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Meet Our Partners: Cardiff University

Corporate | 28th May 2021

At Cardiff Blues we are incredibly fortunate to work with an abundance of brilliant companies from the likes of our Principal Partner The MSS Group, to FTSE100 companies like Jaguar Land Rover and LexisNexis Risk Solutions to local SMEs. 

But why do these companies join the Cardiff Blues family and who are the people we deal with on a daily basis?

This week we look at a historic educational establishment, Cardiff University, and their long-standing relationship with rugby in Cardiff. Giving their insight this week are Helen Beddow, senior marketing manager, and head of sport, Stuart Vanstone.

  • Can you explain a little about the history of Cardiff University? 

Stuart Vanstone - The University opened its doors on 24 October 1883 and was formally established by Royal Charter in 1884. We were named the University College of South Wales and Monmouthshire and were tiny in comparison to our current size. There were just: 13 academic staff, 12 departments, 102 full-time degree students and 49 part-time students.

In 1893 we became one of the founding institutions of the University of Wales and began awarding their degrees. By 1972 we had taken the name University College, Cardiff.

We merged with the University of Wales Institute of Science and Technology (UWIST) in 1988. In 1999 the public name of the University changed to Cardiff University.

  • Who are some notable names that have studied with you while crossing over to also play at the historic Arms Park?

SV - There have been many players who have been students at Cardiff University over the years, but here are just a few of them:-

- Gareth Davies (former WRU Chairman). Gareth won the equivalent of the BUCS championship with the University in 1977 vs Swansea and 1980 vs Exeter before going on to play for the then Cardiff RFC.


- Bob Norster

- Robert Sidoli

- Jamie Roberts 

- Sam Warburton (completed 6 months of his degree programme with us)

- Hallam Amos

- Bradley Thyer

Current Students / Academy Players

- Theo Bevaqua – first year student

-Jake Thomas – first Year student

  • What is your role in the company and how did you get involved in the industry?

SV - I am Head of Sport with responsibility for the delivery of the sporting programmes at the University, in collaboration with the Cardiff University Students’ Union. This includes over 65 sports clubs and over 11,000 students who regularly take part in sporting and/or fitness activities on a weekly basis. I also manage the sporting estate, a thriving junior sports programme and support c.60 high performance student athletes while they study at the University who are competing at national and international level in a variety of sports. I liaise with a broad range of sporting stakeholders locally and nationally and enjoy the diverse challenges that the role brings.

  • What is the key to leadership and creating a good culture?

SV - In order to lead the department it’s fundamental to understand and communicate a clear vision, to create an environment that attracts people and stakeholders who share the same values.

I believe in the need for being clear with your purpose, and leading by example and modelling the behaviours I would like to see practiced. You then begin to establish the right structures and processes to foster and reinforce the desired culture.

Leadership and a good culture is generally the result of hard work, gaining experience over time, continuously evolving, and being open to learning new skills and trying different approaches. Thankfully, the University provides an environment that encourages and supports individuals to grow and develop which help create that desired culture.

  • Are there any lessons or transferable skills you take from sport, which benefit your company?

SV - I am lucky to work in the Sport department at the University and work alongside a dedicated team delivering exceptional programmes. My experience in sport has enabled me to be resilient, have the ability to perform under pressure, gain better communication skills and how to work effectively as a team - all of which help with my role at the University. 

  • Why did Cardiff University get involved with Cardiff Blues and how has the relationship developed?

Helen Beddow - Both the Blues and University have proud roots but ambitious futures, so the link is a natural fit. The partnership has seen the Blues and its squad taking part in activities with the University such as student recruitment events but also extends further to include participation in research projects like our Biobank. As part of its civic mission, Cardiff University is committed to increasing both the scale and the scope of its relationships with Welsh businesses, third sector and public organisations. 

  • How does Cardiff University benefit from working with Cardiff Blues?

HB - Within the partnership, there are opportunities to collaborate in areas of mutual benefit and build on existing links within sport. This includes areas such as injury prevention, rehabilitation and preparing for a life after rugby. 

This partnership is more than just having a logo on a shirt or an advert in the match day programme. The Blues have built up a loyal and dedicated supporter base, many of whom may or may not be aware of the life-changing work that Cardiff University carries out. 

Through this partnership, we’re aiming to foster a sense of pride in the supporters that they have a world-class Russell Group university right in the heart of the City. We are also lucky to have existing links with players, current and past, such as Sam Warburton, Jamie Roberts and Martin Williams who have been awarded Honorary Fellowships at the University. They are fantastic role models for everyone involved in both rugby and education and we’re looking forward to being able to strengthen those links, too.

  • What is your earliest or fondest memory of Cardiff Blues?

SV - My earliest memory is being near frozen in the stand when attending a boxing day game at the Arms Park as a child!

  • What makes Cardiff Arms Park special to you?

SV - Following the installation of the 3G surface at the Arms Park the ground has become more accessible to the rugby community in the city and wider region. From hosting under 8’s team on a Sunday morning to a sell out crowd of a Welsh derby makes Cardiff Arms Park unique in Wales. Many of the University fixtures have been kindly hosted at the Arms Park with our two local games against Cardiff Met being a real highlight.