Rhys Clayton catches up with AU President Ollie Devon, ahead of Varsity
With the big day almost upon us, I met up with AU President, Ollie Devon, to find out a bit more about Varsity, and what to expect. He has played American football in Varsity, and is now helping to make this year’s event another huge triumph.
Well, Ollie, I’m sure you’re looking forward to Varsity. What has your role been?
I certainly am. It’s such a big event, and obviously takes a lot of organising. I’m lucky that Cardiff University has brilliant staff organising the event. A lot of the operations were already in place, such as the contract with the Millennium Stadium, health and safety and so on. This allowed me to concentrate on helping the other sports involved in Varsity with the logistics of their events. It has been a fantastic experience.
Why is Varsity important to Cardiff University?
Varsity is very important to the University. It’s a fantastic showcase for the sport on offer here at Cardiff. It’s great for prospective students to see what sport at Cardiff is about, and it’s a great illustration of how seriously we take sport.[pullquote]Varsity is a very important showcase of the University’s sport[/pullquote]
How has Varsity changed since its inception in 1997, and how do you see it progressing in the future?
Varsity has developed loads over the years. The rugby has taken place at the Liberty Stadium, Brewery Field (Bridgend), Cardiff Arms Park and St. Helen’s (Swansea). The crowds have grown from a few thousand in the early years, to 15,000 last year. With 75,000 seats at the Millennium Stadium, the sky is the limit. Varsity will definitely be at the Millennium Stadium again next year, and if continues to be a commercial success, I can’t see any reason why it will move from the Millennium.
Swansea have won the match for the past 2 years, and have won the game 10 times (Cardiff 4 wins, with 1 draw in 2001) overall. Are you confident we can change that this year?
Absolutely. The rugby team has had a really successful season. They were promoted to the Premiership last year, and have really held their own since. They have played Swansea twice this season and have won both games. But of course, Varsity will be all about who plays better on the day. Their squad might be boosted by the return of a couple of quality players who were unavailable in the season due to commitments with the Ospreys (the professional rugby team covering Swansea), so it will be a fascinating battle.
Do you think the fact that Swansea and Cardiff have a great rivalry, the traditional rugby, football, and general city rivalry, gives the game an edge?
Ha, yes definitely. I think the fundamental rivalry makes the event. There is intense competition across all sports involved, but it’s always played in the right sprit. Whenever Cardiff and Swansea are involved, it’s going to be a great contest. It’s the biggest student event in Wales, and the second biggest student event in the UK after “The Varsity”. It’s something both universities can be proud of.
Do you think the great scale of the event will encourage students to participate in sport, and take part next year?
Yes, that’s the hope of Varsity. Hopefully it will increase participation across all the sports. Our aim is for every student to feel a part of the day, and show every student what sport at Cardiff is all about. Varsity is all about the basic concept of university rivalry, and it’s grown because students have bought into the event. Crowds keep increasing, which means greater sponsorship opportunities, and if this continues, the event will just go from strength to strength.
Apart from the rugby, what else is going on?
The rugby is the “crowd puller”, but Varsity is so much more. Popular sports like football, hockey and rowing will be enthralling contests. There are 22 sports in total competing, and every event counts. So far, Cardiff have won every Varsity shield (the trophy awarded for the University with most event wins) since it began. No pressure there then, to keep winning! I’ve been keen to introduce some new sports to Varsity, and this year, there will be some test runs of events.
And the most important question, what are your predictions for the game?
It’s going to be really close. I know that Swansea are really determined this year to close the gap, and win more events. The football is going to be a really interesting battle. But I’m confident of a win. In the rugby, the team have an excellent team spirit, leadership, and a great captain. Overall, we will retain the Varsity shield in a close contest.
gair rhydd and I would like to thank Ollie Devon for his time and for the interview, and would like to wish him personally, and everyone else involved in Varsity, the very best of luck on Wednesday.