Clear your throats and pen your wittiest rhymes, UCL students – you have something to scream for after all. The annual Varsity match against KCL will take place on 22nd March at the Richmond Athletic ground. UCL alumni, disappointed that the match was not going ahead, have organised the match themselves. It has been dubbed ‘The Gower-Strand Occupation’, and promises to be an entertaining occasion. Rugby club President Tom Carr, said he was “very pleased” to accept the invitation to participate, while first team Captain Jack Tredrea, said students could look forward to a competitive game.
The alumni who organised the match chose Burlington Bertie, a favourite figure at UCL, to be the face of it. Speaking to Pi, B. Bert said “UCL was an important part of my life and I want other students to enjoy the opportunities that I had. When I heard that Varsity wasn’t happening, and how disappointed people were, I thought it was important to fill the void with an event that people would remember and enjoy.”
The match had been left in doubt after safety concerns meant the unions were unable to secure the Twickenham Stoop venue, though Student Activities Officer Abdul Akbari insisted that plans were being made. The subsequent disaffiliation of the rugby team made the match an even more unlikely prospect, but the team were re-affiliated after appeal last month. When asked if he had contacted the unions, B. Bert replied: “Neither institution had organised a similar match and I thought I would objectively organise something to showcase how positive this match and rugby can be for students of both universities.” Akbari could not be reached for comment, but Bertie was keen to stress that the match is not Varsity as organised in previous years. It is totally independent of the unions and will be called ‘The Gower-Strand Occupation’. It should only be thought of as Varsity in the loose sense that the same teams are playing and the same fans are attending.
The name carries echoes of previous acts of student solidarity, “Occupations seem to be a prevalent part of student life in London”, said Bertie, “I thought it would be an expression of support for rugby to occupy a stadium.” He was cautious when asked about crowd numbers, but said that he “would not be surprised if it topped previous years”, adding he was “overwhelmed with how popular this match has been.”
Everyone involved will be hoping that there is no repeat of the trouble that marred last year’s match. Bertie told Pi that arrangements have been made and he does not have any security concerns. “Safety and enjoyment for all is paramount and troublemakers aren’t welcome. People will be allowed to enjoy alcohol responsibly at the event. That said, I reserve the right to limit entry and will not hesitate to remove anyone behaving antisocially. I want this event to show the best aspects of university life.” Bertie also confirmed there will definitely be an after-party, but said that a women’s Varsity match under the same banner, might be complicated by the unions’ existing plans.
If all goes to plan students can look forward to a tight and competitive encounter. 1st XV Captain Jack Tredrea said: “obviously we’re confident. When we have our full team we are very strong, and provided injuries don’t get the better of us, I think it’s going to be a great game to watch. We’ve played them once this season, and lost, although admittedly we had a weakened team out. I think it’s going to be a good game. I just hope everyone is as excited about it as we are!”
The event Facebook page can be found here, with tickets available here. You can also follow Burlington Bertie himself on Twitter for updates. Pi will be at the game making mischief, so watch out for our special coverage.
Everything is in place to make the match a memorable occasion. Now it’s up to the players and the students to make this year’s Varsity a classic.