Roses Sport

Roses Preview - History of the Tournament

A brief history of Roses, the annual sports tournament between the universities of York and Lancaster (Thumbnail credit The Carter-James Trophy. Photograph by George Lowther)

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In 1965, with both institutions still in their infancy, the Vice-Chancellor of York University, Lord James of Rusholme, proposed a boat race against Lancaster, following the example of numerous other universities throughout the country, notably Oxford and Cambridge. However, such was the attraction of the race, students amplified the concept, organising a three-day tournament which also featured table tennis, relay races, mixed field hockey and tug of war. York emerged victorious in this inaugural contest and, such was the success of the weekend, there was no turning back.

The inspiration for the tournament is, of course, the series of bloody civil wars between the feuding houses of York and Lancaster for the throne of England between 1453 and 1487. York adopted the white rose and Lancaster the red rose as emblems in battle, and the symbolism remains to this day.

On the friendlier, but equally competitive, environment of the sports field, the Roses tournament snowballed year after year until it had become Britain's largest inter-university competition. Additional sports have been added each year, widening participation, although equally important is building and strengthening links between the two universities and generating memories that will last a lifetime for competitors, spectators, alumni and staff alike. Rivalries on the field are cast aside as the two sets of athletes come together for social events on the Friday and Saturday evenings.

With home advantage traditionally an influential factor, the overall score is exceedingly close: York edge the victories 23-21, with one draw in 1974. At no stage has one university really dominated the tournament for a long period and the 46th meeting this year promises to be one of the most tightly-contested ever. There have only been eight away wins in the tournament's history - Lancaster won in York in 1973, 1975, 1977 and 1985, while York won in Lancaster in 1978, 1992, 2002 and 2008.

In 2008, York achieved the first away victory in six years, winning 124-122 in a dramatic finish and then made it a hat-trick of wins last year with a 194.5-79.5 rout, the victory mathematically assured by the Saturday teatime. Neither side has ever won four tournaments in a row - although Lancaster did win five out of six between 1972 and 1977 - so a York win in 2010 would be history in the making.

The names and golden moments of the Roses tournament form a rich tapestry down the years but, for all the changes the two universities and the wider world have undergone, there has remained many enduring constants: camaraderie, entertainment, drama and pride. The chance to become a campus hero is here once more, who will accept the call?

The Full Record

1965 York 1966 Lancaster 1967 York 1968 Lancaster 1969 York 1970 Lancaster 1971 York 1972 Lancaster 1973 Lancaster 1974 Draw 1975 Lancaster 1976 Lancaster 1977 Lancaster 1978 York 1979 York 1980 Lancaster 1981 York 1982 Lancaster 1983 York 1984 Lancaster 1985 Lancaster 1986 Lancaster 1987 York 1988 Lancaster 1989 York 1990 Lancaster 1991 York 1992 York 1993 York 1994 Lancaster 1995 York 1996 Lancaster 1997 York 1998 Lancaster 1999 York 2000 Lancaster 2001 York 2002 York 2003 York 2004 Lancaster 2005 York 2006 Lancaster 2007 York 2008 York 2009 York

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1 Comment

~J Posted on Sunday 18 Aug 2019

"Neither side has ever won four tournaments in a row - although Lancaster did win five out of six between 1972 and 1977" rofl

Out of interest, was anybody able to chart the scores for the 1970s and 1980s? I know a few of us were looking at the end of last summer term but I could only get the first couple and the last 15 years or so :(

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