For the first time in a quarter of a century Newcastle University has withdrawn from the Stan Calvert Memorial Cup, the annual varsity that takes place between the university and Northumbria.
The annual event, in which Northumbria have triumphed for five consecutive years, had been the highlight of the university sporting calendar since its inception in 1994, with over 45 events in the 2018 competition providing opportunities for sports teams to establish dominance over their inter-city rivals.
One of the main problems that had developed between Newcastle and Northumbria was that regarding the level of teams that would compete in Stan Calvert. Maggie Elstob, NUSU Athletic Union officer 2018/19, stated that Northumbria had made a new proposal “to enter their participation teams into the mix.” She stated that Northumbria had changed their focus from “elite-centred sport to participation sport, and though they still have BUCS teams these have been massively reduced from what they have been in the past.” Newcastle University has 86 BUCS teams this year whereas Northumbria has just 45, “this divide in terms of the level of competition is rather problematic. Given how many hours of training and organisation go into preparing for Stan Calvert, this proposal would “completely change the structure of the competition” Elstob continued.
The suggestion that participation sport teams, like inter-mural sides, could compete against BUCS teams would change the current arrangement between both universties for the competition where, in order to compete in Stan Calvert, you would have to be a registered BUCS team. This move from Northumbria was unpopular with the many teams representing Newcastle University, with Elstob stating “in terms of our clubs, I haven’t really had any resistance. We did it in consultation with them...we said we’re not going further forward with it until our clubs say they want it, we gave them opportunities for feedback and we didn’t get a lot of resistance from our students”. During the 2018 edition of Stan Calvert, Northumbria pulled several teams out of their fixtures, leading to a 36% decrease in Stan Calvert games between 2017 and 2018, as well as frustrating those teams left unable to fulfil their fixtures.
Stan Calvert fixtures traditionally took place over the course of a singular week or weekend, however in recent years this has been less logistically possible. This year 4 weeks separated the first and last fixtures with no agreed upon ‘final’ match as was the case in the 2016 competition where the football teams played at Gateshead International Stadium. Elstob stated that the organisation of a main event “has been one of the problems, and one of the things that I fed back to Northumbria. You want it ideally within the week of competition, and in the past that hasn’t fit in with our season. I think because of the decreasing enthusiasm for the event, it’s harder to get more clubs on board and get them to put Stan Calvert to the forefront.”
Two separate statements from Team Northumbria and Northumbria’s Student Union president, Simon Noble, urged both sides to get back round the table to hash out a deal. However, with the stance Newcastle University has taken this seems unlikely to be successful for 2019, at least.