Sport in the University Archive

It’s been a summer full of sport in the UK and around the world, from the Women’s World Cup in June, to Wimbledon and the Tour de France in July, and the Netball World Cup which took place here in Liverpool. Inspired by this, we have been taking a look at some of the sportier items from the University Archive.

Sports at University College Liverpool began with the University College Athletic Club in 1885, which was initially open to male students and consisted of Cricket, Lawn Tennis, Rugby Football, Gymnastics and Cycling. On the creation of the University of Liverpool in 1903, the Athletic Club became a part of the Guild of Undergraduates. The first Annual Athletic Sports took place on 5th May 1894, and featured below are a few of the items from the collections relating to these events over the years.

A104/10 – First Report of Annual Athletic Sports
A104/19 – Poster advertising Sports Day [1986]
A104/19 – Programme for Annual Athletic Sports 1940, with results filled in

For a number of students competing with a sports club is a highlight of university life, with many clubs being formed over the years at the University of Liverpool. Some of these are represented in the University Archive, such as the Liverpool University Women’s Boating Club (D552), which includes an album of compiled photographs and press cuttings relating to the team and the various events they competed at. 

D552
D552

The Rugby Football team was one of the original clubs included in the University College Athletic Club, and it was decided in 1918 that an official University Rugby club should be run. The below press cuttings are from a 1931 volume compiled by Thomas L Ellis, a member of the Liverpool Rugby Union Football Club, who acted as Secretary in 1932-1933 and Captain in 1933-1934.

D696

D696

A Netball Club was first established at the University of Liverpool in 1924. The netball kit pictured below belonged to Isabel Harkness, who studied at the university and played for the Netball First VII team between 1932-6, and was the captain of the team for the 1935-6 season. She is identified as the captain in the below team photograph in Liverpool University Athletic Union; the first one hundred years, 1884-1984 by Beryl Furlong (GLD/2/2/1).

D326/25 – 1st VII Netball Team (1935-1936)
D502/2 – Netball kit owned by Isabel Harkness

Also held within Special Collections and Archives is the archive of the British Universities Sports Association (D741) and the various organisations that preceded it. One of these was the Universities’ Athletic Union, formed 100 years ago in 1919 by universities across England and Wales, including the University of Liverpool, to promote inter-university sport competitions across the UK. Initially known as the Inter-Varsity Athletic Board of Great Britain and Ireland, students from different universities came together to compete both at home and as a team at international competitions. The UAU continued until 1994, when it merged with the British Universities Sports Federation to become the British Universities Sports Association.

D741/B38/3 – Athletics photographs
D741/B38/3 – Athletics photographs

International student sports competitions have been and continue to be held across the world, with the International Confederation of Students being established in 1919 and the International University Sports Federation in 1949. Between these organisations, many international student competitions were held, including the summer and winter Universiade. The Universiade celebrates its 60th anniversary this year with the summer games in Napoli and the winter games in Krasnoyarsk, with the first games being held in Turin and Zell am See in 1959.

D741/J8/1 – Programme for the winter games held in Bardonecchia, Italy (1933)
D741/J8/3 – Report on the French team’s performance at the Monaco games (1939)
D741/J8/8 – Regulation booklet for the first Universiade in Turin (1959)

All of these items are available to view in the Special Collections and Archives reading room. Please email us at scastaff@liverpool.ac.uk to book an appointment.