The Universities of Gloucestershire and Worcester have joined forces to support campaigns of tolerance and inclusiveness as they look forward to their annual sporting derby.
Sports teams from both universities have signed a pledge to uphold the values of the British Universities and Colleges' (BUCS) #TakeAStand campaign throughout the Varsity series, which will see the two institutions go head-to-head across 24 sports.
The #TakeAStand campaign aims to make the university sport experience as inclusive and accessible as possible, avoiding anti-social behaviour and discrimination.
The pledge was signed by captains of each sport, who were also given rainbow coloured shoelaces for all their players to wear at their Varsity fixtures. The laces are part of a national campaign, supported by the Football Association and other national governing bodies across the UK, to raise awareness and support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender players and fans.
Organised by the two universities' Students' Unions, Varsity, which starts tomorrow (29 March), will see teams from Gloucestershire and Worcester compete in a variety of sports, with everything from hockey and netball, to American football and volleyball.
The trophy goes to the University who, overall, wins most fixtures. The University of Worcester has won for the last two years. Previous to that the University of Gloucestershire had won the competition for 6 years in a row.
University of Gloucestershire Students Union's Sports Officer, Lauren Chenoweth, said: “Sport has a strong heritage at the University of Gloucestershire and Varsity is certainly the highlight of the year for most of our athletes and teams.
“We proudly compete in our Blue and Blue colours, but for the first time blue won't be the only colour that we are wearing. We are proud to be linking up with the University of Worcester by making a pledge to support the #TakeAStand campaign where all players will be wearing rainbow laces in support of equality and diversity.
“Whilst the rivalry on the pitches, courts, river and other venues will be as passionate as ever, we are delighted to be joining forces to show that the university sport experience and sport as a whole should be as inclusive and accessible as possible to all."
University of Worcester Student Union's Vice President for Student Activities, Hemaka Pathiranage, said: “Team Worcester is looking forward to defending its title against Team Gloucestershire in the annual Varsity. The teams have been preparing for some weeks now and see it as a highlight of their year.
“The Varsity series showcases the high level of athleticism and sportsmanship with which Worcester & Gloucestershire play and the passion of spectators on both sides. The enduring Worcester-Gloucestershire rivalry and appetite to bring home a win remains strong for 2017, with Worcester aiming to retain the Varsity trophy for the third consecutive year.
“This year we are actively supporting the BUCS' campaign with the University of Gloucestershire and, to this end, have produced our own video, a joint pledge between the universities and the players will be wearing rainbow laces in support of equality and diversity. It is very important to all of us that sport is inclusive and that our competitors lead by example."