‘The end of SPR? Not on my watch’

The continued existence of the sports association for RUG staff is in danger. Members Jur Bezema and Rieks Messchendorp are livid. They see mismanagement and poor financial decisions as the culprit and are threatening to go to the Board of the University. ‘I gave my all to that place. And now it’s all going to hell like this? Not on my watch.’
By Maaike Vos / Translation by Sarah van Steenderen

The sports association for RUG staff is in danger of going under. The board can no longer manage all of its tasks and wants to disband the association, which has nearly 2,000 members. But the members prevented that from happening last week, and on Wednesday, the association decided how to proceed.

Pensioners Jur Bezema (71) and Rieks Messchendorp (66) are angry about how this problem is unfolding. The pair sent a letter to the sports association’s board and the University Council in the hopes of warding off that fate. Both have devoted themselves to the SPR sports association since the ‘70s.

Why are you so angry?

Messchendorp: ‘They’re getting rid of fishing and want to move the klaverjas players elsewhere. During a meeting about these matters, they said that fishing wasn’t a sport. That really hurt. It’s not in keeping with the SPR mindset.’

Bezema: ‘What even is healthy ageing if you don’t have a sports association? We’re all human, we all have feelings. I gave my all to this club. And now it’s all going to hell like this? Not on my watch.’

The board has already announced that they’re leaving.

Messchendorp: ‘True. In all the proposals we read it says the board is leaving, even if the SPR continues. They’re washing their hands of it.’

Bezema: ‘And what does that mean?’

Messchendorp: ‘It’s definitely bad management. That’s why I brought up the statutes during the meeting last week. They are the only thing members have to fall back on. They can’t just ignore them. But they don’t even care.’

No faith

During the last meeting, the members voted in favour of the SPR’s continued existence, but most of the tasks will be taken over by the RUG and Hanze-owned Sports Centre.

Bezema and Messchendorp have no faith in this particular proposal. The Sports Centre had previously assumed the administrative duties, but when Bezema looked into that in 2005, he found ‘a big mess’. It took him a year of working as treasurer and membership and running again.

The men also fear an increase in membership fees. ‘No one here is actually able to monitor what the administration truly costs. And while we don’t think we should fleece the Sports Centre, we also shouldn’t have to pay for things we don’t even use’, says Bezema.

The members also concerned that sport facilities in the city centre will disappear if the Sports Centre takes over. ‘They’ll probably tell us that we have to come to them’, says Messchendorp. He explains that the sports facilities in the city centre make it easy for employees to use them in the morning or at lunch. ‘But you can’t travel back and forth to the Sports Centre in that amount of time.’

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Doubts

Bezema and Messchendorp also have their doubts about the so-called pass system. During the day, employees can use any and all of the Sports Centre’s areas or facilities, providing they have not been claimed by the ACLO. But according to Bezema and Messchendorp, this screws over the sports centre.

Why are you critical of this part of the pass system?

Bezema: ‘Only a handful of employees actually use the facilities during these hours. They are reserved for the happy few: the professors, scientific staff and policy advisers. Rieks and I and the administrative, technical, supporting staff: we can’t just take time off like that. I checked: only 140 members a month go there. That’s 35 people a week, and it’s the same people every time.’

Bezema: ‘On the whole, this pass systems costs 60,000 euros. We pay the ACLO 30,000 euros for those morning and afternoon hours, which aren’t very profitable to the Sports Centre. It doesn’t make any sense; we should be paying that money to the Sports Centre. As a result of those enormous sums paid to the ACLO, the membership fee has gone up from 51 to 72 euros in just a year’s time. All that for a pass system that just 35 people a week use.’

But if this system is as bad as you say, why was it ever adopted?

Messchendorp: ‘During the meeting about this, a few people did mention how much the system was going to cost and that it was much too expensive for what we got in return. But the majority rules, and the board members had that majority.’

Bezema: ‘People don’t really know what’s going on. It takes a long time to figure out how an association like this works.’

Sideways

This pass system has been around for three years. Why didn’t you take action before?

Bezema: ‘I considered it. But I thought it wouldn’t get that bad and that we had plenty of money. And now everything’s gone sideways.’

Messchendorp: ‘We didn’t think everything would go wrong this way. But now, the system has turned out to be so expensive that everything has gone wrong.’

Bezema: ‘If there is an agreement on the pass system, the Board of Directors can nullify it. Something like that’s been done before.’

Does that mean you’ll be going to the Board of Directors?

Bezema: ‘It’s highly likely. I am, anyway. We have to fix this one way or another. I won’t try and justify things. The pass system and all that money going to the ACLO: It’s not right.’

Change

In response to Bezema and Messchendorp’s concerns, SPR president Gerald Lier says, ’I’m sympathetic to how certain members are feeling. But we no longer have the time to run an 1,800 member association in our free time. We feel it’s time for a change, and I think a lot of members agree with us on that.’

Transferring as many administrative, financial, and coordination tasks as possible to the Sports Centre is a huge step, but it will have virtually no effect on the members. That includes the members who are complaining the loudest, namely the fishermen and the card players, because this plan would guarantee those clubs’ continued existence at the SPR.’

Hendrike Schut, manager at the Sports Centre, says, ‘Outsourcing costs money. Things are currently being run by volunteers, but we’re not volunteers, obviously. If they want us to perform certain services, they have to pay for that. But it’s important to me that staff continues to have access to sports facilities. That’s the way it is now and that will not change. And even if membership fees go up a bit, people will still be able to do a lot of sports for a very reasonable price.’

‘Once we have taken over completely, we will have a look at how to best organise things. That also means that we’ll look at the feasibility of certain activities. But we will always take the employees’ wishes into account, of course. We all have a common goal: to offer sports to as many employees as possible.’

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