In what is a major coup for university sport, it was announced this week that the opening night fixture of Roses 2011 will be played under the floodlights of Huntingdon Stadium, home to local rugby league team York City Knights.
The match, due to take place on Friday May 13 in front of an audience of more than 3500 spectators, will see Lancaster and York’s rugby 1sts teams square off in the tournament’s opening contest. It is the first time in the University’s history that a sports match will be played in a floodlit stadium, and York Sport President Sam Asfahani has vowed to make it the biggest sporting event in York’s recent past.
As reported in Vision in June, it has been a long-held goal of the York Sport President to secure a deal with York City Knights for the venue, and this announcement will come as a great boost to Asfahani, the rugby club and the University.
“Roses is building up to be the biggest in the tournament’s prestigious history,” Asfahani said. “For the first time ever, York will be using a local stadium, and this is a clear intent of the size we’re aiming for in Roses 2011. The weekend will be a real spectator’s event, and everything will be geared towards making the experience rally the University behind sport at York. Our primary goal on the committee is to make the match as amazing as possible. The stadium for the Rugby 1sts match is just the first step, and more will be done to develop Roses this year.”
The match itself aside, Asfahani revealed plans were in the works for an opening ceremony on the Friday night featuring fireworks and pre-game performances by the likes of the Capoeira Society and the York Hornets.
It has been indicated that ticket prices will be set at no higher than £5, a fee that would include seating, transport to and from the stadium, and a complimentary t-shirt.
Asfahani said that the decision to make the Roses rugby 1sts game such a high-profile event was down to a mixture of the club’s success on the pitch and its status as the University’s most well supported sports team.
“RUGBY YORK’S SPORT”
“Rugby is York’s sport ,” said Asfahani. “The rugby club draw the most fans on a weekly and tournament basis.” Rugby Club President Rory McGregor said his team were thrilled to have been given the chance to open Roses 2011, and expressed a desire for the stadium event to become a regular feature in home Roses.
“We are delighted at the prospect of playing in front of a large home Roses crowd, and to be the first team from York University to do so at a stadium is a huge honour. To be involved in the major opening ceremony of Roses 2011 is something that will give the boys even more encouragement to get the first points of what will undoubtedly be a hugely successful weekend where we can bring the Carter-James trophy home.
“I just hope there is enough preparation and marketing done around the event to make it a regular fixture for home Roses. The likes of Leeds, Newcastle, Bath and Exeter all have their ‘Varsitys’ in sell-out stadiums, [and] I see no reason why a fantastic university such as ours should be any different.”
Roses 2011 is due to take place over three days stretching from Friday May 13th to Sunday May 15th, and will see York attempting to regain the trophy they lost to Lancaster last May.
VARSITY TO EXPAND
The Huntingdon Stadium announcement wasn’t the only big sports news this week though. Plans have been put in motion for an extra two universities to join Varsity, bringing the chance for the tournament to rival Roses for the title of Europe’s largest inter-varsity event.
Official invites to join Varsity, traditionally a local affair between the University of York and York St John University, were sent out last week to Hull University and Leeds Trinity University College.
Hull have confirmed that they are interested in particpating in the tournament, whilst a reply is expected from Leeds Trinity later this week. The competition, which this year will become known as the White Rose Varsity, is due to take place on the 26th and 27th of February at the end of week 7 next term.
Asfahani, who alongside the sport committee was again the catalyst for the change in format, explained that he wanted to expand Varsity in order to build for the future. “We’re aiming big for Varsity this year in order that, in the long run, it will be a tournament to rival Roses in size and importance,” he said.
“Hull University have shown great interest in joining the weekend tournament, and we’re hoping to make the weekend larger and more competitive to again attract more students down to watch and support our teams.”
These two announcements have set the stage for what promises to be a big year of sport at the University: York will play host to both Roses and the White Rose Varsity tournaments, whilst also trying to settle the small matter of wrestling the Carter-James trophy back from Lancaster.