Sports grounds expanded by new partnership

Monday 12 February 2024

St Catharine’s is pleased to have agreed a 10-year partnership with Downing College that increases the outdoor sports facilities open to our community by nearly 30% and supports our student sports clubs who need space to train together and compete in intercollegiate matches. 

Under the agreement, all outdoor sports grounds/pitches and associated equipment (such as goal posts and tractors used to cut the grass) under the control of St Catharine’s and Downing are being combined and made available to members of both Colleges for the next decade. These facilities will be managed by a shared groundskeeping team: Chris Tovey and Rhys Nightingale, who have been employed by St Catharine’s for 37 and 19 years, respectively. While each College will retain responsibility for maintaining their pavilion, these buildings will be open to users from both St Catharine’s and Downing.

Map of St Catharine's, Downing and Pembroke sports grounds
The 10-year partnership will combine Downing (green) and St Catharine's grounds (pink and red)

Helen Hayward (2018), Fellow and Operations Director at St Catharine’s, explained:

“It is our aim that our students shouldn’t notice any change, apart from an increase in pitch availability and better conditions as we can now rest and restore turf while other pitches are in use. Thank you to Chris for raising the idea of a partnership with Downing, and to the students, staff and Fellows on our General Estates Committee for being open to this new approach. I would be happy to hear from students who have feedback about the impact of this partnership.”

Awad Shah, second-year Economics undergraduate and JCR Sports and Societies Officer at St Catharine’s, added:

“As one of the many Catz students using our sports grounds on a regular basis, I hope this partnership with Downing will encourage more students to participate in sports at Cambridge by broadening access to these great facilities and improving the condition of our pitches. I’m confident that our sports teams won’t let this news blunt their competitive edge, which will be put to the test when the Catz men’s football team takes on Downing in the Cuppers semi-final on 17 February.”        

Booking and access arrangements for all sports facilities remain unchanged. Members of St Catharine’s should follow the advice outlined at

The new 10-year agreement is in addition to St Catharine’s existing arrangement that permits access by members of Christ’s College, and incorporates a two-year arrangement with Darwin College, which may extend if it proves to be successful on all sides.

St Catharine's sports grounds with sunny skies above
Part of the St Catharine's pitches and the pavilion (credit: a student photographer)
St Catharine's footballers during the Acherson-Gray sports day
St Catharine's footballers on the pitches with the all-weather hockey pitch in the distance