By Ben Marsden
Ah floodlit. The knockout competition that enhances college rivalries, creates chants Shakespeare would be proud of, and leads to pitch invasions that other teams dream of. The pinnacle of football you could argue.
This year Collingwood will aim to make it three successive wins in a row, and face serious contenders South in Round 1. Van Mildert will look to go one better after being losing finalists and semi-finalists in the last two years, as they face rivals Trevs in the first round.
For those playing, it’s a somewhat understated look into what it’s like to be a professional footballer – hearing your name being chanted, being booed and feeling the pressure of hundreds of eyes on you. Many playing won’t play for a Durham Uni team, allowing them to experience playing in front of a crowd bigger than the usual 5 or so that turn out in the rain for a 10am Sunday league match. For those that do play DU, it’s a brilliant chance to represent their college when they might not otherwise be able to. The mix of DU players and the best non-DU players creates a great standard of football that allows players to excel and attracts large crowds. The potential of a penalty shoot-out also adds to the thrill, with games ending in penalties often being the most dramatic and tense.
Off the pitch the passion is arguably even bigger with football socials, friends and non- football fans alike turning up to support their college. With many a Knights cider being consumed beforehand the noise created is pretty impressive, with fans aiming to out chant opposition supporters in good natured rivalries that push the players on. The array of chants is always impressive, with many often to the tune of famous songs or existing chants heard up and down the country on a weekend. For those football fans that can’t get to matches of the big teams they support, floodlit is an avenue into that experience of being part of a fanbase supporting one team. When you add in the fact that you’re supporting your friends on the pitch and stood in the stands with other mates, the sense of solidarity is unmatched. Some of the best club socials involve a floodlit game. Pres at a college bar before the game, challenges and forfeits at half time, then celebrating or commiserating with the players at Jimmy’s or Babs. It develops the team by bringing the whole club and college together both on and off the pitch.
The games themselves always have a side story that enhance the atmosphere, whether it be a Hill vs Bailey rivalry (Bailey colleges seem to have forgotten you’re supposed to try in Floodlit in recent years!), neighbouring colleges or a side that beat you last year, the competitiveness always goes up a level at floodlit, both on the pitch and in the stands. The draw often gives an early opportunity for a giant killing or two favourites facing off early on, such as Collingwood vs South this year.
Floodlit will have a slightly different look to it this year, with clamp downs on drinking and actions due to events of recent years. Drinking will no longer be permitted inside the sports facilities, with bans for those breaking the rules. On top of this, chants should not be anti-social in any manner, include profanity, or target individual traits such as ability, height, or weight. This code of conduct has been altered drastically due to previous incidents. It is sad that mostly light-hearted chanting has been overshadowed by a minority of more severe chanting that has no place in football, resulting in these new rules, which include a ban on pitch invasions at the end of the game. Even with the recent issues, floodlit will still be back to its very best soon for a tournament full of upsets, thrashings, and drama.
Image: Sophie Little