One of the objectives of the Parks was to provide facilities for team sport for members of the University. Since 1965, this has been overseen by the Committee for Sports, now the Sports Strategy Committee, which is distinct from the Parks Curators.
In 1867 permission was given to the Eton, Harrow and Winchester Football Clubs to play in the Parks – the first organised sport to be held there. The following year this was extended to the newly formed Association Football Club and a year later to the Rugby Football Club.
There were many objections to the use of the Parks for sporting activities, most notably Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). He was a Scholar and Fellow of Christ Church, who wrote a long poem The Deserted Parks lamenting the destruction of the tranquillity that he had found in the Parks.
The Parks have been the home venue of Oxford University Cricket Club since 1881 when cricket was first officially played here. Although a plan for the formation of cricket grounds had been prepared in 1867, it was not until 1879, following instructions to the firm of Field and Castle to prepare a fresh plan for the sports pitches, that a Decree was passed by Convocation to allow a portion of the Parks to be let to the University Cricket Club.
Today the cricket ground is regarded as one of the most attractive in the country. Both County and International matches are scheduled during the summer months. Tennis and croquet are also played in the Parks during summer, with hockey and lacrosse played in the winter months.