The History of the Varsity
Match and the Blue
The man who began the Varsity match tradition was Charles Wordsworth of Christ Church college Oxford, who in June 1827 arranged a two-day cricket match against Cambridge at Lords. The first Boat Race between the two universities was in 1829,
and was rowed over 2 and a quarter miles between Hambleden Lock and Henley Bridge. The second Boat Race was not until 1836 which was rowed over more than double the distance, from Westminster Bridge upstream to Putney Bridge. It was in this race
that one of the Cambridge oarsmen tied a light blue ribbon to the bows of the Cambridge boat (the colours of his school, Eton College). The colour dark blue was then ascribed to Oxford because it is the colour of Christ Church college, and the Oxford
crew sported white jerseys with dark blue stripes during the race. These colours have remained over the years and now sportsmen who have represented Oxford in a Varsity match against Cambridge in a Full Blue sport are entitled to wear a dark blue blazer.
The training and hard work that go into the run up to Varsity
are exemplary. Blues are won against stiff competition each year
and are reward for playing in the Varsity Match. Because of the
prestige that is attached to it, the status of a Blue is jealously
guarded at both Universities and a close watch is kept on it by
the Blues Committee. In a 1990 study, only 229 junior members
out of a population of 13,279 resident members gained Full Blues.
This equates to less than 2% of the student body. A Blue remains
an award of distinction. Oxford first awarded a Half Blue for
hockey in 1900, and awarded its first Full Blue in 1926.
The first Varsity hockey match was played in Oxford in 1890.
All subsequent matches have been played at a neutral venue, with
the exception for the rearranged game in 1986, which was played
at Cambridge. The Queen's Club, West Kensington was the setting
for the 1891 and 1892 matches. The Old Deer Park, Richmond, was
then chosen for the next ten matches. The first match at Foxgrove
Road was in 1909 and it remained there until 1957 (except during
the Two World Wars when no Blues were awarded). From 1958 to 1960
Edgbaston, Birmingham became the venue. In 1961, it moved to Hurlingham
Park, London. The MCC then invited the game to Lord's in 1969
where it remained for 22 years until the need for an artificial
surface caused the move to Reading in 1991. The National Stadium
at Milton Keynes then
hosted the next five matches, before its takeover by Wimbledon
Football Club necessitated a move to Southgate Hockey
Club in 2003. This venue was such a success
that it will again act as host in 2004.
Ed Bevan tackles a Cambridge player
The teams line up for the National Anthem in the 102nd match
This year's Varsity Match will be the 104th time Oxford and
Cambridge have faced each other.
The Blues Varsity Match is played at the Southgate Hockey
Club on 2nd March 2004.
Order of Play:
Old Blues Match at 10.30am
Schools Match at 12.30pm
Men's Varsity Match at 2.30pm
Women's Varsity Match at 4.30pm