Team Durham block popular sports app

By Jack Reed

Team Durham, as part of Durham University, has discouraged the use of the popular Proteam app, despite its successful operation at nine other major universities, including Oxford and Cambridge.

A series of meetings between Proteam and Team Durham that began in March, with the aim of launching the app this academic year, culminated in an email from Durham to all University and College captains, informing them that the app was not to be used in a Durham-wide capacity.

The University cited a clash between the terms and conditions of the app with the University’s constitution as their justification for the discouragement.The email stated: “At this point University clubs are not in a position to work with and supply information to Proteam until the legal department are satisfied that their concerns have been addressed.”

The app is designed to aid the administration and running of University and College sport. Proteam, founded by a Durham alumnus, aims to boost the significance of college sport on university campuses by increasing its online presence and also improve the organisation of the college leagues.

The Universities of Cambridge, Oxford, and Loughborough are among nine universities that now use the app for organising their leagues and fixtures.

Team Durham, however, raised concerns with the app.

The sponsorship option that comes as part of the app was one such area of concern. This feature enables companies and businesses to sponsor teams. The team then receives money as part of the sponsorship and the firm receives publicity on the app as well as on the team’s kit.

Proteam emphasised the popularity of the sponsorship feature at other universities in a statement to Palatinate: “There has been a serious interest expressed by a prominent graduate employer in sponsoring an Oxford University Collegiate tournament covered on Proteam for a five-figure sum. This tournament was previously unsponsored.”

Proteam also assured Team Durham that the sponsorship feature was completely optional and they did not have to include it, simply preventing any firms from being able to offer sponsorship to sports teams in Durham.

However, Team Durham remained unwilling to launch the app due to legal issues they claimed needed to be solved. These centred around data protection, with Quentin Sloper, Director of Experience Durham, stating in an email: “The University takes proper handling and protection of student (and staff) personal data very seriously, and can only support or endorse technologies in which the University can have complete confidence in.”

Other issues raised by the University regarding terms and conditions were addressed by Proteam as the app’s terms and conditions mirror those of Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, while they were also professional enough to be supported by the Apple Store.

The company told Palatinate: “Regrettably Proteam have found dealing with Team Durham to be a uniquely frustrating process. What can take 48 hours at other universities may well take a year and a half in Durham. Several individuals within the organisation have proven hard to contact over the last six months whilst simultaneously claiming to have ‘reservations’ about Proteam.

“Back in June, Team Durham referred to ‘data protection’ being a ‘big issue’ but when Proteam finally got to see a Team Durham legal representative in September, the representative quickly and unreservedly confirmed that there were no such issues.

“It was then agreed Proteam’s terms and conditions are in line with those of Facebook and Twitter but dubiously claimed that this would ‘not be enough’. There was a simultaneous refusal to share what would be ‘acceptable’.

“Proteam welcome any contact from Team Durham in which specific questions are voiced.

“In the meantime, Durham students are legally free to download the app and watch the upcoming November live streams of Oxbridge and Loughborough’s sport fixtures.”

The app’s features include: a ‘tournament builder’, which allows league secretaries to organise the leagues and fixtures; a platform for alumni to follow leagues or teams; and a space for uploading video highlights of matches.

The application received a great deal of support from the club captains and students at Durham, with many advocating its use in University and College sport. However, Durham’s reluctance to use it University-wide means that the app cannot be used in the coming year.

Image: Dean Garlick

Owen Adams, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Colleges and Student Experience), said, in a statement to Palatinate: “The University has been approached by a technology company to endorse the use of their app for both College and University Sport.

“Having reviewed documentation provided by the company, particularly its privacy policies and terms of use, the University has concluded that this is not something it is prepared to support at this stage.

“We are aware that some of the functions associated with the app are conceptually popular with many students and clubs. Moving forward Team Durham will work with representatives from both College and University Sport to establish whether there is sufficient enthusiasm amongst the student body to undertake a formal tender process to appoint an app provider.

“BUCS, the governing body of University Sport, is currently trialling two separate apps and we will also be seeking feedback from them.”

Image: James*C via Flickr Creative Commons

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