Glasgow University Canoe Club has had over £20,000 worth of equipment stolen over the festive period.
The sports club had their kit locked in a storage area off-campus in Hyndland while members were away for Christmas and New Year.
Over this period, the shed was broken into and sixteen kayaks were taken, as well as other items such as paddles and buoyancy aids. The break-in was discovered on January 6.
It is estimated that between £15,000 and £20,000 worth of equipment was stolen. Half of the equipment was club-owned but the other half belonged to private members.
Amy Cowell, Property Officer of the Canoe Club, was one of the first people to view the premises after the incident. She said:“Everything was gone — half the shed was emptied out. We knew it was a robbery because the padlocks were cut off the doors.”
The club then discovered that the insurance policy, which covers all sports clubs affiliated with the University, has an excess of £50,000, meaning that the club would not be reimbursed for their estimated losses of £20,000.
Ben Marshall, President of the club, explained that they had been previously unaware of the details of the insurance policy for university sports clubs. He said: “We were under the impression that it [the kit] would be covered by the insurance, which it kind of is, but obviously there’s a huge excess.”
Cowell added: “It’s a £50,000 excess, so really it’s absolutely useless to any club that gets stuff stolen.”
Fortunately, the club have been able to recover most of their equipment due to the detective work of club members. A female member of the Canoe Club, whose personal items were amongst those taken, found her kayak being sold on eBay. It was put up for sale on the auction site the night that the theft was discovered. The thief had left buoyancy aids visible with ‘Glasgow University Canoe Club’ written on them.
Cowell emailed the seller to try to find out what had happened to the other items. She explained: “The guy who was selling it got back to me and said that he had another boat that was yellow — and that was my boat.So we knew he must have the whole lot.”
The police were contacted and given the reference number of the item, which they traced to an individual in the Southside of Glasgow. The club committee members praised the work of the police officers involved, who have managed to recover fourteen of the sixteen stolen kayaks. There remains a total estimated loss of between £800 and £1000, with buoyancy aids, paddles and one club canoe still missing.
Louise Cullum, Secretary of the Canoe Club, said: “Obviously there have been costs to the club such as replacing locks and stepping up security but nothing compared to what would have happened if the items were not recovered. We would have had to have shut as a club.”
Speaking of their unease at continuing to use the premises, Cowell said: “Someone must have known what was in there to turn up with a big enough van to take it away. We’d like to change location but there’s a lot of kit.
“If there was somewhere closer to the University, then the University security could look after it because they wander around the University buildings at night — it would be much better.”
As secretary of the club, Cullum has been involved in arranging a new insurance policy to cover their equipment, helped by members of Glasgow University Sports Association. She explained: “We just really want to bring it to other clubs’ attention that the University insurance policy doesn’t cover for less than £50,000 losses. Even if we had lost £60,000 worth of equipment, we would only have received £10,000.”
Marshall explained that the club members were not optimistic about the chances of finding the remaining equipment: “We’re not too hopeful about getting them back. There’s a community of paddlers throughout the UK who will be looking for them but it’s unlikely they’ll turn up.”
The second of the two canoes missing belongs to club member Cath Marshall. She said of the incident: “We were pretty lucky to get the other stuff back. I thought that the club’s boats would be covered but I didn’t think that mine would be.”
A University spokesman said: “The University property insurance policy is with Royal & Sun Alliance and has a claims excess of £50,000 because it is intended for major losses, for example through fire damage, rather than relatively minor claims.
“It is not the University’s responsibility to provide specific insurance for student organisations. Instead, the University and Glasgow University Sports Association recommend all clubs which store high-value equipment on or off campus take out their own individual insurance policies.”
Also over the holiday period, the University had a break-in on campus in the Rankine Building, situated on Oakfield Avenue. Two individuals broke in through a window in the engineering building on January 6 and damaged six computer systems.
The Glasgow School of Art has confirmed that there have also been thefts from their premises over the last week but were unable to verify which items had been taken.