After extensive discussions the decision has been taken not to run the Stan Calvert Memorial Cup this year, the traditional Newcastle University v Northumbria University varsity. The varsity event has been taking place since 1994 with Newcastle taking 13 wins to Northumbria’s 10, with two draws in 1999 and 2003.
The current format for the varsity is that eligibility for teams is based upon competing in BUCS, and as Northumbria University have consistently reduced their BUCS programme over the past few years, the number of teams participating has vastly reduced. Over recent years there has been a 36% reduction in fixtures in the varsity, from 75 fixtures to 48, and following discussions it was clear that under current rules further reductions were likely this year following a restructure of sport at Northumbria. In essence, the Stan Calvert Memorial Cup was being diluted to the point where it was becoming untenable in its current format. For example, popular sports such as Cycling, Fencing and Rowing have been cut from the programme entirely in the last few years.
Having spoken to our students and sports clubs it is clear that they feel the spirit of the varsity has been lost. For example, in the 2018 competition fixtures were spread across the whole of February resulting in a diluted competitive atmosphere, whereas in the past the majority of fixtures were played over one weekend, Furthermore, the final matches which were historically played at a neutral venue such as Gateshead International Stadium where hundreds of students turned out to support, were moved more recently to Northumbria’s own home venue which attracted little or no support from Newcastle students.
Over the past 3 years there has been much discussion on potential changes that could be made to improve inclusivity, improve the competitive atmosphere, and regain the spirit of the varsity. However, the changes put forward were not agreed by colleagues at Northumbria and therefore we felt that cancelling this year’s event and having a rethink about the format and ethos of the event would be a sensible way forward.
We look forward to a future constructive dialogue about potential ways to take the varsity forward with our counterparts at Northumbria once their restructure of sport is complete.