Sports Societies Reveal Complaints About The Edge

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Multiple student sports societies have come forward to complain and vent their anger and frustration with The Edge, the sports and fitness complex at the University of Leeds for what they have described as poor service, lack of access to facilities, and rude staff. 

The Edge is a fitness, sport and wellbeing complex at the University of Leeds situated on the south end of campus that promises good facilities and ‘top notch’ coaches. On their page about sports at the University of Leeds, they promise to “inspire you through sport and physical activity, providing one of the best sporting experiences in the UK.”

However the recent complaints launched against the University’s gym certainly appears to contradict this. The Gryphon discovered the issue through a post on social media and since then a total of thirteen out of 46 sports societies have come forward so far detailing various issues they have with the sports complex. Five of those societies have over 100 members with two having over 250 members.

Some societies did not wish to come forward publicly out of fear of losing access to The Edge’s facilities.

The most widespread issue highlighted in the complaints seemed to be with a policy operated by The Edge. This policy is that if a student does not have a University of Leeds Student ID card on their person, they cannot enter The Edge itself or utilise the Cromer Terrace Fitness Studio. While it is not a recent policy, it has only recently been heavily enforced.

However in addition to these complaints, many societies said that they found it hard to have access to certain facilities such as outdoor pitches and some members of staff were described as “rude” and “dismissive’ by students.

One society in particular said some staff “treat us like shit” even though “they see us every week” and “they know we pay to use that facility”. The society went on to add “they refuse to have conversation with us when we communicate these problems” and argued that some staff “straight up ignore it and are really rude about it”

Suzanne Glavin, Head of Sport at the University of Leeds said:

“The Sport and Physical Activity service works closely with LUU and always welcomes feedback, working hard to continually improve its service which has seen significant investment in the last two years.  Helping to ensure that members of The Edge –  who rightly expect value for money –  can get the best possible experience, is our priority.”   

Lydia Evans, the Activities Officer at Leeds University Union said in response to several societies coming forward to complain about issues with The Edge:

“For me, I think what has been raised here prompts a question to the University. In short, playing sport is expensive, and it shouldn’t be. Being physically active has so many positive benefits and the University should be making these opportunities accessible to every student on campus. The Gryphon club fund, which LUU campaigned for, has helped students participate but I think more can be done. When Clubs are having to charge higher membership to cover the cost of facility hire, or can’t accept new members because they don’t have the space, the University is not doing a good enough job. Being physically active has so many benefits: mental wellbeing, improved focus, sense of belonging all of which contribute to student success.

It’s sad to hear that students feel let down by reported poor customer service. I would encourage Committees to formally report this via the SPA website, and I will use my good working relationship with SPA to follow up. Sport and Physical Activity are committed to good customer service and I’m confident that we can work together to resolve these issues.”

 As stated before, one of the most common complaints was refusal of entry if a student doesn’t have a University of Leeds student ID card. This rule was upheld even if a student has valid proof that they are on one of the sports teams that frequently train in The Edge. Several sports societies pointed out that this excludes any Leeds Beckett or Leeds Art University members who wish to train with University of Leeds students. 

Obviously, they do not have University of Leeds student cards, and this therefore means they have to pay entry every single session. In some societies, people have alluded to this potentially creating tensions between the teams, with people missing sessions as a result.

In order to gain entry they are either required to pay the £6.50 entry fee or pay for an Edge membership on top of their society membership. This means the policy excludes members purely down to the fact that they do not go to the University of Leeds. Many Leeds Beckett and Leeds Art University students join University of Leeds societies as there are not as many different sports societies at other Universities.

Societies have pointed out that this discourages members, particularly new members from attending the training sessions. Some staff were also described as being “rude” to the students about forgetting their card with one member of staff at the sports facility named in several complaints. This meant that some students did not return back to The Edge at all.

Societies also told The Gryphon that they felt The Edge itself was ‘limiting society growth’. Reportedly staff members at the gym have told some societies that their club is not large enough to utilise the facilities they require. They have been told this even after they have seen a significant increase in members in the last academic year.

Consequently, their club is made to use a smaller capacity venue, which therefore limits the number of members who can train or join that session. With an increase of people this semester requesting to join societies, sports committees are forced to decline upcoming people from attending events, thus limiting the numbers of the society and consequently the profile of the society on campus. 

One society claimed they were told they “don’t have a big enough club to use The Edge” despite having over 60 people asking to join the society each semester. The society is regularly given 40-capacity spaces but has over 100 members in their society.

This is further proven with some societies being declined certain facilities such as the 3G pitch (an “astro turf” type surface) that they had access to the previous year. Take circuit training for example. Many society members have told us that if training is not deemed to be a core necessity in their sport, “they are not allowed to utilise the facility”. One society says that this has led to a significant drop in members.

One society told of difficulties in booking rooms at The Edge. They said that one member of staff would not inform them of when the Sports Hall is free saying “we never get a response” and need to contact multiple members of staff in order to do so. They additionally said they would have to go through LUU to do so though this raised complications as Leeds University Union and the University of Leeds are separate organisations.

Some societies have also found it hard to access certain facilities with restricted times. As a result some have had to pay for off-site pitches because other societies have been given priority when it comes to using certain facilities.

It was also alleged that due to disorganisation in regard to booking, some societies are put at risk for health and safety. For example, sports that could be potentially dangerous must have mats in place to make things as safe as possible. If groups are moved unexpectedly, societies argue these measure aren’t put in place.

One society told us that the Cromer Terrace studio “always” run out of first aid supplies and ice packs. Given that their society is a “high impact sport”, society organisers believe that this puts the health and safety of members at risk given the society stated that injuries are regular. The society also added that if The Edge moved their booking to an alternate location, on occasion the right equipment has not been provided such as mats.

It also seems that double booking can be an issue, again causing additional stress for societies. According to some societies too, on occasion some Edge staff have interrupted a current session in order to set up for the next society. Here the issue of organisation arises, which again stems back to the staff lacking the capabilities to communicate with all the societies in an efficient manner. 

Despite some societies acknowledging that the facilities The Edge provides them are excellent, many societies have found it frustratingly hard to actually access these facilities. 

These issues would be less of a concern if societies found the staff more approachable. The Gryphon has been told that some staff ‘simply argue back with the students, dismissing them and even undermining the captains of some societies’. Some societies even told us they’ve received rather rude emails from members of staff with staff suggesting they are trying to ‘bypass the system’ by forgetting their cards. This seems to have been a wider issue across many different societies.

One society described the attitude at The Edge as non-compassionate with “every interaction I have had with The Edge being negative” with “no desire to understand the students’ point of view”. They felt that the “Us vs. them” attitude with the sports complex stemmed from a “mixed image of a University gym [for students] and a commercial one”.

The Gryphon can also reveal that not only do some Edge staff make accessing the facilities more difficult, there are also difficulties relating to the coaching staff engaged by student societies too. Societies employ external, qualified coaches to come and train members with some of them coaches who have coached on a national level.

This has raised issues with another policy that requires coaching staff to collect cards from The Edge in order to come in and teach their sessions. This has caused much aggravation for many societies due to poor communication between staff and societies. Coaches have been told their cards are ready to collect, only to come sometimes on their days off to be told their cards aren’t ready.

One society told us that some staff at The Edge were “constantly rude to our GB coaches” and they “were not informed that the coaches had to sign for the card”. The number of societies to have come forward, including societies with large membership bases, highlights the issues that many are facing. While all The Edge staff are trained in customer service, the number of complaints from different societies are nevertheless concerning.

The Gryphon will be looking into the University’s response to individual complaint issues next week in more detail.

Image Credit: Ed Barnes