News Article

A History of Varsity

The London Varsity, an annual event steeped in tradition and rivalry, traces its roots back to the founding of University College London (UCL) and King's College London (KCL), two of the constituent colleges of the University of London. Established by Adam Sommerfeld in 2004 as a rugby union match, the Varsity encapsulates the spirited competition between these prestigious institutions, commemorating their historical rivalry that spans almost two centuries.

The origins of this rivalry can be traced back to the establishment of King's College London in 1829, three years after UCL was founded. King's was founded as an Anglican institution, in contrast to the secular ethos of UCL, leading to a natural rivalry between the two institutions. This rivalry extended beyond academic pursuits, finding expression in various forms of student activities, including charitable events known as 'Rag' events.

'Rag' events provided a platform for students to engage in fundraising for charitable causes while simultaneously challenging authority and displaying school spirit. However, these events often escalated into confrontations between students from UCL and KCL, sometimes necessitating police intervention. Amidst these spirited encounters, the tradition of mascot captures emerged as a hallmark of the rivalry between the two universities.

Dating back to 1923, King's College London adopted Reggie the lion as its mascot, which became a prime target for UCL students seeking to assert their dominance. Countless attempts were made to kidnap Reggie, with UCL students going to great lengths to relocate the lion across various locations, from Inverness to Surrey. In response, King's students fortified Reggie, once filling the mascot with concrete to thwart kidnapping attempts.

Not to be outdone, King's students retaliated by targeting UCL's mascot, Phineas, in a series of exchanges. The rivalry even reached bizarre heights, with reports of King's students engaging in a game of football with the preserved head of Jeremy Bentham, UCL's spiritual founder. These antics added an extra layer of intensity to the already fierce competition between the two institutions.

Over the years, the London Varsity evolved from its humble beginnings as a rugby union match into a grand sporting event, attracting widespread attention and participation from students, alumni, and supporters alike. The event, organised jointly by the UCLU and the KCLSU, marks the culmination of the university rugby season, typically held in March.

In 2012, the venue for the London Varsity shifted to the Twickenham Stoop, marking a new chapter in the event's history. Despite the changes in location and format, the essence of the rivalry remains unchanged, with both UCL and KCL fiercely competing for supremacy and the coveted Jeremy George Cup, named after the founders of their respective institutions.

As the London Varsity continues to captivate audiences and embody the spirit of friendly competition and tradition, the rivalry between UCL and KCL persists as a testament to the enduring legacy of these esteemed institutions.


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