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11 months ago By Tom Slater

The very personal views of David Shuttleworth

The world is always changing and so is University sport particularly Lacrosse
Many people in Lacrosse are familiar with the US college sporting scene. There are literally hundreds of colleges supporting men’s and women’s Lacrosse programmes. There is extensive TV coverage and the Men’s Final Four attracts crowds in excess of 50,000.

Lacrosse is a comparatively minor sport on a par with soccer! American Football is the big beast with some games watched by crowds of over 100,000.

Sport is very much a part of the US college scene and the academic stature of the University does not seem overly relevant. Everyone does it, from academic powerhouse Notre Dame and UCLA through the Ivy League. Johns Hopkins is one of the world’s great medical and engineering universities and also runs a stellar Lacrosse programme.

Sport is a way of marketing a US college and most importantly maintaining links with alumni who are obviously potential donors.

UK universities vie with the US for academic status but few get even close in sporting achievement. In the UK, Universities which do support sporting excellence do in fact do well academically.

A week on Thursday I will be making my annual pilgrimage to Twickenham to join some 30,000 other hardy souls to watch the Varsity Rugby match. It is certainly not the event it used to be but Oxbridge does feature some outstanding student sports with particularly rowing and cricket sitting alongside rugby.

If you look at the University ranking tables the top 15 academic universities contains some 8 who feature good support for sport and student athletes. In addition to Oxford and Cambridge there are, in my view: Loughborough, Durham, Surrey, Bath, Exeter, Edinburgh and Birmingham, which all have a positive attitude to sport. Others are catching on fast.

Men’s lacrosse is a relatively new kid on the block with a BUCS programme only having been running for just over 10 years but already some Universities are targeting Lacrosse. Durham have run successful teams for a number of years recruiting good Lacrosse players particularly from the US with financial support for post graduate programmes. They have recently appointed David Caldwell from ELA to their sports staff. England international Sam Patterson runs the Lacrosse programme at Nottingham Trent and Nottingham Univ are also investing in the team under head coach Scott Waddell.

Manchester Univ have in my view a very capable sports department who are labouring under the handicap of poor investment and lack of whole hearted support from the University. They have recently received an award for an outstanding contribution to sport at the Manchester Sports Awards. This is a tribute to their efforts and success in making bricks without straw.

Manchester is a huge sporting city and the University is an important part of the city not only because of the student spend but also because it contributes to the sustaining of a capable and educated workforce.

Manchester University claims to have aspirations to be a world class university but seem to fall short languishing in the mid twenties in rankings. It should certainly be a top sporting university and its BUCS ranking is probably the result of sheer numbers rather positive support for sport.

They have just spent considerable money on new ATPs at the Armitage Centre but still seem unable to organise themselves to recruit the top class athletes to use the facilities.

The Lacrosse programme is failing to keep up with the recruiting which is becoming part of life at other institutions. The ultimate irony occurred this week when Nottingham Trent announced that they would be holding a recruiting event for Lacrosse players at Chancellors Hotel at the Armitage Centre.

If Manchester is a top class University it should have a successful sports programme. It is a part of promoting the University particularly to alumni. I am bombarded with information from my University. Only this morning I received an invitation to a Golden Jubilee Lunch in College in April. I am not aware that graduates from Manchester receive any real contact from the University.

Can our cities still prosper post Brexit?
A phenomena of the last 20 years has been the growth of our major cities, particularly in the north where Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Newcastle and particularly Manchester are all flourishing but also Birmingham, Bristol and of course London. All this is despite the catastrophic decline in the national economy.

A walk round Manchester will show you a forest of cranes and numerous office and apartment blocks in the course of construction with the solitary Beetham Tower soon to be joined by a number of skyscrapers, some of them even taller than the trail blazer. Certainly Manhattan on Irwell is the future.

When we moved into the city centre 20 years ago there were around 2,000 residents, not counting students, of which there are around 80,000, with the city centre population now around 60,000 and heading rapidly to 100,000.

The growth is little or nothing to do with the efforts of central government and in Manchester a lot to do with the success that the labour dominated council (out of 96 councillors, 95 are labour and 1 is lib dem) has in attracting investment into the city. It is also perhaps worth noting that Manchester’s soccer teams have played a significant role with money from the Sheik (Manchester City) financing the University redevelopment and the explosion of housing in Ancoats. Gary Neville has moved seamlessly from MU defender to M/c property developer with the backing of Far Eastern investors with the massive St Michael’s project looking like proceeding.

There would seem to be question marks over the Northern Powerhouse project growing.

Theresa May and her government show nothing but contempt and disdain for Manchester. After the bombing she made a fleeting visit to the city and committed £19m to dealing with the aftermath. That has now fallen to £12m but subject to detailed justification of the claims, and is falling fast.

Commitments to projects such as HS3 seem to have disappeared and all we hear about is HS2 and Crossrail2 and other South East based schemes.

The Ordsall Chord rail project linking Piccadilly, Oxford Road and Victoria stations has been completed but it is now understood that the money to expand the stations to take full advantage of the Chord will not be forthcoming.

We are about to embark on one of the biggest construction projects the city region has seen with the expansion of Manchester Airport. The airport is currently a bit of an embarrassment, trying to cater for 24,000,000 passengers a year with a facility designed for 16,000,000. Delays and queues are part of any visit. The new airport will cater for some 50,000,000 a year.

As far as I can see the funding for the project comes from the airport itself rather than any government financing.

Manchester is an interesting animal. In my mind it is an example of pragmatic socialism with the council looking to promote a vibrant and positive city economy and willing to make the business decisions necessary. It seems a contradiction to the claim that Labour is not the friend of business, while in Manchester it clearly is.

The UK will probably not survive Brexit but Manchester just might.

The Winter Classic
Last year’s Winter Classic was in my mind a huge success so it is only too obvious to run the event again this year.

Featuring some hundred of the games top men players the Classic will take place on the weekends of the 9th and 10th and the 15th and 16th of December.

More information as it becomes available.

Updated 14:36 - 29 Nov 2017 by Tom Slater

Where next?

WEEKLY ROUNDUP NOVEMBER 29TH The news from Timperley Lacrosse this week
A VIEW FROM THE SIDELINE (NOVEMBER 22ND) The VERY personal views of David Shuttleworth

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