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REVEALED: KCL’s Real Terms Sport Spend Falls from £74/Student to £29/Student in Only Five Years

Image by Connor Williams

Roar can exclusively reveal that real terms expenditure by King’s College London (KCL) Sport & Wellbeing was 10% lower over the last five years than the five beforehand.

This reduction in investment is especially notable because of the increase in the size of KCL’s student body during this period. In 2016/17, King’s Sport’s real terms spending was approximately £74/student, but by 2022/23 this figure had dropped to only £36/student.

In 2021/22, spending fell as low as £29/student, a 60% drop from five years before.

KCL Sport & Wellness expenditure, adjusted for inflation (2023). Student numbers taken from annual University reports.

This means that KCL’s sport spend per student is now equivalent to 0.4% of domestic fees, and far lower for international fees.

Roar have adjusted the figures for inflation to 2023 values, which is the final year of investment statistics provided by the University. Expenditure peaked in 2016/17, when the equivalent of almost £2 million was spent by the University. This fell to just above £1 million in 2021/22.

In February of this year, KCL’s Head of Sport remarked to one complainant, “I would challenge whether Sport is ‘undervalued’ by KCL”. The 6% drop in real terms funding and 30% drop in real terms funding per student compared to a decade ago brings this assertion into question.

The steep decline in per student spending began in 2017/18, well before the Covid-19 pandemic.

KCL Sport’s real terms expenditure per student

It should be noted that since 2013/14, the Strand and London Bridge gyms have been opened by the University. KCL’s gym expenditure is not included in the overall investment figures provided above. However, while subsidised, these facilities are not provided complimentary to students and it would therefore be inaccurate to include gym expenditure figures without also considering gym revenue. These numbers are not available to Roar.

The revelation about the real terms spending cut comes amidst increasing pressure on the University from disgruntled sports teams. Roar has seen evidence of complaints from multiple teams about the quality of provisions on offer, including dilapidated buildings and broken equipment.

This also comes shortly after another Roar inquiry uncovered that spending on the New Malden sports ground is 40% lower year-on-year than the money spent on Honor Oak Park (HOP), despite it being in a far worse condition.

In 2021/22, the University chose not to extend its lease of the Griffin sports ground, losing access to five football pitches, two tennis courts, two cricket pitches and a pavilion. Roar can find no public declaration by KCL about this decision or its justification, with it only being reported on by small local media.

King’s College London Students’ Union (KCLSU) even cited the closure of King’s Sport facilities as one of the reasons for its £88,000 sport budget overspend in 2022/23.

There are concerns that this fall in funding has led to worse performance on the pitch for King’s athletes. Since 2014, KCL has only managed to win the London Varsity championship twice against city rivals University College London (UCL).

Should the University choose to increase sport spending from £36.32 back to £50 per student per year, this would cost around £500,000 – a sum which amounts to 0.4% of KCL’s total surplus of £128 million last year.

Mark Burgess, Head of Sport and Wellbeing, only came into his role last year and was not involved in decision-making for the vast majority of this period of declining investment. He told Roar that:

“Over the past few years, we have increased investment into sport and wellbeing activities through programmes such as BeActive, Resi Sport & Wellness, the King’s Move app and the Active Wellness scheme which are available to students at either no cost or at heavily subsidised prices. Following this investment, over 12,000 students now engage with these activities which were recently highlighted as excellent practice by the assessors who awarded King’s the Student Minds University Mental Health Charter. We know that there is more work to do regarding some of our sports grounds which need improvement and we have been engaging with student groups using facilities to hear their concerns and discuss plans for the future.” 

Head of KCL Sport & Wellbeing

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