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Oxford Sports Federation sends letter opposing repurposing of Iffley Sports Centre as teaching space

Oxford Sports Federation Executive Committee (SFEC) have sent an open letter opposing the university’s proposed repurposing of the Iffley Road Sports Centre as a teaching space for Michaelmas term.

An email was distributed to committee members on 19 August detailing Oxford University’s ongoing considerations to use the two indoor sports halls at Iffley Road Sports Centre as additional academic teaching spaces in the 2020/21 academic year.

The SFEC have responded with a letter to the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Louise Richardson, outlining their opposition to the controversial proposal.

After appeals for support to current students, alumni and members of staff, the letter, which can be read in full here, was sent yesterday with a total of 1,506 signatures. This included signatories from 95% of registered Oxford University sports clubs and 96% of Full, Half and Discretionary Blue sports. 93% of Oxford’s 39 colleges and 6 PPHs (permanent private halls) are also represented amongst the signatories.

While the most recent academic term was held entirely online for students, Oxford University will be returning to limited in-person teaching in Michaelmas term 2020. The University says it needs to provide extra teaching spaces to help prevent a spread of Covid-19 when the academic year begins.

The letter pinpoints various concerns held by the SFEC as to the effects the repurposing could have upon the wider student body as well as upon the university’s status in wider sporting competitions. It is believed that the change would be most damaging to “the 25 sports clubs who use the sports halls at Iffley Road Sports Centre on a regular basis” and suggests that particular entering the winter months, the loss of indoor facilities would be hugely detrimental.

The “high prevalence of mental health conditions” in the university is highlighted by the letter, noting the already extensive impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on mental health and wellbeing.

The letter adds that the repurposing would “decimate the University’s respectable standing in the British Universities and College Sport (BUCS) competitions as well as ensure Varsity losses against Cambridge across the board for an entire cohort of students.”

Summarising, the letter tells the university that, “in an era where access to fitness and sporting opportunities and support for athletes are high on the agenda for prospective students, the University of Oxford should not sell itself short by promoting an environment not conducive to sporting excellence.” 

The letter can be read in full here.

Uma Gurav

Uma (she/her) is the Sports Editor for The Oxford Blue. She is going into her second year studying History and English at Wadham College. Her personal favourite sports are football, dance and chocolate-biscuit-eating.