The College Football leagues begin in earnest this week, with another year of thrills and spills in store.
The teams have all the more to play for this year, after College Sport administrators ruled that two teams, instead of one, will be promoted and relegated between the five leagues.
The Premier division, the top flight of college competition, gets underway across the weekend on the York Sport Village 3G. Autumn and spring term league champions Derwent Firsts, who sensationally exited the College Cup at the group stage, begin the defence of their crown against Alcuin Firsts on Sunday at 1.40pm.
Meanwhile, College Cup victors James Firsts get their campaign underway with a tough assignment in the shape of Plate winners Derwent Seconds on Saturday lunchtime. The early kick-off on Sunday sees newly promoted Alcuin Seconds face Halifax Firsts, while the top division’s other game pits Vanbrugh Firsts against Langwith Firsts.
Key dates in the Premier include an all-Derwent clash in Week 3, and a mouthwatering final day contretemps between title front-runners Derwent Firsts, on an unbeaten league run that stretches back well over a calendar year, and James Firsts.
Division One kicks off tomorrow on 22 Acres at 2pm. The first round of games has thrown up a James derby between James Seconds and James Thirds, while recently relegated Goodricke Firsts play Vanbrugh Seconds, who are expected to challenge.
Constantine, the university’s youngest college, have worked their way up the ladder and make their second tier bow against Goodricke Seconds. Halifax Seconds and Langwith Seconds meet in the league’s other opening fixture.
There are three Derwent outfits in Division Two, with Derwent Thirds, Fourths and Fifths all stationed in the third tier. On opening weekend the Fourths play a Wentworth Firsts side in free fall after two successive relegations on Sunday. Derwent Fifths begin against Wentworth Seconds, Derwent Thirds play Alcuin Thirds and Halifax Thirds face Vanbrugh Thirds. These games will all take place on 22 Acres at midday.
Two completely new college teams have been added further down the ladder, as Constantine have launched a third team and Halifax have added a fifth. They will be added to Divisions 3A and 3B respectively.
The bottom leagues are split into 3A and 3B, which get underway on Saturday morning at Archbishop Holgate School. At the end of term, in Week 7, a play-off system determines the two sides who gain promotion, with the first-placed team in 3A playing the second-placed side in 3B and vice-versa.
Ahead of the new season, College Football Administrator Joshua Kerr commented: “It’s going to be the biggest college football season ever, with 38 teams taking part. Also, increased promotion and relegation places mean that the leagues will be even more competitive.
“If you love football like I do, you’ll love College Football this year!”