James C Hart |

Managing the costs of student rowing

Learning to budget is all part of student life, and it’s especially important if you decide to row while at university or college. Cardiff University RC Treasurer and finance student James C Hart explains what the costs of student rowing are and how best to handle them

The physical costs of rowing at when you’re a student are well known, as are the considerable time commitments you’ll need to balance against your academic work and your personal life. But what are the financial costs and commitments student-athletes undertake when rowing at university or college? This article helps you understand these and subsequently manage your rowing-related outgoings so you can keep up with the sport you love.

Membership costs

Your club membership fee is probably the first financial outlay you’ll have to make when joining a student rowing club. Costs differ wildly; after surveying over 40 university rowing clubs in the UK, I found membership fees ranged from zero to £680 with an average of £175. Payment methods also varied, with some clubs breaking this fee into termly or even monthly instalments, but others requiring it all to be paid at once. So, get in contact with the treasurer at clubs you are interested in to find out more.

Bear in mind that not all memberships cover the same things

Also bear in mind that not all memberships cover the same things. For example, lower initial fees tend to be associated with a pay-as-you-go system and don’t cover additional costs such as race fees and trailering that higher-priced memberships tend to include. The highest membership fee found of £680 includes everything: race fees, camps, transportation and essential kit. 

Most student rowers also join British Rowing. Being a member of British Rowing is a requirement for entering most races (apart from private matches against other local universities or clubs) but it also provides other benefits including access to online content and advice, courses and discounts. Student membership currently costs £39 and is a one-off annual payment.


Buying kit is normally up to the individual and isn’t included in your membership fee. You can purchase as much or as little kit as you wish. However, if you want to race, all-in-ones are required in most cases. The cost of these and other items of kit depends on your club’s agreement with their kit suppliers. If you are looking to save some money on kit, club alumni often sell theirs second hand.

Rowing blazers are always worn with pride by club members, particularly as the right to wear one has to be earned through representing the club as a rower or cox. They certainly don’t come cheap, though. Each blazer is tailor made in the club’s unique design with prices ranging from £200 to £300. Admittedly, this cost isn’t student budget friendly but you could ask for one as a special present and they’re certainly a great way to remember your time at university.

Race costs

Unless specified otherwise by your club, entry fees are paid by the rowers. There are no entry fees for coxes. Costs will depend on the competition you enter, but most will range from £10 to £30. And that’s per event; it’s common to enter two events a day at regattas or smaller head races.

On top of this, you’ll have travel and trailering costs. The latter cover petrol and tow vehicle hire or maintenance. Fees for trailering can fluctuate greatly between clubs as many form agreements with local clubs; travel costs largely depend on the distance travelled to each race.

men's eight rowing

Altogether, the figure for race costs at a one-day competition is between £15 and £45. Accommodation costs may also increase your outgoings, particularly if you are attending multi-day events or travelling long distances to races. Camping can be a cheaper alternative even to a budget hotel room, but accommodation is normally decided by your club’s committee members.

Some clubs organise additional training events such as rowing camps and training days to help improve your rowing further. When training camps or even races are abroad, this is often matched with a high price tag. However, most clubs will advertise these well in advance giving you time to save up so you don’t miss out. Occasionally these opportunities are only available to top crews preparing for an important competition such as BUCS or Henley Royal Regatta. Payment schemes are usually provided to break the costs up into instalments to help smooth them over the year.

Social events

Rowing is all about community and social events are a great way to have fun with your – and other – crews off the water. University clubs are a hub for student social life providing everything from weekly socials to balls.

Here, the only large cost tends to be the balls which can be from £10 to £40 and in most cases they aren’t too frequent, at most once a term. But as these tend to be the highlight of the social calendar, don’t forget to pack your best outfits (and your rowing blazer if you already have one), when heading off to university!

So, what’s the ‘damage’?

The table below gives an example outline of the typical costs you might expect to see each year as a student rower. Remember, every club will vary so if you have any specific questions, get in contact with one of their committee members.

The average cost per day across the standard 303-day period between September and June is less than £2.08!

In this example, club membership costs have been broken down into two payments: the first due at the start of term one and a second in term two. British Rowing membership is slotted into the first month you race. The kit purchase only covers a new racing all-in-one but bear in mind you may want to buy other club merchandise such as a fleece or splash jacket, and even training kit too. Students will typically enter six races throughout the university calendar.

Finally, this example budgets for one additional training event and three balls that are spread out evenly throughout the academic year, one per term.

The final total of £629 may seem overwhelming at first but when spread out across the year becomes much more manageable. In fact, the average cost per day across the standard 303-day period between September and June is less than £2.08!

When you look at what you get for that, and the friendships you’ll gain in the process, university rowing is really not bad value for money. So, if you’ve read this far and are wondering if university rowing is worth it trust me, it is!

Extra training events£100£100
Monthly total£100£60£54£65£75£25£100£65£30£55£629

Budgeting tips

The key to any budgeting is knowing in advance what costs you’re going to incur and when. This allows you to plan your spending so you don’t blow your loan in the first few weeks of term.

For example, if you get your money at the start of each term allocate a proportion of it to your rowing budget to make sure you don’t miss out on any opportunities.

One cost you might not expect can include money spent on food whilst travelling or at events. To avoid this, pre-pack your own food; this will ensure you’re properly fuelled too because service station food is often not what you’d want to be racing on anyway.

Finally, think carefully about which events and races you are going to enjoy as you can’t enter everything; you are on a student budget after all.

Now you’ve sorted out your finances, go and enjoy the sport you love!

(Banner photo: Alexander Aitken)