By Eddie McAteer, Sports Editor
Students at the University of Bristol are developing an app that will make it easier for students to play sport together. The app, named Armago, will be launching next month and aims to increase participation in sport by connecting Bristol students based on their location, ability and availability.
Upon starting university, we are thrust into a world full of new opportunities when we enter freshers’ fair as wide-eyed teens and are bombarded with freebies and flyers. Almost everyone will have signed up to a sport with the intention of at least giving it a go. Sometimes, however, timetables do not align and other sports catch our eye, consigning this new sport to the freshers’ week memory bank. Yet occasionally that memory resurfaces and we find ourselves longing for a quick game of no-strings-attached futsal, badminton or whatever takes your fancy. In these instances, Armago could well come in handy.
Armago is a new app that will be launching in March at the University of Bristol and is the brainchild of Mark Bushby, a second-year innovation student. Hailing from rural Scotland, Bushby often found himself lacking in exercise partners. Even after moving to Bristol for university, he realised that lots of students were not as involved in sport as they wanted to be. Market research revealed that 90% of students in 2018 wanted to play more sport. The question was, how to make this happen?
With that in mind, Bushby identified that our generation is used to apps that deliver whatever we want almost immediately; dating, food and transport are just a couple of examples. However, there was nothing like that for sport. Bushby said ‘Our aim is to build a global sports community’ and he hopes Armago will be the foundation of that community. Soon, students will be able to find people to exercise with through the simple process of opening an app, just like ordering a takeaway.
By working with the sports clubs at the University, Bushby and his team have also created a network of sporting opportunities to supplement the casual side of the app. Students will be able to view a club’s training sessions, socials and trials so that they can choose whatever suits them. To start with, only the tennis club will feature, but with time and interest there are plans to introduce some of the biggest sports societies. Bushby informed me that the progress of Armago is something that even Sport England might be interested in and they have already had contact with the senior sports management at Bristol University.
With regards to developing the app itself, it is being developed by a company in Bristol and that means there are expenses. This is something that Bushby has largely taken upon himself to cover, going as far as putting student loans towards his creation but also through donations on their GoFundMe page. He explained that developing an app comes with lots of little, hidden costs such as the font and data storage, all of which adds up.
The Armago team are not just occupied by the app; they have a podcast and an Instagram quiz series involving 16 of the biggest university sports clubs. Guests on the podcast include former South Africa rugby player Schalk Brits, Olympic silver medallist Keri-Anne Payne and trans-Atlantic rowers the Broar brothers. Some guests have even been kind enough to donate to the Armago raffle to help fundraise.
The quizzes have been taking place on Instagram live and involve pitting the knowledge of two society presidents against each other in a head-to-head battle. At the time of writing, ten societies have faced off in a series of questions, an after-eight challenge and an Instagram poll for a place on the Hugh Brady board, affectionately named after the Vice-Chancellor. Not to mention that they get a free Armago blindfold delivered to their door!
Bushby himself is an avid athlete and plays a number of sports including rugby, hockey and tennis (where he is on the committee), as well as having trained for a marathon. Whilst not everyone might be as sporty as that, he hopes that the Armago app will allow students to fit exercise into those little one-hour breaks.
For those of you wondering where the name comes from, Bushby told me that it comes from the Greek word ‘árma’, meaning chariot. As one of the first sporting events at the Olympics and synonymous with speed and dynamism, he says ‘it’s a good way of describing what we’re about’.
When the app launches, students will be able to sign up for free using their university email, meaning this really is an app for students, by students. The running costs of the app will come from the clubs and will be included in membership fees for club members.
Bushby’s ambitions for the app are clear, he wants to make the Armago ‘the big app for all universities’. With a clear gap in the market for it, there is certainly a bright future ahead of the Armago team.
Featured Image: Armago