Varsity, BUCS and beyond – Uni Sport Competitions Explained

Sports teams representing University of Leeds and Leeds Beckett University will battle it out for supremacy in the twelfth edition of Leeds Varsity, which will take place on the 4th and 5th October, culminating in the mens rugby union first team match on the Wednesday evening. As they had done on all ten previous occasions, Leeds Beckett won the overall Varsity contest in 2015, securing victory by 30.5 points to 27.5, with some matches having to be called off due to bad weather. Over 14000 people watched the Headingley rugby finale, which drew a larger crowd than the Namibia vs Georgia World Cup match which was being played at the same time, proving that Varsity has become an important fixture on the sporting calendar in the city.  This year, 60 different fixtures will take place across 25 different sports, ranging from American football to water polo, meaning there is likely to be a sport for everyone at some point over the two days, with many sports having both men’s and women’s matches taking place, sometimes involving multiple teams at different ability levels. Each university takes one point for each fixture that they win, with matches being decided by extra time or penalties if necessary. Half points are awarded if the fixture cannot be completed, as was the case with the golf in 2015.

Leeds Varsity is not the only sporting competition away from BUCS that takes place during the university year. The university also competes against Manchester and Liverpool for the Christie Cup, which will be hosted by Leeds in 2017, with the various teams hoping to break Manchesters run of two consecutive championships. With two top level university competitions taking place in the city over the next 12 months, there will be plenty of opportunities to see close fought action across a variety of sports, providing a welcome distraction from lectures and seminars.

After all the excitement of Varsity is gone (but certainly not forgotten) a few weeks into term, many sports teams turn their attention to league and cup ties against other universities in the North. Organised by British University and College Sport, or BUCS, these competitions form the backbone of higher education sport in the UK, and be it football, rugby, cricket or any other sport you might want to play at Leeds, this is where the real week-to-week action takes place. In fact, the organisation facilitates more than 50 sports in all with over 4800 teams taking part in more than 100 championships each year. It’s not just about the big sports, either; the likes of korfball and table tennis are among those that compete across the BUCS brand.

In Leeds, home fixtures take place across a wide range of venues, from the vast expanses of Weetwood, as well as The Edge and The Gryphon Sport Centres to the more intimate settings of Cromer Terrace Studios. Many sports also have more than one team across the various leagues, meaning that competitions are open to a wide range of abilities. It’s not all about takes place on our own premises, however, with away ties in addition to Big Wednesday and the Nationals both towards the end of the season bringing together teams from across the country for busy days of sporting action.

If competing isn’t your thing or you simply want to find out how your university teams have been doing you can engage with all the excitement through The Gryphon. With reporters at BUCS fixtures throughout the year we’ll be bringing you scores, match reports and the latest news on all the big fixtures across our platforms – in the weekly paper, online at and on Twitter at @Gryphon_Sport.

Luke Etheridge and John Gibby


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