By Patrick Sullivan, Co-Editor-in-Chief
Over a third of the 45 University sports teams competing in BUCS have seen an increase in annual membership fees.
The figures used in this article are for the top level memberships for each club only.
Epigram has collected data for 45 of the major sporting societies at the University of Bristol and found that 17 have higher fees for the 2019/20 academic year compared to 2018/19.
The highest increases are seen for the Bristol Spartans, the University’s basketball team, as performance membership has gone up from £70 to £125 for both men’s and women’s first team and £20 to £50 for social membership.
Tennis has also risen sharply in the last year, as the highest team prices now £135 rather than £95. Their Advanced Social deal has also increased in cost, from £55 to £80.
Two of the University’s most prestigious and largest sporting clubs are charging their top players more than ever. The Men’s Rugby Club now charges £250 for their first team, £50 more than last year, however, this includes playing kit which previously cost members an extra £37 in 2018/19.
Men’s football, on the other hand, has six BUCS competing teams who all pay £200, nearly 30 per cent more than last year’s £155 fee. The club captain, Joe Williams, explained that the club needed to up prices due to losing their main sponsor five years ago and said ‘the finances are looking in a much better situation this year’ after the debt had previously accrued.
The Bristol Spartans President, Sam Cobbold, explained that the club ‘calculated costs based on their expected expenses for the year and priced memberships accordingly’.
A spokesperson from the University of Bristol’s Centre for Sport, Exercise, and Health said they are ‘committed to ensuring that sport and physical activity remain accessible for all and for many students that means making access to our clubs and facilities affordable’.
‘In recent years we have witnessed a significant number of Sports Clubs implementing tiered memberships. This has meant top-level membership prices have increased, but lower level prices have also reduced, with profits going back into developing the club and offering new services such as sports psychology, nutrition and strength and conditioning training.
‘We fully support this approach as it aligns with our division’s strategic priority to increase participation levels and removes a financial barrier for some students.’
‘In recent years we have witnessed a significant number of Sports Clubs implementing tiered memberships. This has meant top-level membership prices have increased, but lower level prices have also reduced.’
Spokesperson from the University's Centre for Sport, Exercise, and Health
Players of growing sports such as Futsal or Korfball have found their prices have risen as well, reflecting the extra demands placed on societies who are catering to more students every year.
The full list of BUCS competing teams with rises in membership fees is: Basketball, Climbing, Football (men’s), Football (women’s), Futsal, Gymnastics, Hockey (women’s), Korfball, Netball, Rugby Union (men’s), Rugby Union (women’s), Rugby League, Sailing, Squash, Surfing, Swimming & Water Polo, and Tennis.
Amy Brook, Bristol SU Sport and Development Officer, said: ‘Our clubs determine their own pricing based on a number of factors, including what they have on offer to their members, their position in the club development process, and which league they're competing in which influences travel costs. All of our clubs are student led and the money that they make is reinvested back into their group.
‘All of our clubs are student lef and the money that they make is reinvested back into their group.’
Amy Brook, SU Sport and Development Officer
‘There are over 400 different student groups at the SU which you can get involved with which all have different membership fees. I’d encourage anyone who is unable to take part in an activity due to the cost to apply for the activity hardship fund which is available to support students with this.’
The University spokesperson also said they are ‘delighted’ by Bristol SU’s work in developing the Intramural programme, which ‘provides low-cost entry-level activities for many team sports’.
‘The cost of accessing the University's facilities, programmes and services has reduced significantly for students over the last four years. With discounted memberships for students in receipt of a bursary, a free activity programme in residences and other low-cost, low-commitment programmes across campus.’
Featured image: Epigram / Geogre Lilleywhite
Do you think University sport is affordable enough at the highest level?