across more than 50 different sports, have detailed ongoing consultations on what they have called their ‘Return to Play’ process as provisions are considered for the 2020-21 season. League matches have been cancelled for the coming term, with hopes to resume them in January.

BUCS also decided that there would be no relegation or promotion in leagues based off the 2019-20 season. They have recognised that the anticipated reduction in team entries for next season could see existing competitions change drastically.

BUCS have stated: “We know that any worry or disappointment being felt comes from the passion students, coaches and volunteers have for higher education sport, and we understand those fears and concerns. All we can do is continue to work together, and share the solutions each of us discovers.”

The OUS app is available for download on iOS+ and Android.

Uma Gurav

Uma is a columnist for The Oxford Blue. She is in her second year studying History and English at Wadham College. Her column "Your 'How-to' guide to Hilary Term" was inspired by the film 'How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days'.