Gryphons Abroad 2019; Another Successful Year!

Gryphons Abroad Team in South Africa

Our University of Leeds students and staff have returned from our annual Gryphons Abroad trip! Eight students and four staff members went on the trip which was a huge success, with all volunteers thrilled by seeing the increase in the children’s skills and confidence.

Each year, University of Leeds staff and students travel to South Africa to deliver a volunteering programme in partnership with the Bambisanani Partnership Charity. We work with hundreds of South African students with the aim of raising aspirations through leadership and activity. It is a student led project and once in a lifetime adventure, where the students gain a range of skills and experiences which set them apart for life after University.

South African Student fixing bikeThe first week of the trip was spent at Mnyakanya High School in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal teaching the South African students to ride and also maintain bikes. This skill is often life changing for the students, as many live as far as two hours away from the school which creates a barrier to getting their education. This year, as a result of the project;

  • 35 children learnt to ride bikes with ten making it out onto the open road.
  • Six children were trained as bike mechanics.
  • 20 refurbished bikes were shipped to the school for continued use by the students.

In the second week of the trip, our staff and students worked with four local primary schools based in the Eshowe district, delivering a sports and leadership programme. This involved the students delivering classroom lessons including anatomy and history of art, teaching and playing a variety of sports and organising leadership activities. As a result of the programme;

  • 12 classroom sessions, 12 leadership sessions and 12 sports sessions were delivered at Gratton School.
  • 175 new young leaders were certified from Gratton, Little Flower, John Wesley and Holy Childhood schools.
  • 300+ football shirts were distributed to six schools and Zulufadder day care centre. 214 shirts were collected by Murphy Grisedale-Stairs

Alan Stuart, Principal of the John Wesley School, made the following comments about the impact of the programme;

“How can we thank you enough for the incredible impact you have made on the lives of so many youngsters of Eshowe? Your efforts could be described as tireless, positive, enthusiastic, meticulously planned, generous and highly professional. Each year you have come to Eshowe, you have fine-tuned your sports leadership programme to extract the most benefit possible from your time with our Grade 7s. Your students engage actively with our Grade 7s and the departure is always an emotional one. The gifts of sporting equipment that you leave with us each year are highly appreciated and the Grade 7s particularly enjoy receiving their soccer shirts.

Thanks also, particularly from John Wesley, for the students who spent time in our classrooms and presented innovative and exciting lessons to our children. It was such a pleasure to have you as a youthful and energetic presence in our school for a week.

We look forward to similar interactions between us in the coming years.”

South African Students with FootballsThe programme not only helps the South African students to develop new skills, but it also increases our students’ skills. This year, over the course of the project, our students demonstrated an average improvement of 31% in 18 key employability skills. This will help them to stand out from the crowd once they leave University, making them attractive to top employers. Not only this, it is an experience they will never forget.

Emily Faux, one of our Gryphons Abroad students said;

“Gryphons Abroad was more than I ever thought two weeks could be. I learnt so much about the challenges that so many people face and I helped to make a genuine, sustainable difference with the University’s partner schools. I made incredible friends and memories to last a lifetime.”

Jessica McCarrick, another one of our students commented;

“There is no better way to gain skills and push yourself in a teaching environment, whilst having fun and making friends. Truly an incomparable experience that I would recommend to all.”

Check out the blogs the students wrote during the two weeks to get a real insight into what the trip involved and take a look at our Instagram to see it all in action! All photos from this year’s trip are available to view here.

Applications to be part of the Gryphons Abroad 2020 team are now open until Friday 27 September. Apply now for the chance to be part of this fantastic project, allowing you to experience another country’s culture whilst developing yourself and making a clear impact on students’ lives in South Africa.

The University Continues to Help Keep Cost of Sport Down for Students

Football referee at Weetwood

This year’s Gryphons Club Fund will significantly reduce the cost of participating in sport at the University of Leeds which involves 7,500 students. The fund is worth £290k and helps to cover costs for all 70 of the University’s sports clubs.

For 2019/20 onwards there will be a more consistent allocation of funds across all clubs. This will ensure that as many students as possible are able to participate in sport whilst at the University. All clubs will get a minimum 10% contribution towards costs, ensuring everyone receives fair support, whether you are involved with kickboxing, rowing or horse riding. We want to help all clubs and their members develop and grow, whether that means having more teams or entering into more competitions.

The fund was created in 2016, following student feedback about the high costs associated with participating in sport. Its sole aim is to help students with the cost of training and playing sport during their time at Leeds.

In addition to the Gryphons Club Fund, the University continues to provide free access to sports facilities for training slots and certain competitions to all its student club members. This means that the previously compulsory Sports Pass in order to use University Facilities is not needed, saving each student £77.50 per year.

Ella Murphy from the University of Leeds Boat Club said;

“We are so grateful to Leeds Sport for our funding this year, it goes a long way in helping us be the best university at providing high-performance and participation programmes simultaneously. Every one of our members benefit from the funding, ensuring as many students can enjoy rowing alongside their studies.”

The boat club will be using their allocation from the fund to;

• Lower membership costs to ensure the club is accessible to more students.
• Increase national and local representation for both the club and the university by lowering competition entry fees.
• Lower costs of travel to and from competition for all members.

We hope the fund will encourage more and more students to get involved with sport whilst at University by helping to significantly reduce the cost of those participating.

University of Leeds Plays Active Role in Netball World Cup

Natalie Haythornthwaite

This year, at the Vitality Netball World Cup, the University of Leeds has been represented by alumnae Natalie Haythornthwaite and Ciara Crosbie and members of staff Suzanne Glavin and Kathy Fairclough who represented as volunteers and did Leeds proud.

University of Leeds Alumna Natalie Haythornthwaite represented England in the recent 2019 Vitality Netball World Cup held in Liverpool; reaching the semi-final, narrowly losing to New Zealand, and beating South Africa to win team bronze. Ciara Crosbie made her World Cup debut, representing Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland finished 8th at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and were looking to improve on that ranking in Liverpool. Unfortunately they could only manage 10th place after a tough set of fixtures which included playing the 2015 winners, Australia, in their opening match.

Ciara currently plays for Belfast Ladies and had made 9 international appearances prior to this World Cup campaign.
Natalie currently plays for Australian Super Netball League side New South Wales Swifts, and has previously played for Manchester Thunder and Wasps Netball in the English Superleague; winning consecutive titles with Wasps in 2017 and 2018 since leaving University. Additionally, she was part of the team that won gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Speaking to our Head of Sport, Suzanne Glavin, after the semi-final match she had some kind words to say about her time at The University of Leeds and to all of our current students playing netball;

“I enjoyed my time at The University of Leeds, playing university netball – BUCS was always fun! Good luck and enjoy BUCS league!”

Suzanne Glavin at Netball World Cup

Suzanne was a Pivoteer at the World Cup working in Press Operations. Her role involved supporting the many photographers, ensuring everyone was where they should be and were positioned to get the best possible shots. In addition to this, on finals day Suzanne was allocated as a Mixed Zone team member, an exciting but high pressure role! She was responsible for escorting both coaches and selected team members from each side from court to talk to the world’s sports broadcasters and written press in a timely fashion. Pivoteers are only told which players have been requested for interviews within a few minutes of the final whistle and can have a very short window of time to get everything done – on finals day all of this had to be completed within eight minutes! Suzanne was lucky to escort Rachel Dunn, a popular England Roses player to the Mixed Zone, but also quite an undertaking as many fans were demanding her attention!

Suzanne said;

“I am very privileged to represent the University of Leeds in this voluntary press operations role in actively supporting the promotion of world class female sport to global audiences. I genuinely hope that it inspires and motivates people to be active and play more sport.”


Uni staff member volunteering at the Netball World Cup

Photo Credit: Danny Dalton for Netball Scoop

Another University of Leeds staff Pivoteer, Kathy Fairclough from the Alumni office was there as a Technical Official scoring and timing the games. She worked on 60 matches over ten days, officiating during the semi-final which she cited as her personal highlight of the whole experience and was lucky enough to witness England win the bronze medal! Read more about Kathy’s experience on the Yorkshire Netball Facebook Page where she wrote five blog entries during the course of the tournament.

It was amazing to not only have one of our Leeds Sporting Alumni playing for England, but also to have two of our fantastic staff members volunteer at the event which reached one of the largest global audiences for a Netball World Cup, helping to raise the profile of Netball across the world.



Henley Royal Regatta – Brigham’s Dream Debut

The 2019 Henley Royal Regatta took place from 3 to 7 July and is the best-known regatta in the world.

Sports Scholar Matt Brigham qualified for the Diamond Challenge sculls on Friday 28 June. He would face double Olympic champion and six-time Henley winner, Mahe Drysdale on Thursday 4 July. Matt caused the biggest upset of the regatta and knocked Drysdale out, beating him by three and a half lengths! The entire rowing community was talking about Matt; he became an overnight sensation!
The next day, Matt faced world U23 medalist Luuk Adema from the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. Unfortunately Matt lost the race by two lengths and Adema progressed to the semifinals. 

Sports Scholar Matt Brigham rowing at the Henley Royal Regatta against double olympic champion Mahe Drysdale

Matt has only been rowing for four years since he started at the University of Leeds to study Medicine. He joined the GB Start programme two years ago, having swam his whole life. GB Start is a specialist talent identification programme that trains and develop athletes for the GB Rowing Team. Matt was rowing as an intermediate in his second year, so his progress has been phenomenal.
Matt trains with the University of Leeds Boat Club at the Leeds Boat House with GB Start coach, Matt Paul, and Head of Rowing, Dan Grant.

University of Leeds Boat Club Legends Crew at Henley Royal Regatta 2019

In addition to Matt’s success, the University of Leeds Boat Club had a boat of legends in the Centenary Row Past crew to celebrate their 100th year. 

The crew was made up of: Emma Lindsay (Cox), Ella Murphy, Jordan Bryne, Steve O’Connor, Ben Cox, Helen Brown, Grace Clough, Chris Williams and Tom Clements.

Finally, a huge congratulations to Matt for his fantastic Henley Royal debut and the Boat Club on a great year.

University of Leeds Boat Club Legends Crew in the row past at henley royal regatta 2019

Photographs courtesy of University of Leeds Boat Club.

University of Leeds Hosts World Cup Cricket Teams

Sri Lankan Cricket Team Playing at Weetwood

The University of Leeds Sports Park Weetwood was used as a training ground for many of the international teams during this year’s Cricket World Cup. It played host to world-class teams including England, Sri Lanka and the West Indies, where teams trained in between matches.

It was a huge privilege for Sports Park Weetwood to be chosen as a training ground. Our facilities looked fantastic, a credit to Dave Thackeray and his grounds team. Head of Sport, Suzanne Glavin said;

“Providing our sports facilities for visiting world-class international teams is a real opportunity for us to promote globally, in addition to creating valuable new working relationships around education, sport and global exchanges for the betterment of both our staff and students. It was lovely to receive feedback from Chandima Mapatuna, Head of Sri Lanka International Cricket that Sports Park Weetwood was a quality training venue, the hospitality was fantastic and the University catering was the best they had in the entire six weeks of touring.”

The Sri Lankan team have fed back that they are interested in bringing the Sri Lanka International programme to the University in future years.Sri Lankan Cricket teams playing cricket at Uni of Leeds Sports Park Weetwood

This year’s Cricket World Cup has seen some incredible sporting moments, with the Emerald Headingley Cricket Ground hosting a handful of fixtures including; England v Sri Lanka on the 21 June, Pakistan v Afghanistan on 29 June and Afghanistan v West Indies on 4 July.

This is not the first time that the University of Leeds has been chosen by high profile international sports teams, proving the role that sport plays in reaching global markets and supporting the University’s international focus.

  • The Chinese Olympic team used the University as a base before London 2012.
  • Sports Park Weetwood was chosen as a training ground by the Australian Schoolboys Rugby League team.
  • Only last month the University played host to the MCCU V Yorkshire first class cricket match.
  • The Edge was used by the Canadian wheelchair rugby team as a training camp prior to the 2012 Paralympics.
  • The Edge was used by the North Queensland Cowboys rugby team in preparation for the Dacia World Club Challenge in 2016.
  • And Sports Park Weetwood has also hosted the England, rugby union Six Nations Training squad in previous years.

We went up to capture the Sri Lankan team in action – check out our Facebook album to see the rest of the photos.

Gryphons Abroad Football Shirt Collection

Gryphons Abroad Plane

Gryphons Abroad is our international volunteering programme. Each year, students and staff from the University of Leeds travel to South Africa to deliver a life changing project. We aim to raise aspirations through activity and leadership, working with hundreds of children. Additionally, this project is delivered at part of the Bambisanani Partnership Charity.

This year, we have been collecting football shirts to give to the five schools we’re working with. We had a fantastic donation from the University of Leeds Women’s Football Club, who donated their whole playing kit. Also, a special mention goes to eight year old Murphy, who has collected over 170 football shirts for Gryphons Abroad.
He was asked if he would like to donate one of his playing kits to the Gryphons Abroad scheme, and when he learnt that some children couldn’t afford to buy their own kit, he set up the campaign with the help of his parents.
They were hoping to collect around 25 kits initially, but the campaign grew and they now have more than 170 different kits, ranging from Barcelona to Carlisle United. 

To keep up with the campaign, check out Murphy’s Mission on Facebook. 

The students and staff will be travelling out to South Africa on Saturday 13th July 2019. To keep up with what’s happening, follow us on Instagram (@Leeds_Sport) for daily updates and stories from our volunteers.

Finally, if you’re interested in this once in a lifetime opportunity, apply to be a part of our 2020 team – applications close Friday 27th September 2019.

Top Class Cricket at The University of Leeds

The Leeds-Bradford MCCU Men’s Squad have had a very successful season and have been crowned 2018/19 MCCU Champions. Established in 2001, MCCUs are cricket academies which allow young aspiring cricketers to receive an unrivalled level of training and match-play whilst still furthering their education.

At the start of the season, many didn’t think they would do it. But, after a string of losses against county opposition, the MCCU squad had an incredible turnaround. Since those bad results in March/April, they’ve been on a great run of form.

They were level on points with Loughborough who they had to play in the title deciding match. Sadly the bad weather meant a wet ending to the MCCU Championship with no play possible between Leeds and Loughborough in the title decider. This meant that Leeds-Bradford MCCU finished top of the table and are the 2019 MCCU Championship Winners. 

Director of Cricket, Andrew Lawson with the MCCU Championship Shield

Picture credit: @cricketyorks (twitter)

The MCCU squad also finished as runners up in the BUCS National League. They were tied on points with Loughborough but came 2nd due to a worse overall run rate. They also narrowly lost in the BUCS Championship final on Wednesday to Oxford MCCU.
The women’s MCCU team finished 3rd in the BUCS Premier North after beating Edinburgh twice in the season. It’s been a fantastic season for the MCCU squads, with 11 University of Leeds students playing for the men’s team and 8 playing for the women. 

Leeds-Bradford MCCU squad photograph 2018/19

Picture credit:

For the University cricket teams, we’ve also had great successes this season: 

  • The men’s 1st team won their league and will be promoted to the North A
  • The women’s 1st team finished 4th in the Northern 1B
  • The men’s 2nd team avoided relegation and will stay in Northern 1A
  • The men’s 3rd team finished 2nd in the Northern 2B
University of Leeds Women's Cricket 1st team squad photo

Picture credit: @UOLWCC (twitter)

For more information about our cricket clubs, visit our webpage here.

Use 69 gyms nationwide at no extra cost

want free access to uni gyms across the country?

As part of the UNIversal Gym Membership scheme all staff and student annual premium Edge members can access 69 gyms nationwide at no extra cost.

This fantastic member benefit is perfect for anyone visiting friends or family across the UK who want to use the gym in a different city. It also means that students can use the University gym closest to them at home when back for the holidays.

How does it work?

  • Buy your staff or student Annual Premium Edge Membership online here
  • Pick up your UNIversal membership card from The Edge reception. Alternatively, if you aren’t in Leeds contact The Edge and get your membership card sent to your home address.
  • Take your student or staff ID card along with your UNIversal Gym Membership card to gain access to 69 University gyms across the UK

Can I get a UNIversal Gym Membership Card?

The UNIversal gym memberships are available to all staff and students who have an annual premium Edge membership.

If you’ve not got your Edge premium membership yet, buy it online now.

If you have any questions please email: to speak to a member of the team.

Which university gyms are included? 

For a full list of gyms included in the scheme and for more information, visit the BUCS webpage here.

Netball Success – On and Off the Court

University of Leeds Netball
The University of Leeds Netball Club are celebrating four awards after one of their most successful years to date.

Firstly, in February 2019, they were crowned winners of the Student Sport, Special Contribution category at the Leeds Sport Awards. They then went on to win ‘Club of the Year’ at this year’s Sports Colours Awards and Netball club captain, Annalisa Townsend was awarded the Gryphon Leadership Award for her outstanding efforts in steering the club.
Not to mention, a Leeds for Life citizenship award for ‘Project of the Year’ for their schools volunteering project alongside the Leeds Rhinos Foundation.

Netball club at the sports colours awards

Social Sport

The netball club have contributed over 500 hours of volunteering this academic year. This makes them one of our best clubs on campus for giving back.
On campus, social sport activators Anna Blake & Rosie Tate also delivered weekly social netball sessions at The Edge. These sessions enable students to play regular netball without the commitment of being on a team.

Being an activator helped me to improve my confidence & creativity. Each week we had to come up with fun, engaging ideas for the group.”

Rosie Tate, Netball Activator.

The University of Leeds also supports a huge social netball league with 36 teams competing each year. In order to run, a team of 20 volunteer umpires officiate 2 hours each per week during term.
Here’s what Elise had to say about her time as a Netball Umpire: 

Netball Umpire Quote - "Volunteering as a netball umpire for the past two years has been a great way to be more involved in a sport I love, and a fun way to improve key employability skills. I have been able to help other players enjoy netball as much as I do, as well as improve my confidence both individually and within a team."

New Opportunities

The netball club have been a driving force behind a new schools volunteering pilot in partnership with the Leeds Rhinos Foundation. Seven members of the club volunteered in local primary schools, delivering netball amongst other sports alongside the Rhinos. Each volunteer also committed to achieving their ‘Level 2 Principles of Coaching Sport & Physical Activity’ award to prepare them for their placement.

“The Gryphons into Schools programme has been a fantastic experience for myself and the other netball girls who volunteered. Participating in the schools programme has given me the confidence to do more coaching and take on any challenge. Whether you have done coaching before or not I would highly recommend it – not only because it’s a great experience, but because of the skill set you develop throughout.”

Annalisa Townsend, Club Captain.

Volunteers with school children

Their volunteering enabled over 3300 participations in netball to take place on campus and across Leeds this year. Furthermore, the clubs voluntary activities carried an economic value of over £3500.

The netball club have demonstrated a genuine passion for netball and created a culture of volunteering in the club in a relatively short space of time. Annalisa was the driving force behind all of this, influencing and supporting others to achieve more. They’ve really shown what can be achieved through hard work and commitment to others.”

Suzzi Garnett, Sports Volunteering Officer

Charity Work

In addition, the club have also dedicated time to charitable activities, such as the Christmas shoebox appeal, rainbow scrunchies during LGBT+ history month, as well as a joint social with Rugby League in aid of the James Burke Foundation and many more.

Finally, congratulations once again to the University of Leeds Netball Club on their achievements this year. As a result, they’ve already got 24 volunteers lined up to support various programmes next academic year.

netball volunteer on the side of the netball court

If your club or society is interested in volunteering you can check out our current programmes here.
Meanwhile, applications for our Gryphons into Schools programme are open – individuals from any sporting background can apply and applications close on Friday 21st June 2019.

For more information about the programmes mentioned or sports volunteering, contact:
Suzzi Garnett, Sports Volunteering Officer / 0113 343 1544.

100 Years of British University Sport

Cleckheaton Athletics, Women's 100m, 1974
This year marks 100 years of British University Sport (now known as BUCS). The University of Leeds was one of the original ten founding members.

Despite being called BUCS today, British University Sport began 100 years ago thanks to the formation of the Inter-varsity board of England and Wales in 1919.

Firstly, in February 1918, the Presidents of University Unions conference in Manchester called for the need to establish an ‘association’ to promote the development of sport at university. Afterwards, the Inter-Varsity Athletics Board of England and Wales held its first ever inter-varsity meeting consisting of nine universities.

Uni of Leeds Athletics Club, 1930

University of Leeds Athletics Club, 1930. Courtesy of the University of Leeds Special Collections.

Following on from this, in March 1919, the board formalised the first ever athletics meeting involving ten universities.
We are one of the ten founding institutions; alongside Aberystwyth, Bangor, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Liverpool, Nottingham, Manchester and Sheffield.

So, on the 28th May 1919, the first ever athletic meet took place in Manchester. Nine of the ten founding universities competed and this marked the official beginning of University sport in the UK.

In 1922, other sports added to the programme were hockey, association football, rugby union and swimming. If you want to read more about the history of BUCS and university sport, visit the BUCS website here.

University of Leeds Women's Hockey, 1912

University of Leeds Women’s Hockey, 1912. Courtesy of Frances Cook.

We’ve worked with the Alumni Office to gather historic photographs of our sports teams from the last 100 years (and more!). Have a browse through our Facebook album here.

Finally, if you have any memories or photographs of your sporting days at Leeds, please submit them to us via this form and we’ll share the best ones.

University of Leeds Devonshire Hall Football 1970-71

University of Leeds Devonshire Hall Football 1970-71

BUCS have launched a Hall of Fame and ‘100 People of University Sport‘ to commemorate the centenary of British University Sport.