Varsity has become a national event

IMG_0469 (Small)

Swansea University athletic union president Dan Ryan-Lowes has defended the decision of Varsity returning to Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium and Welsh Institute of Sport (WIS) next year.

The move has been criticised by some students who wanted the event to be held in Swansea for what would have been the second time in nine years.

But Ryan-Lowes said Varsity had become a national event and had outgrown both Swansea and Cardiff universities’ capability of hosting it.

“I really enjoyed it in Swansea but you have got to move on with the times and take these opportunities when they come your way,” he said.

“It was a brilliant day down at Sketty Lane with the brilliant facilities we have here at the university and the Liberty Stadium.

“Varsity is no longer hosted by Cardiff University. If you look at the previous Varsity programme it says it was but that is no longer going to happen.

“It has now become bigger than both institutions; it is now the Welsh Varsity.”

Both universities now look upon the Welsh Varsity as a competitor to the Oxbridge tie who play their rugby at Twickenham, home of English rugby.

The Millennium Stadium is the home of Welsh rugby.

“With two of the leading sport institutions in Wales we are in a very lucky position to have the Millennium Stadium,” he added.

“It hosts rugby, football, concerts and even speedway.”

The continuous rise in the Welsh Varsity profile has attracted outside interest from Bath and Exeter universities as they look to establish their own contest based on the one between Swansea and Cardiff.

“I’ve been in regular contact with both universities,” Ryan-Lowes added.

“Hopefully they’ll be able to attend, shadow me during the day this year and then report back to the universities.”

Bath were part of the Real Varsity which saw them compete against Loughborough University, but the event has now finished as it was not competitive enough.

Ryan-Lowes believes that it is the competitive nature between the two Welsh university sides and that the fact the results have been close over recent years that have helped the event’s progression.

“The rugby is mainly won by Swansea with Cardiff winning it a few times, and the Varsity shield [the winner overall of the day sports] is normally Cardiff’s,” he added.

“We are knocking on the door. In 2010 we were close to winning it.

“It’s not just about the rugby, it’s about all the teams and how they input into Varsity; we could shift the balance.”

After the success of last year, Ryan-Lowes reflected on how iconic the event was and how he wants the university to emulate it once again next year.

“In Cardiff I had one of my proudest moments as a Swansea student – standing on St Mary street and all you could see was a sea of green and white, and the bars were taken over by Swansea students,” he said.

“It’s wearing a bright green t-shirt that makes all the difference and to have thousands of students doing so was great, whether you are an avid sports fan or a Swansea University student.”

The progression is also a subject of debate among institutions, closer to home, who have expressed an interest in playing a part in the Welsh Varsity.

“I was sat next to a guy from Cardiff Metropolitan at the match,” the president said.

“Especially with the higher education colleges, we are looking at getting them involved and they’ve expressed interest at getting involved.

“The main thing is showing off Swansea and how great we are at sport and ultimately beating the old enemy.”

There is no doubt that Varsity has been strongly grown over the past few years and television coverage is now becoming a successful, prominent feature.

“It was massive for Welsh television and for English speakers to watch the game for the rugby and atmosphere was just fantastic,” Ryan-Lowes said.

“In regards to the attendance of the rugby, I’d say we are knocking on the door of the Oxbridge one.”

There are various new things that are being considered to further improve Varsity.

Ryan-Lowes named a handful of new ideas including how the boat race could be utilised to link the day sports with the evening rugby.

“The boat race could finish outside the Millennium Stadium where all the fans can see it on the riverside walk,” he suggested.

“We have taken note of what our students want, for example, we are pushing hard for an alcohol free zone.

“It’s just not sports fans we are accommodating for, it’s every single student.”

Comment Below (Moderated)