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Football Blues set to make Varsity history

The double-header will see the men's game take place before the women's for the first time

Matthew Roller
Matthew Rollerhttp://mattroller.contently.com
Matt, a PPE student at Exeter, was the paper's editor for Trinity Term 2018 alongside Fred Dimbleby. Follow him on Twitter: @mroller98

The men’s Varsity football match will be played as the first game in this year’s fixtures, Cherwell can reveal.

It will be the first time that the women’s match has formed the second half of a Varsity double-header in a major sport.

Cherwell can also reveal that the double-header will be played at Barnet’s The Hive stadium for a second year in a row.

“The decision to play the women’s game second was a joint decision with all four teams agreeing: alternating the order seemed the obviously fair way to run the event,” OUAFC said.

The move represents a first in Oxford sporting history.

The Varsity rugby matches have been played as a double-header since 2015, and the hockey matches have done so since 2002, but the women’s match has always been played as the earlier fixture. The same has been the case in the Boat Races since 2015.

But amid fears that fans have come to treat the women’s match as something of a ‘warm-up act’, OUAFC and CUAFC have decided to switch the order.

The clubs also held talks with Queens Park Rangers regarding the possibility of playing the games at Loftus Road, but decided upon a return to The Hive after these fell through.

Attendances for the women’s rugby fixture at Twickenham have been disappointing in the past three years, with fans coming in towards the end of that match, as was the case in the 2017 football matches.

Last year’s double-header – the first of its kind – was overshadowed by an off-pitch saga after a disagreement regarding venues.

While Oxford suggested that a double-header would give the women’s fixture the greatest possible exposure, Cambridge said that hosting the match at Cambridge United’s Abbey Stadium would be the better option.

Ultimately, a double-header was decided on, with the women’s match being played first.

In 2017, Oxford won both fixtures. Becca May’s hat-trick sealed a 3-1 win for the women, while an own goal and strikes from Dom Thelen and Joan Crespo secured a 3-2 win for the men.

Ticket sales were lower than expected for last year’s games, but after a substantial increase in the number of Oxford students attending the 1-0 win against Oxford Brookes last term, hopes are high for a better turnout in 2018.

Varsity football does not have a permanent home, with the fixture most commonly associated with Fulham’s Craven Cottage.

It was held at the old Wembley Stadium between 1953 and 1988 and has been played at many venues, such as Selhurst Park and Highbury.

Just one point currently separates the men’s teams in the Midlands 1A league, and the Dark Blues could seal the title in Cambridge on 21st February.

Cambridge’s women play in the division above Oxford, and sit in mid-table. Oxford are top, but second-placed Warwick have a game in hand and are a point behind.

The Varsity matches will be played on 25th March, two days before The Hive hosts an international friendly between Serbia and Nigeria.

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