Is college sport harming not helping sport at university?

It’s Sunday, York is cold and damp; I’m hungover and the 22 men stumbling over a ball in front of me, each showing the first signs of the inevitable beer belly developing, are all hungover as well. Welcome to the wonderful world of college sport.

The newly re-branded Deloitte Inter-College Sports Championship is a York tradition which began in the early years of the University when there were only a few colleges, all boasting similar numbers of students. Since then the introduction of new colleges such as Alcuin, James, and, most recently, Wentworth to proceedings has meant a much larger and potentially more intriguing competition.

However, the changes have had the opposite effect. Colleges have been built by the University to house students, not provide an equal footing in sport – meaning those which house more students such as Halifax have more resources and a greater chance of finding talented players.

This adds an unquestionable bias to proceedings, meaning that colleges such as James and Vanbrugh which have fewer students are the outsiders. No longer is college sport about which team has the best individuals or the best team ethic, it’s about who has the largest squad to pick from, rendering the competition a pointless bore. Currently, Goodricke College, one of the largest, look set to top the table at Christmas and, unsurprisingly, Wentworth will lie at the foot of the table.

Personally, I don’t know anyone who plays for their college, and it’s questionable as to whether I want to. While University sports clubs are composed of eager, willing competitors who play either for pure enjoyment, to make new friends or to improve their ability, college sport is more about the clique, staying in with the crowd and excluding anyone who plays for a rival, or, dare I say it, doesn’t play sport at all.

Take a recent case of students taking the collegiate system way too seriously. An infamous Langwith student whom I will not name, sent me an e-mail asking if he could write an article about how unfairly his team were treated in their recent men’s first’s football match against Derwent “for taking things too seriously”, and that both himself and fellow team-mate were victimised by “over-zealous AU officials”. I’m sure our readership would be captivated by such an opportunity to learn about the woes of such legendary figures.

So what does this mean? Perhaps the AU should focus less of their attention on providing facilities and man-hours into organising games which are meaningless (and of interest to very few), and more time to promoting the benefits of playing University sport. Competing against other institutions and specialist clubs which have better facilities and coaching, and provide greater opportunities for improving individual ability is surely better than playing in a merry-go-round of pointless banter.

Who knows, maybe if university students stopped trying to beat each other we may even become a respectable sporting institution; instead of concentrating on a tournament which does not win the heart and minds of the majority of York university students.

By Daniel Whitehead


  1. I’m afraid I disagree, although I don’t and never have played college sport I think it’s good for people who aren’t up to university standard to play. For example if you can’t get into the Rugby or Football uni teams, when are you going to get the chance to play either games properly (ie XV and XI a-side). It’s not really designed for spectators but if people want and enjoy playing there’s not a problem, the league tables might not be the most meaningful in the world but it does add an extra spice.

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  2. 19 Jan ’08 at 4:14 pm

    This article is a bit rubbish....

    Personally I’d say that College Sport is much more beneficial over all than university sport. It enables more people of varied abilities to get involved, and also those people who do have other commitments as well as the sport of their choice, who don’t have time for intensive uni training. As someone who plays college rugby i’d say the emphasis is less on ‘clique’ aspect and more on the fun of playing. As for a ‘tournament which does not win the heart and minds of the majority of York university students’ I would say that is not at all true. While taking part in a recent rugby tournament, I was quite aware of a good deal of support and good natured banter going on from the side of the pitch, and in the bars afterwards. I feel the collegiate system helps people retain a sense of identity in the seething student masses, to be part of something smaller and more intimate. College sport is an essential part of that, and I am proud to be a part of my college, and a college sports team. As for ruining uni sport? Rubbish – if anyone is good enough for university sport, I am sure the uni captains will spot them and encourage them to join up…

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