With Newcastle persistently knocking on the door of the BUCS top 10, and many of our clubs playing in their sports’ top divisions, it’s fair to say that sport is serious business here.
All well and good, but what about those students without the skill, time or money to take part in such intensive programmes of sport?
Sitting somewhere between top-of-the-nation performance sport and a kickabout with some friends in Exhibition Park, the new Campus Leagues offer opportunities to get involved in sport without such a substantial commitment of either time or money.
The programme complements the existing Intra Mural sports and gives students a chance to play badminton, five-a-side football, netball, touch rugby, basketball and indoor cricket. With less formality than AU sport or even some of the more competitive Intra Mural leagues, Campus Leagues welcomes students of any ability and there is no expectation that participants need to play every week. Aside from a small membership fee, there are none of the expenses associated with club-based sport, or even a requirement to hold a silver level membership of the Sports Centre.
The man behind the new leagues is Liam Isaac, NUSU’s inclusive sport coordinator. He sees the leagues as a link between one-off participation programmes such as Give it a Go and the club-based Athletic Union. “Campus Leagues aims to bridge the gap between somebody’s who’s a real social player and somebody’s who’s played sport all their life,” he explained.
Campus Leagues grew out of the old Hall Sport programme, which was set up three years ago with funding from Sport England. Isaac hopes the new branding will encourage more students to participate, recounting: “We changed the name to stop the confusion that’s it’s just for first years or it’s just sport that’s being played in a hall.”
A key feature of the new Campus Leagues is their close cooperation with Intra Mural sport. While Campus Leagues are run from the Students’ Union and the Intra Mural programme is delivered by the University Sports Centre, the two programmes are deliberately designed to complement one another. Intra Mural sport offers an array of traditional options such as rugby or five-a-side football, the Campus League programme is intentionally more focussed on more niche sports. Isaac points out, for example, that the University’s provision of touch rugby rests solely within Campus Leagues.
As with Intra Mural, the emphasis in Campus Leagues is on participation as much as it is about competition. While students can – and do – take their League commitments very seriously, the programme also offers an opportunity to get involved in sport in a more relaxed environment, and is particularly helpful for students who are unable to commit to something every week. Badminton matches, for example, are arranged on the night, so that whoever turns up will get a chance to play and those who can’t make it can join in again the following week.
The largest aspect of Campus Leagues is the five-a-side, which now includes 48 teams playing in six divisions. Come December clubs will be relegated and promoted ready for the next season, with prizes including free kit on offer to the overall champions.
Students can even participate in Campus Leagues on a one-off basis, by taking part in one of the many tournaments that are held regularly throughout the year. The biggest of these is the Campus Sport Tournament, now in its second year. Isaac describes this as “like a mini, internal Stan Calvert”, and the competition allows teams – often based on student societies – to compete across four different sports over a weekend.
Held twice a year, the next tournament will hit campus in December and involve netball, badminton, dodgeball and five-a-side football. As with the regular Campus Leagues, the costs to participate are minimal and students only need to commit their time to a single weekend’s competition.
As Newcastle’s BUCS success ramps up the competition for places in University-wide teams, the combination of low membership costs, lack of weekly commitment and welcoming of all sporting abilities makes Campus Leagues a much-needed part of Newcastle’s sporting offer.