The sad truth is, York neglects its sports

I didn’t apply to York due to the sports facilities or sporting pedigree of the University. I’m going to make a sweeping judgement and say that, in fact, no-one did.

Whilst to a rugby playing gym monkey like myself the spring loaded weights room floor of Loughborough excited me in ways inanimate objects shouldn’t, ultimately the superior academic merits of York won through. Expectations from York’s sporting facilities then are low, wanting nothing more than somewhere for one to practice the sport they love.

That even this most basic requirement could soon be removed for numerous sports, as a direct result of the potential closure of ‘The Tent,’ is frankly outrageous. For all its faults – an inability to effectively regulate its temperature being the most often cited – ‘The Tent’ is essential. The University have had five years in which to build the promised replacement. Instead, years of deliberate neglect and chronic underfunding have been the only result.

In addition to our soon to be collapsed Tent, our athletics track is a mud-gravel-goose excrement composite not fit for purpose. Our sole Astroturf is showing its age and apepars to be permanently fully booked by U12 football teams. York’s sports facilities are treated as a cash-cow, with preference over prime bookings given to the highest bidder, rather than cash-strapped University clubs.

Compounding the sadness for me is that sporting development potential is there. Speaking from personal experience, the ground staff at 22 Acres regularly produce the best rugby surface we play on. That these pitches and facilities are even on campus is a huge positive, rather than having to endure the lengthy bus journeys as some London universities do. But, for a fraction of the investment outlay of Heslington East, we could have not just adequate but outstanding sports facilities. That tens of millions of pounds can be found to build plush accommodation, but a few thousand cannot be found to provide a transport vehicle desperately needed for clubs like rowing, kayaking, and a plethora of small clubs, simply for them to be able to travel to compete, is farcical.

What Heslington Hall seemingly fail to understand (and I use the collective term as I believe there should be a collective responsibility) is that sporting success and participation has a positive effect for both the University and the student experience. Anyone who has ever laced up their trainers knows the benefits that participation in sport can bring: better health, confidence and lasting friendships. Even if of no other benefit, it serves to add a touch more roundedness to a CV.

Furthermore, whilst I have no greater proof to hand than anecdotal evidence, sports players and active individuals also tend to perform better in their studies. With increased funding of sports the University could get students gaining higher marks, an increase in ‘student satisfaction’ levels and a higher post-university employment rate. Quite how the University chiefs haven’t realised that investing in sports facilities should be the keystone to our maintaining Top 10 status and potentially drive the University of York up the table is beyond me.

Sporting investment isn’t just about Roses success, it benefits the whole University. Please, Heslington Hall, start supporting sport: the first step is to save ‘The Tent.’


  1. I agree almost completely – though I’m not sure that investing in sports facilities is the “keystone” to maintaining Top Ten status. It’s a real shame that the University doesn’t care about York’s sports, especially when we’ve got so many more students involved than other universities (because of college sports etc) and when we have two annual intervarsity sporting competitions.

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  2. 9 Aug ’10 at 11:17 am

    Just left York

    This article is spot on, Tom. Having represented York and James college in a number of sports- rowing, rugby, climbing to name a few, two things stuck out-
    1. The passion of everyone involved in every sport club.
    2. How amazingly crap the facilities were and how little the uni seemed to care.

    Without the dedication of some very hard working students, determined to make things work in spite of the under funding and shoddy facilities, sport at York would be a laughable mess. York punches well above it’s weight as a sporting university, especially given the lack of help from the uni itself, but this slightly favourable sate of affairs cannot last in the face of the closure of essential sporting facilities without an adequate replacement; it can only go downhill.

    The university really needs to sort out it’s priorities- it’s all very well building a new campus, a welcome change form the crumbling concrete at the old one, but why just jam it with accommodation so that York’s facilities, sporting or otherwise will just be further overwhelmed by thousands of film studies students? The money would have been better spent on a swimming pool, new sports and music facilities and maybe a library that doesn’t have loud drilling and asbestos poisoning thrown in as a reward for your tuition fees.

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  3. Its a shame that despite being one of the most active groups within in our university, our student athletes and sports members are often one of the most under appreciated and under funded groups.

    Its good to read comment pieces like this, which bring to the surface anger that nearly all of our members feel about this university and its atitude to sport.

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  4. This article is brilliant and I completely agree with it. I can’t believe that a university as good as York, with so many students (esp foreign students who make the uni even more money) has such shocking sporting facilities. The cheerleading squad has to use a lecture hall for the majority of its training, as it is one of the few places on campus that has a high enough ceiling, and yet the sports centre costs so much to hire.

    When I was at Roses this year I couldn’t believe that Lancaster are building a new state of the art sports centre, when they already have a very good sports centre that actually has a swimming pool in it. I admit I went slightly green with envy.

    Whilst I am glad that I am at a university that puts its academic reputation and standards first, I think it is high time that the university recognised that it has many sports teams that perform to a high standard every year and that this should also be rewarded.

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  5. 10 Aug ’10 at 2:06 pm

    Tiina Tuominen

    I understand that people are upset about these news. However I have to say, that not all of this is University of Yorks fault. You know, if they had all the money in the world, then surely they would build whatever students wanted, but that is not the case. The money that universities are given, has been cut this year A LOT and it is really bad news for university that has a building site on their campus. If you have been reading news, you know that in many other universities there has been many degrees cancelled completely and some facilities defunct. Compared to that, I think York has done their business quite well. Surely it is not a very good situation, but things could be a lot worse. These are tought times and every university is struggling with money and resources.

    There has been made a decision about swimming pool in Helsington East and new facilities for Sports. I guess that is ought to be done in 2012 – a few years to wait, but it is something.

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  6. @Elle George: Here Here! The fact that Lancaster have a nice shiny swimming pool (with diving blocks!) and doesn’t have to pay overinflated prices to swim in an over-chlorinated BATH and a depleted male swim team came pretty close shows that people in York are enthusiastic about sports BUT we don’t have the facilities. The amount invested compared to say, Durham or Bristol or Sheffield (if we’re going by top 10 unis that York PRIDES itself on being in) or even places like Heriot-Watt or Strathclyde is absolutely pitiful. York does pretty well in BUCS for having a shameful level of investment – if we had 5% of the amount put into accommodation to cram more students in we’d be a pretty good sporting uni…..

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  7. Bristol is even worse, I assure you.

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  8. That can’t be true. That’d be like dividing the universe by zero.

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  9. It’s only bloody sport, the uni’s got about a million more important things to worry about.

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  10. If you lot love Lancaster so much why don’t you piss off there?

    Oh yeah that’s right, York is much better.

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  11. Spot on Stef! Sport should be the least of our worries.

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  12. 15 Aug ’10 at 9:38 am

    Another Athelete

    Good to see you appreciate this article Sam. Perhaps you will do something about this!

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  13. This article is spot on, York University’s attention to sport is pathetic and our facilities are pretty awful when compared to the Universities we play on a regular basis. I only hope that this year we can finally see York Sport on the up and finally compare to the other Top 10 Unis on a sporting level as well as academic.

    Whenever i look at our University’s facilities and funding i feel embarrassed, but when you look at all our success in BUCS this year, it does make you proud of the students.

    Heslington Hall needs to sort its priorities out.

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  14. “Heslington Hall needs to sort its priorities out.”

    Are you joking? I’d hardly class sports facilities as an important priority. Way down the list. I’d rather the uni spent money on what we’re there for: education.

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  15. The only way sport would be a spending priority is if the University was determind to go up in the tables that give a lot of weight to “student satisfaction”, and those tables give you some damn weird results.

    On the other hand, don’t see why so much cash has been thrown at giving the library a facelift. It was fine the way it was.

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  16. Sport isnt a priority? Of course eduaction comes before all extra curriculum activities but part of the university’s priorities should be student satisfaction.

    Sport is no longer something thats a small side dish, with roughly 3000 York Sport members we are the largest group on campus.

    Now Im not saying that we should tear down the library and stop buying books or board rubbers to save money for a bobsleigh track. I think what most of our sporty students want more than anything else, is recognition.

    More than many others, our sportmen and women are proud of their institution, because they represent it week in and week out, and are the most seen students as ambassadors of our university at away games and tournaments etc.

    I dont think its too much to expect that our institution begins to view sport in the same way that so many of its students do. As for putting money towards it, that is a different argument, but aknowledging that its no longer a side activity for a minority of students but rather something central to large group of people is far more important.

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  17. When you leave up buildings that were designed for about 20 years (even then well out of fashion) for over 40 years then sport can wait.

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  18. Nobody comes to York for the sport, but it is of course still important. For me however, it is not uni sport that is of primary importance, rather college sport. If folks are that obsessed with being the best, they would have gone to Loughbrough or wherever, but they didn’t, they chose here and one of our best features is the collegiate system, for me, underpinned by college sport.

    The drive towards ‘excellence in sport’, while admirable enough, could seriuosly damage college sport (imo). Already we are seeing our pitiful resources stretched by the demand of uni teams and the sports centre’s commercial interests.There are already no evening slots available for the booking of the full astro next term, the college pitches are pretty much wastelands come december, and quite frankly, the college sports league has become insignificant over the last few years, with Halifax’s sheer size giving it such a huge advantage. Who even won this year? Nobody really cares.

    Just as a final point, why can the sports centre not give uni and then college teams first refusal on the astro? I just do not understand why bookings are being arranged with local clubs over the summer when college captains can’t really do anything about their bookings.

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  19. Also, @Sam: I’m not sure that 3000 members of YorkSport is an accurate reflection of the numbers interested in any level of sport at the uni and definitely not a reflection of the numbers interested in the top levels, especially representing the uni. Rather, it is a reflection of all those interested in such sports and anyone who wants to use the gym.

    Don’t forget that many YorkSport members joined simply because of the almost ‘closed shop’ policy of combining sports centre membership with YorkSport membership. I have played college sport and used the centre facilities for a few years without ever being an AU/YorkSport member until the recent decision that meant, in reality, that I was forced to pay YorkSport £15 for absolutely no increase in service.

    There are plenty of others in the same boat as me who simply stumped up the £40 Centre & YS membership so they could access the gym and the courts at prices that are slightly (only slightly) less scandalous.

    At nearly every other SU in the country they will put at least some effort into subsidising products and services for their members. Here it still costs 55p for a mars bar in the union shop, over £2.50 for a pint of pisslager in the union bar, and even with the sports centre and YS memberships, you need to pay £4 for 40 minutes of squash.


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  20. @Chris. Name a union that subsidises products in shops or bars for it’s members. Subidises from where? The block grant? I think their institution (and indeed the charity comission in a few months) might have something to say about subsidised mars bars…

    Or do you mean they use thier income streams to subsidise services for thier members, just like YUSU does…

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  21. 18 Aug ’10 at 1:34 pm

    Oliver Babish

    Bruno, what difference does it make how it is subsidised? I don’t know how St Aiden’s or St Cuthbert’s at Durham, or Aberystwyth Union, or Lancaster Union, or St Martins Union, or Sheffield Union (etc, etc) manage to ensure that their bars are considerable cheaper than the Courtyard, but they are. Whatever the means, these unions subsidise, or ensure that the cost to the consumer is cheaper.

    What products or services are cheaper thanks to YUSU than the commercial alternatives? The Courtyard is no cheaper than any campus bar or many bars in York at all for that matter. YourShop is no cheaper than Costcutter or the Spar. Where are these YUSU granted savings to the student?

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  22. 18 Aug ’10 at 2:45 pm

    Alcuin student

    Well YUSU subsidise the printing of this paper for one thing, subsidise stuff which sports clubs buy, etc…

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  23. 18 Aug ’10 at 3:42 pm

    Oliver Babish

    Ah yes, the papers, good point.

    I notice that the football and futsal teams always have nice new kits (what happens to the old ones?), however many teams get a pretty rough deal. Am I right in thinking that due to the cost of the equipment needed, our Fencing team will probably not be able to compete at a higher level than the one they already dominate?

    Even if the big uni teams are well funded (and I suppose all societies do get their money from the union), this does not really make its way down to the college level. How much money is spent on college sport? Look at the hockey kit. Look at the 22 acres.Even the rugby stuff had to come out of JCR monies. Sucks.

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  24. “Sport is no longer something thats a small side dish, with roughly 3000 York Sport members we are the largest group on campus.”

    Incorrect Sam.

    More people participate in the Union’s democratic functions than compete for York in Sport.

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  25. hmmm…

    if that was was true more people would vote in the elections and to get motions to hit quorum….?

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  26. 6 Oct ’10 at 9:11 pm

    very interested


    and how is it that roses is one of the largest inter university sporting events in europe then?

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  27. “Sport is no longer something thats a small side dish, with roughly 3000 York Sport members we are the largest group on campus.”

    Apart from societies, which comfortably pass that figure…

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