Matthew Jeynes

Do more people follow College sport than care about the success of University teams?

What does the average student care about more – College or University sport? For many the answer would be neither, but the question was raised recently after yet another club versus country debate in English football.

The initial debate stemmed from the proposal from FIFA president, Sepp Blatter, to limit Premiership clubs to five non-national players in any given XI. It was generally agreed that such a change would no doubt strengthen the national team, while adversely affecting the performance of club teams.

The debate over which of the two people cared more about, their club or the national team, then moved onto campus sport, with college sport taking on the mantle of “club”, and University sport becoming the “national” side. There are differences – the University sides aren’t picked from the best of the college players for instance – but the analogy still holds.

So where do people’s loyalties lie? Seeing as we are a collegiate university, I suspect that most people would identify themselves more in terms of their college than as part of the University as a whole. Most people don’t even identify with their colleges, preferring instead just to get their three years here over and done with so they can carry on with their lives. But for those who get involved, many value their college over the University, as evidenced by the recent rumblings of collegiate discontent from colleges such as Vanbrugh.
The simple truth is that many people don’t really follow University sport, aside from a brief burst of sporting patriotism during the three days of Roses. Members from certain clubs, such as Netball and Rugby, often follow each other’s progress, usually over a few shots in Ziggy’s, but for those people who don’t play University sport, the success or failure of our teams is mostly ignored.

The low profile that sport holds at the University is no doubt part of the reason, along with the fact that it is hard to build up any sort of following for any particular club with people spending only a very brief period of their lives here.
So do people care about college sport more? Well, judging by the poor turnout to many of the sports, one is inclined initially to say no. Small colleges like Langwith often struggle to find enough people to play in some of the less popular sports.

However, the huge participation in this year’s Football College Cup, along with the high turnout in both the autumn and spring Football leagues, shows the large number of people who are interested in college sport. This was demonstrated further by the relative success of the College one-day tournaments this year, especially the Rugby tournament last term, which was highly competitive and well-supported on the sidelines.

This success led what should now be a regular fixture in the sporting calendar, College Barbarian matches. There have already been Barbarian matches, featuring the best of the college players against University teams, for Rugby and Cricket, and I would not be surprised if this was extended to other sports, which can only be a good thing.

In the end, it’s only people who play University sport who care about it. For everyone else, even those who have no interest in sport, the success of their college probably matters more than the success of the University. So, while it may be a contentious claim, I am inclined to say that, actually, more people do care about college sport.

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