One squad. 70 members. And a budget of just £5,000 a year. The Brighton and Sussex Waves are a co-educational cheerleading squad made up of students from the University of Brighton and the University of Sussex.
The squad has been named UK National Champions for two years running, but with national competitions costing between £6,000 and £7,000 a year, going for gold and defending their title doesn’t come cheap.
In addition to that, the Waves have two competing teams - doubling the costs of going to competitions. To overcome the financial difficulties of competitive cheerleading, the cheerleaders have found themselves putting both their athletic ability and their entrepreneurial skills to the test.
Squad secretary Thomas Curson says that finding funding for the squad is vital if they are to continue as a competing team: “We do get funding from both universities, but with universities getting larger, and more societies asking for money, the amount we receive is less and less every year,” he said. “Cheerleading is a particularly expensive sport, so we really do have to come up with new and inventive ways to make money.”
May seem like a daunting task, but the Waves seem to have it covered - they have continually generated the highest revenue out of all the university societies every year since they were established in 2006.
One of the squad’s main fund-raisers is organizing activities for students, such as bake sales and club nights - this year, the Waves organised events for the SuperBowl, Thanksgiving and Christmas, raising approximately £1,500 for the squad.
However, the squad also makes efforts to raise money for charity and support their local community.
The Waves’ annual Pink Night is a club night dedicated to the late Wave cheerleader, Hester Stewart, and raises money for the Angus Foundation. This year, the event raised £2,200 towards the charity, which will help raise awareness of the dangers of the drug GBL.
The cheerleaders also performed at the Brighton Marathon last year to support the runners, and will do the same again this year to help raise money for Breast Cancer UK. To get them towards their target sum of money, the Waves also take advantage of any money-raising opportunity which comes their way.
The squad’s most recent challenge is their bid to win £10,000 in the RBS ESSA video competition. In order to win, the squad must gain the biggest number of views on their YouTube video, before gaining a place in the adjudicated shortlist.
Thomas, 25, says: “That amount of money would make an unbelievable difference to the squad. It would fund the international competition in Bournemouth in the summer and we could start subsidising the costs of tumble training for the squad - the members currently pay out of their own pocket.”
Thomas said often the novelty of cheerleading can also find the squad handy pay packets. In January, the squad performed at an event for Aquatrac - a company in swimming pool management and construction - in exchange for a cash sum.
“Aquatrac gave us £100 to throw some stunts at their largest event of the year,” said Thomas. “The squad always jumps at a chance to perform and if it means more money towards competition, then that’s brilliant. I think often the novelty of cheerleading in this country can work in our favour.”
For many, the efforts the squad goes to to find the money to compete would not seem worthwhile. But, argues head coach Cheska Tyler, 22, cheerleading teaches skills which can be carried on to later life.
“It’s all about working in a team, and really pulling together to achieve something,” she said. “The running of the squad and performing well in competitions doesn’t come easy, but the squad really put in the hours both in and out of the gym to make sure we are able to firstly, compete, and secondly, to the best of our ability.”
Squad member Shiv Vara, 20, said her experience of cheerleading has made her university life: “Cheer is not only about the competitive side, it is also about the social side,” she said. “I have made lifelong friends through this squad, and we have so much fun. It just makes all the hard work we put into fund-raising completely worth it.”