Student unions are being forced to pull out of Busa, the British Universities Sports Association, because overstretched budgets mean they cannot pay the affiliation fees and costs associated with the nationwide competition.
Duncan Potts, sports officer at Sheffield University's student union, estimates that it spends more than Pounds 50,000 a year on Busa membership, calculated at 53 pence a student whether or not they take part.
Unions also have to pay for travel, accommodation, referees, strips and the occasional Pounds 50 fines that are levied if a team fails to show.
"We had fines of Pounds 250 last year because so many of our matches were played during the exam season and we couldn't get teams together," said Mr Potts.
Financial difficulties at Manchester Metropolitan University's student union may also result in its disaffiliation from Busa, although Vernon Ruddick, sports and societies officer, hopes this will be avoided.
According to Nathan Homer, Busa's student vice-chair and Leeds Metropolitan University's student union's sports officer, Busa is well aware of the problems its funding structure causes.
"Busa is defined by its membership, and a working party is looking at ways to restructure its income," he said.