It’s time. It’s time to dust off all the University of York merchandise that you bought in the first term of first year. It’s time to rekindle a rivalry that you’d probably forgotten even existed. It’s time for the Roses. The finest athletes from York are pitted against those from Lancaster, otherwise known as the city that does not even have a minster. As spring matures it envelopes the campus in an array of spectacular colours, but this weekend only two colours matter: it is the white of York versus the red of Lancaster.
Here’s a little nugget of information to impress your prospective love interests: the Roses is the largest inter-university sports tournament in Europe. Home advantage gives York what could be the pivotal edge, given that their students are already acclimatised to the hostility of the campus geese. History, and Wikipedia, tells us that each university has only triumphed in enemy territory on four occasions. York has prevailed in eight of the last thirteen contests, with Lancaster’s five victories all in the comfort of their home city. In York’s six most recent home triumphs, victory has been by an average of 67 points. But it would be foolish to take a York win for granted; Lancaster come hungry, and not in the ‘let’s pop to Nisa’ kind of way.
The Roses has its roots woven into the very fabric of our country. It takes its name from the Wars of the Roses, which is pretty morbid when you really think about it. Although the House of Lancaster and the House of York have long stopped killing each other, their hostility endures in the shape of this sporting tournament which is much more family-friendly than a civil war. In 1965 the Vice-Chancellor of York, Lord James of Rusholme, resurrected the demons of the civil war by suggesting a boat race between the two universities (fun fact: James College is named after Lord James of Rusholme). This boat race escalated into a three-day event of a variety of sports, showing that the students of York and Lancaster have much more of a can-do attitude than those at Oxbridge. The tournament’s format expanded into the Roses that bloom in York this weekend.
Friday 24th April marks the start of proceedings. Saturday night might be alright for fighting, but Friday night is optimum for fighting bound by rules and structure. Boxing will provide a feisty beginning to the weekend of sport. Both women and men will take to the ring in the name of their university, with Central Hall being the venue of fun before exam season takes charge. Testament to the national significance of the Roses is demonstrated by the presence of Roy Hodgson in York. The manager of the England football team is the perfect man to conclude Friday night’s fighting with what will surely be a rousing, tear-inducing speech. The festivities will then be moved lakeside where the man of the hour Mr. Hodgson will treat an adoring audience by officially opening Roses 2015, which seems counter-intuitive considering everyone will have just watched the boxing take place. As if Mr. Hodgson wasn’t dazzling enough, fireworks will welcome the night in style over York’s picturesque campus. And Vanbrugh Paradise.
From then on, there is sport everywhere.
Visit http://roseslive.co.uk/fixtures to see the overwhelming extent of fixtures that York and Lancaster will do battle in. An avid sports fan’s Saturday could conceivably consist of Mixed Badminton at 9am, Men’s 1st Football at 11am, Men’s Volleyball at 1pm, Women’s Lacrosse at 2pm, Women’s Darts at 4pm and Men’s Darts at 8pm. Or if your tastes are less conventional then Saturday offers a diverse smorgasbord from Pokemon to Ballroom Dancing, from Computer Gaming to Pole Fitness, from Octopush to the York Student Cinema showing Dodgeball – the film – on Saturday night (fun fact: this last event will not be competitive).
God may have designed Sunday to be the day of rest, but clearly He had not anticipated the creation of such a demanding sports tournament. The last day of the Roses brings Archery, Table Tennis, Cheerleading and Squash as just the tip of an iceberg that, much like the Titanic, you will struggle to avoid. The fixture list will tell you that Men’s B Canoe Polo at 5pm in Yearsley Swimming Pool is technically the last event of the weekend, which is fitting because Canoe Polo sounds incredible. However it is the Men’s 1st Rugby Union at 4pm that will directly make way for the closing ceremony on 22 Acres. The Carter James trophy will be awarded to the victors (fun fact, oh who am I kidding, they aren’t fun: the trophy’s name is a combination of York’s Vice-Chancellor and Lancaster’s Vice-Chancellor from the inaugural Roses). In the space of three days, two universities will have gone toe-to-toe, canoe-to-canoe, fencing thingy-to-fencing thingy. One university will wear their Roses triumph as a badge of pride for the following year, and the other will strive to come back next year even stronger.
As this is The Yorker, I can afford to stop beating around the partisan bush. This is a tremendous opportunity to celebrate the essence of what makes the University of York so special. Dedication, passion and aptitude come to the fore in the Roses, and not just through its talented sportspeople. Every student at the university is a participant in the Roses. Every student has the capability to attend, to applaud and to cheer. York hosting the Roses is a once-in-every-two-years kind of opportunity. Don’t miss this chance to make a difference. For York!