Studies before Sports From the Universities Cup Final
Saturday night saw the climax of the University calendar in the UK. The universities hockey programme is an under appreciate gem for the sport in the UK. Saturdayâ€™s final saw the Oxford Blues from the famous Oxford University, probably the oldest hockey club in the UK take on Edinburgh Eagles from Edinburgh University.
Both sides were short on numbers as exams forced many to miss the final nonetheless it was a very strong Oxford side that arrived at Blackburn. The Blues started on fire and were 7-0 up before 10 minutes. The Eagles steadied the ship somewhat and had a better second period before going down 15-2.
Whist the hockey wasnâ€™t the closest between 2 sides that have been at the top of the sport for the last 5 years it was good contest and there was some skill on show. It did get me thinking that the event could be bigger.
Universities train thousands of students in a number of courses. There could be media students on the night presentation, drama students entertaining pre game and in the intermission and journalism students covering the event and all gaining experience. And this would not have to be limited to ice hockey but all university sports.
This plan quickly breaks down though. The cost of hiring Blackburn for 2 hours was almost Â£700 (not sure if the BUIHA got a NUS discount) and with only a handful of fans in attendance it was hard to break even. In the United States of course Universities and sport is big business and that means big sponsors and budgets from the University. This includes building sporting facilities including ice arenas, stadiums and ballparks. In the UK universities are about academia. Sports provide a distraction and a chance to socialise but their own members mostly fund these clubs.
For me there is something uneasy about the US model. Whilst I am in favour of ice hockey in the UK being bigger and better diverting funding from studies and actively seeking sporty students to put on to scholarships goes against what universities should be doing. Those UK students that play on sports teams are students first and sportsmen second never the other way round.
The Universities ice hockey programme in the UK has a good structure in providing competition for youngsters and the tiered set up means it is able to attract players of all levels. The Oxford side contained many Canadians, Americans and even a Russian born Namibian who have grown up playing the sport in areas that hockey was number 1. Less of the Edinburgh side were in that situation but their involvement in the game was down to their academic abilities not their athleticism. If a more American system were to be adopted this would change.
The BUIHA is on the right track in keeping the sport about participation and getting out there and playing. It would just be nice to see a bigger occasion created around the top events but this is true of all university sport and it should never be at the expense of academia.