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Friday 17th February 2012 ko 7.45pm

“Varsity” Friendly



Att 400 (officially speaking)

@ Oxford University Sports Centre, Iffley Road, Oxford

Entry £5 (if ticket bought!)

No programme

Catering available

You may wonder, dear reader why on earth I’d be interested in a student game, and a friendly at that! Well, apart from referring to the title of this blog, I’d mention the the history of the stadium, and the history of the fixture.

To us locals, the stadium will always be known as the Iffley Road Running Track, and where in 1954 Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four minute mile, watched incidentally by the world’s least sporting person, my Mother!  I first visited as a child in the early 80’s for the taping of the BBC’s “Superstars,” won that day by Welsh long jumper Lynn Davies. Since then I’ve seen Oxford University play there, and Oxford United’s youth team too.

For what in essence is a warm-up for the Oxford vs Cambridge varsity game, this fixture has real bite. The game has been played behind closed doors before, in 2010, after the discovery of a Facebook group suggesting that large numbers of Brookes fans would inundate the ground. The Brookes students simply scaled a fence and watched from there.

And that, I suspect, was the start of my problems. For when I arrived I discovered that not only was the game all-ticket, and limited to 400 tickets, it was sold out. Moreover around 20 stewards had been hired from Oxford United to maintain security. Normally I’d have simply turned round and headed for home, but I was just a little irked. This was because the fixture had been widely advertised on the OUAFC website and others, and there’d been no mention of it being all-ticket. With no opportunity to buy a ticket, I reasoned, and this being the first ever floodlit game at the venue I decided to see if there was another vantage point.

Which of course there was, on the far side where the athletics footprint meets the historic rugby union ground. There was a convenient grass bank in the corner, so I quietly sat down to watch the action. And I would have got away with it completely if 4 students hadn’t had exactly the same idea, but sat in full view of the stewards. At half time we all got moved on, “No ticket, no watch.” The students gave up, I waited until they’d gone, and quietly retook my position!

The game was worth the effort, as in front of a rowdy crowd the Blues were good value for their win. Whilst Brookes huffed and puffed, their hosts never looked like losing control of the fixture. Julian Austin was in predatory form, smashing in twice from decent crosses from the right to win the game.

Perhaps inevitably, there was a streaker, unfortunately for me, male, but with all the stewards present, he was allowed to stay on the pitch for a couple of minutes, while play continued. Eventually he gave up and surrendered to the authorities. Mind you, he was a bit of a pathetic streaker, he kept his shoes on!

I wonder whether in subsequent years this fixture will be moved to a larger venue to accomodate the obvious demand. The groundhopper in me would love it to be the wonderful rugby ground next door, although I’d expect the more likely choice would be Oxford City’s Court Place Farm. Watch this space.