The news came in last week that the Stan Calvert varsity between Newcastle and Northumbria would be put on hold for the foreseeable future. Although it’s a shame that the competition won’t be taking place for this year at least, it’s hardly a surprise that this decision has been made. What are the problems surrounding the Stan Calvert varsity?
One particular issue clouding the competition is the lack of awareness people had about it. If students aren’t aware of the competition then how can there be excitement generated around this local varsity? Last year there was a big effort to get more people involved in Stan Calvert with a publicity effort using student media, social media and leaflets. Unfortunately for whatever reason this campaign didn’t quite work out- a lot of people still weren’t too bothered about Stan Calvert.
In reference to lack of awareness surrounding Stan Calvert, as a fresher last year it felt as if other freshers didn’t know about the varsity. It appeared that freshers in particular only knew about the competition if they were involved in a sports club or knew someone that was a member of a sports club. Due to this, if you asked any fresher who didn’t have these connections about the varsity- they would be clueless. Consequently, it’s especially an issue if a new intake of students aren’t aware of Stan Calvert as it’s more difficult to gain not only willing competitors, but also spectators for the sports that are happening.
In hindsight, it’s probably a blessing in disguise that Stan Calvert is taking a back seat for now. The competition seemed to lack the kind of energy that other universities have surrounding their varsities. Nobody seemed to be too bothered about Stan Calvert. Stan Calvert would take place and then be swiftly forgotten about until the next year.
It’d be fantastic to see the Newcastle v Northumbria varsity be a massive event for both universities and generate a lot of interest and excitement from both sports teams and students. In order for this to happen, there needs to be collaboration from both universities whilst Stan Calvert is having its break to build up a hype. If this can be generated and promoted all over both Northumbria and Newcastle campus’ then hopefully in the future Stan Calvert will be something significant and exciting to mark down in the calendar and not just be an unenthusiastic burden to both universities. Rebecca Johnson
The Stan Calvert Memorial Cup has been cancelled for the 2018-19 academic year, a move that may have largely gone under the radar for many Newcastle University first years. Whilst there are a multitude of issues that contributed to the cancellation of the competition, one problem that is recognisable when comparing Stan Calvert to other varsity events is the lack of a showpiece finale.
Student involvement in and awareness of Stan Calvert have been dwarfed by the varsity events of other universities. One such example is the contest between Sheffield Hallam University and the University of Sheffield, which this year saw the women’s and men’s football matches staged at Hillsborough Stadium. The games saw both universities sell out their respective ticket allocations, allowing for a large crowd and a vociferous atmosphere to form. Stan Calvert seemed to lack both crowds and atmosphere for the 2018 edition, with Newcastle University itself doing little to promote the events and fixtures, with this responsibility being assumed by student media.
There was indeed a ‘grand finale’ to the contest, the men’s rugby game that was played at St James’ Park, and at first glance this appears to be a superb spectacle, one that would more than suffice as an opportunity for students to gather en masse to offer their support. However, the fixture was merely a precursor to Newcastle Falcons vs Northampton Saints, and was inexplicably played on the 24th of March, almost a full month after Stan Calvert had finished and during the Easter holiday.
This scheduling decision was bizarre, making the game somewhat redundant given that Northumbria had already won Stan Calvert by a considerable margin, leaving the fixture a battle for personal pride only. Additionally, many students were left in a position where they would have gone to the game, but had already made their way home for the Easter holiday. The attendance did sit at a healthy 30,174, but due to the strange scheduling this crowd was more likely to have been made up of local fans than students, making it a somewhat deceptive figure.
Stan Calvert has certainly been lying in the shadow of more impressive varsity events taking place throughout the country, and the struggles to arrange a meaningful, exciting main event that both student bodies can support seems to have had a consequent effect on the enthusiasm amongst university teams. Although there will be no varsity event this academic year, going forward, the establishment of a showpiece fixture should be of major significance. If marketed well, a main event that mirrored Sheffield varsity could massively increase student participation as fans, and in doing so, increase the appetite of university sports teams to go out and triumph in their fixtures, raising the standard of competition and the success of Stan Calvert as a whole. Tom Hardwick
The difficulty of any varsity is the organisation. Pulling together multiple teams, from separate universities, with different schedule, with different priorities, often in different BUCS divisions is a logistical nightmare.
For anyone following Stan Calvert over the past half decade the description that would come to mind is most likely “exhaustion”. The feeling that for some reason a perfectly workable sporting competition was stretched out over many weeks, with many teams not competing for one reason or another, is draining on anyone close to the competition.
If you were unfortunate enough to stumble onto social media once Team Newcastle had made their announcement last week you’d be forgiven for thinking that the university were running away from the competition as sore losers. But the issue goes much deeper than that. Northumbria are about to have a huge overhaul of their sports financing. It may seem irrelevant but it means that as a result the number of BUCS fixtures for the university will likely decrease, which means less Stan Calvert games. Or a change in the long established rules that BUCS teams, and only BUCS teams, play in Stan Calvert.
By changing the rules of the competition even more than it has already changed in recent years, you risk losing the whole point of the competition. Which is to showcase the best of the best from the cities university athletes. When following the competition last year athlete’s evidently felt that that was no longer the case. People were deflated by some teams not competing and others managing to secure a game but it being weeks before the well-established “Stan Calvert Sunday”. Something was going to have to give.
The decision will cause, and will have caused, a bit of upset among a few quiet voices in university sport. But, on the whole, it will give both universities to relook at the whole format and try to come up with something that is more of a spectacle, more engaging, more far reaching, more competitive and more accessible for students at both universities. Harry Parsons