University of Manchester, Athletic Union Archive

Scope and Content

Archive of the University Athletic Union. The archive is reasonably comprehensive and includes records of the Men's Union (AUA/2), Women's Union (AUA/3), and the united Union (AUA/4). There are also records of over twenty of the men's and women's clubs which were members of the Union (AUA/5).

The archive includes minutes of the main committees of the Men's and Women's unions, as well as some joint committees. There are a range of financial papers, membership lists, and fixture lists. The Men's Union includes a number of administrative files on its activities between 1945-1981 (AUA/2/6).

Of particular interest are the colours records (AUA/4/5) which record the award of these distinctions from 1919 to the end of the twentieth century. A collection of cuttings books document (AUA/2/7) sporting events in which University members participated.

AUA/5 comprises records of member clubs, mostly minutes, accounts and results. These include: women's judo, men's rugby union, men's and women's mountaineering, men's cross country, men's athletics and cross country, women's skiing, men's and women's cricket, men's and women's squash, men's lacrosse, men's and women's hockey, netball, cycling, men's and women's swimming, men's and women's mountaineering,and the men's boat club.

The archive is particularly valuable for the history of sport at the University, and for wider studies of students' social life, gender relations, and sporting activities.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Athletic Union was established on 17 April 1885 to promote sporting activities at Owens College. Previously, there had been no co-ordinating body for College sports, although sporting events had featured at the College as early as 1862. The Union originally comprised four men's clubs: Rugby Union, Lacrosse, Cricket and Tennis. The Union excluded women's clubs, and consequently a separate Women's Athletic Union (WAU) was formed in December 1900. The Unions maintained separate existences until the merger of 1981.

Although the Union did not initially attract many members, it won enthusiastic support from some academics, particularly Arthur Milnes Marshall, the professor of zoology, and Harold Dixon, professor of chemistry, who served as successive presidents of the Union. They lobbied for improved faculties, and compulsory subscription of College sports clubs to the Union. In 1898, the College acquired the Firs Estate in Fallowfield for a new sports ground, and this opened in 1900. In the same year, the Women's Athletic Union was instituted. Students in the Faculty of Technology, from 1905 based at the College of Technology (later UMIST), formed their own athletic union, which was associated with the Manchester Athletic Unions, and represented on some of their governing bodies.

In 1905, the Athletic Union officially adopted maroon and white as the University colours, with the Women's Union adopting maroon, green and white for its colours (the Men's Union having rejected common colours); women's colours were later altered to maroon and light blue. Colours were awarded to individuals who had excelled in a particular sport.

By the inter-war period, the position of the Unions was much stronger, with sports embedded into University life. From 1914, the (men's) Union employed paid administrators, and funding was provided from a capitation fee levied on students. Membership of teams was limited to University members (previously many clubs adopted an 'open' policy). In 1921, the University introduced lecture-free Wednesday afternoons to encourage participation in sport. The standard of facilities gradually improved, with new grounds at Wythenshawe, south Manchester, and the McDougall Centre, with a pool and gym, which opened on campus in 1940.

In the post-war period, the number of member sports clubs increased rapidly, particularly for women's sports. In the 1960s, further extensions were made to the Firs, and a new boathouse was opened in Sale, Cheshire. Increasingly there was pressure for the Men's and Women's unions to merge, in part because some clubs did not wish to be separated by gender. In 1978, the UMIST Athletic Union formally broke away from the Union, having previously enjoyed had standing representation of the governing bodies of the Men's and Women's Unions. In 1981, the Men's and Women's Unions finally united to form a single Union. On merger, several men's and women's clubs also united.

By the 1990s, the University itself was taking a much more direct interest in the University sports. In 1993 a Director of Sport was appointed, with responsibility for managing University sports facilities. The University increased practical support for sports by funding the Armitage Centre at the Firs, which opened in 1986, to provide indoor sports facilities (with the McDougall Centre being gradually wound down in the last years of the twentieth century). By 2000 almost fifty clubs were members of the Union.


The archive has been divided into five main sections, which reflects the complex administrative arrangements of the Union. the components comprise: AUA/1 records of joint committees and groups of the Men's and Women's Union, and joint records of these Unions; AUA/2 records of the Men's Athletic Union; AUA/3 records of the Women's Athletic Union; AUA/4 records of the unified, post-1981 Union, which includes some pre-1981 record series, where these records were continued after the merger; AUA/5 comprises records of member Clubs of the Union.

Arranged into sub-groups and series as follows:

  • AUA/1 Athletic Unions: Joint committees and records
  • AUA/2 Men's Athletic Union
  • AUA/2/1 - Minutes
  • AUA/2/2 - Financial Records
  • AUA/2/3 - Annual Reports
  • AUA/2/4 - Membership Records
  • AUA/2/5 - Constitutions
  • AUA/2/6 - Administrative files
  • AUA/2/7 - Cuttings books
  • AUA/2/8 -Officers and Fixture lists
  • AUA/3 Women's Athletic Union
  • AUA/3/1 - Minutes
  • AUA/3/2 - Financial records
  • AUA/3/3 - Constitutions
  • AUA/3/4 - Match results
  • AUA/3/5 -Miscellaneous
  • AUA/4 Unified Athletic Union
  • AUA/4/1 Minutes
  • AUA/4/2 Financial Records
  • AUA/4/3 Constitutions
  • AUA/4/4 Administrative files
  • AUA/4/5 Colours records
  • AUA/5 Clubs' Records
  • AUA/5/1 - XXI Club
  • AUA/5/2 - Men's Athletic Club
  • AUA/5/3 - Women's Badminton Club
  • AUA/5/4 - Men's Boat Club
  • AUA/5/5 - Men's Cricket Club
  • AUA/5/6 - Women's Cricket Club
  • AUA/5/7 - Men's Cross Country Club
  • AUA/5/8 - Men's Cycling Club
  • AUA/5/9 - Men's Football Club
  • AUA/5/10 - Men's Hockey Club
  • AUA/5/11 - Women's Hockey Club
  • AUA/5/12 - Women's Judo Club
  • AUA/5/13 - Men's Lacrosse Club
  • AUA/5/14 - Men's Mountaineering Club
  • AUA/5/15 - Women's Mountaineering Club
  • AUA/5/16 - Women's Netball Club
  • AUA/5/17 - Rifle Club
  • AUA/5/18 - Men' Rugby Club
  • AUA/5/19 - Women's Ski Club
  • AUA/5/20 - Men's Squash Club
  • AUA/5/21 - Women's Squash Club
  • AUA/5/22 - Men's Swimming Club
  • AUA/5/23 - Women's Swimming Club

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader unless otherwise stated.

The collection includes material which is subject to the Data Protection Act 1998. Under Section 33 of the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for research purposes. The Data Protection (Processing of Sensitive Personal Data) Order 2000 enables the UML to process sensitive personal data for research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, the UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 1998, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

Open parts of this collection, and the catalogue descriptions, may contain personal data about living individuals. Some items in this collection may be closed to public inspection in line with the requirements of the DPA. Restrictions/closures of specific items will be indicated in the catalogue.

Acquisition Information

The Archive was transferred from the Union on 2 March 2006.

Archivist's Note

Note: although its official title was the Athletic Union between 1885-1981, it is referred to as the Men's Athletic Union in this catalogue.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.


Further accruals expected. Additional post-1990 material not yet catalogued.

Related Material

Minutes of the University's Athletics Committee form part of the Senate/Council committees archive: USC/14. The separate UMIST Athletic Union (TAU) details sporting activities at that institution and its relationship with the AU . Union newspapers and magazines, such as the Manchester University Magazine and Serpent carried regular articles on sporting events, see UMP. Vice-Chancellor's files VCA/7/278 and VCA/7/586 deal with the Athletic Union. The papers of Arthur Milnes Marshall include some minutes of Union committees as well as some Owens College sports ephemera (AMM)

Archives of national university sports bodies with which the Union was involved include: British Students' Sports Federation (D.741/F) British Universities' Sports Federation (D.741/E), and the Universities Athletics Union (D.741/B), all of which are kept at Liverpool University Special Collections.


University of Manchester Athletic Union 1885-1985 (1985) , produced for the Union's centenary, provides a basic history of the Union's activities.

Geographical Names