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For one weekend every year chaos, anarchy and unrivalled sporting enthusiasm falls spectacularly upon one of two Northern Universities. I am referring of course to the infamous Roses tournament that is fought out between the universities of Lancaster and York in a sporting homage to the War of the Roses.
The tournament began in 1965, when the Vice-Chancellor of York, Lord James of Rushholme, decided to accept the challenge laid down by his Lancastrian counterpart, Sir Charles Carter, of having a boat race between the two universities in imitative style of the Oxford – Cambridge race. The students soon enlarged upon this scheme, by turning it into a three-day event that included rowing, table tennis, a relay race, mixed field hockey and a tug of war. In the first year of the tournament the York team won and was given the Carter–James trophy in recognition of their achievement.
Since its fledgling start in the 60’s, the weekend of sport has grown to encompass over 40 different games with hundreds of participating contestants. Each year the organisers of the event seek to make it bigger and better than before, with American football, powerlifting and judo being added just last year. The tournament has grown to such an extent that in recent years it has become one of the country’s largest inter-varsity sporting events.
Since the first competition in 1965 the trophy has changed hands between the two universities many times. On the tally of wins Lancaster is currently behind, with 21 wins to York’s 22, with the only draw of the tournament occurring in 1974. The usual pattern of Roses is that the home advantage weighs heavily in the host’s favour. A quick glance at a table of victors indicates that the trials of travelling and sleeping on a lecture room floor constitute an unsurprising disadvantage. Despite this Lancaster has had long periods of success, the most impressive being between 1972-7 and from 1984-6. Unfortunatly recent years have been swaying in York’s favour, with the last Lancaster home win being in 2006 and the last away win being in 1985.
This year the York hosts have decided to take the theme of England’s 15th century civil war a step further and have decided to give the entire weekend a medieval twist. This slight change in emphasis is an extenuation of the other side of the sporting tournament, the side of socialising and entertainment. Every year the hosts usually organise a bar crawl and on campus events; this year these will be taking place on the Friday and the Saturday respectively. For more information on this weekend’s activities see the Roses 2009 website; be warned however as SCAN was told of the inclusion of a chlamydia-testing tent alongside other entertainment being added to the event.
The Roses weekend has always been seen as the culmination of the University’s sporting calendar and tries hard to be a great time for all students, from the team players to the spectators. So good luck to all those going over the Pennines to fight it out for University glory, and just remember which side won the actual War of the Roses.