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I’m writing this letter in order to voice the concerns that myself and several other college football captains currently have in regards to the running of the college leagues. I personally feel that the college system at Lancaster is one of the major selling points of the university, yet, in the three years I have been here, it seems as if the system has fallen into a slow and steady decline. Bars are never full, college spirit is rarely collectively channelled outside of the Freshers and Extrav events that bookend the year and, for me, college sport, and in particular, college football, is increasingly being undermined by the university.
When I first joined my college side, I baulked at hearing that we only play eight league games a season. Of course, this was before I’d realised the extent of Lancaster’s apocalyptic weather, but still, eight games to decide a College Champion didn’t sound much. However, this season, as you know, we are struggling to fulfil even this small amount of fixtures. Whilst we acknowledge that we are never going to get Wembley-style pitches in the cold, wet Northern outpost that is Lancaster, we feel that more could be done by the university and LUSU Activities to prevent the reading of the last rites for college football.
The building of the 3G pitch is a welcome addition, don’t get me wrong. I play on a similar style surface back home, and it is nice to see the university splashing out the funds in order to provide students with the best facilities. I’m sure when the 3G is finished, it will serve its purpose in alleviating the fixture backlog we constantly face. However, at this moment in time, the implementation of this new facility appears to be nothing short of a shambles, directly impacting our college sides.
First and foremost, the decision to build the new surface now, in February, seems a ludicrous one to make. We were told in first term, after the project had already been delayed from its initial summer 2013 start date, that the facility would be completed and in use in time for Roses in May. We now know that this will not be the case; it appears that work on the artificial pitch will not be finalised until at least midway through Summer term. Taking this into account, it seems nonsensical to get the contractors in during February. Why not delay the project until this summer, when all the students have gone home? Do the university enjoy interrupting their students’ pastimes? Do the university even realise that they are interrupting anything? After all, none of the colleges, to my knowledge, were ever consulted about these new developments.
The building work, which commenced in Week 4, has had a knock-on effect on our games, which were already under threat due to the weather. Pitch four, which the captains agree was the best surface, has gone, making way for the 3G, whilst pitch six, which I can only be described as a farmers field, remains. The other two college playing fields, pitches three and five, have been narrowed and shortened respectively. No-one who watched Bowland A’s battle out a 2-2 draw with Fylde A’s recently would admit that the downsizing of the playing areas has been anything other than a catastrophe. With space at a premium, what could have been a great spectacle became little more than a farce. What really rubbed it in though, was seeing one of the pitches, the one which the VP Activities had actually allocated to us, go unused.
It would be ridiculous of me to say that university fixtures shouldn’t be prioritised. At the end of the day, Lancaster’s sporting reputation is a direct consequence of the results of the university sides, and it is refreshing to see the men’s rugby and women’s basketball teams doing so well in the BUCS competition. Roses is a unique event, and the 50th tournament will, I’m sure, be a defining event for the University as a whole. But don’t forget those of us who aren’t good enough to feature at Roses. Don’t forget those of us who just can’t commit to representing the university on a weekly basis – we want to play too.
However, at the moment, college sides are being charged extortionate amounts even to train. One captain I spoke to said that he and his players had spent nearly £2,000 on astroturf booking fees, whilst we ourselves have spent over a grand in total. We don’t ever expect the university to waive our fees, or LUSU to pay for them, but a little discount, or contribution, from either side, would be a nice gesture. After all, we’re all students here.
The glory days of college participation at Lancaster are probably over. However, I still take pride in being a member of Fylde College. Being voted Captain was one of the best moments I’ve had at Lancaster, and it’s a feeling I want future students to enjoy. Further steps are being taken to improve college participation, with the introduction of college rugby and basketball next year. I hope they work out. But, at the moment, we feel like we are being ignored and undervalued.