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Oxford and Cambridge Blue

A ”Blue” is an award earned by sportsmen and women at a university and some schools for competition at the highest level. The awarding of Blues began at Oxford and Cambridge Universities.

The History of the “Blue”

The first sporting contest between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge was held on 4 June 1827 when a two-day cricket match at Lord's, organized by Charles Wordsworth, nephew of William, resulted in a draw. There is however no record of any university "colours" being worn during the game.

At the first Boat Race in 1829, the Oxford crew was dominated by students of Christ Church, whose college colours were dark blue. They thus wore white shirts with dark blue stripes, while Cambridge wore white with a pink or scarlet sash. At the second race, in 1836, a light blue ribbon was attached to the front of the Cambridge boat, probably as it was the colour of Eton. These colours — light blue for Cambridge, and dark blue for Oxford — became the official colours of the two boat clubs, and through the rivalry of the Boat Race became inextricably linked with the universities and contests between the two.

The Hockey “Blue”

Blues are won against stiff competition each year and are reward for playing in one annual match, that being between Oxford and Cambridge. Until after the Second World War, it was only possible to win a “Blue” by being changed and called onto the field of play. In years past, many deserving 12th men and reserves did not fulfil this criterion. In the early 1970’s, the squad system emerged and has recently been developed further with the new international system of “rolling substitutes”. The original rules have, therefore, had to be changed. Both Universities can award full “Blues” to the 11 players in their starting line up and the Captain has discretion to award further “Blues” to a player so long as that player takes the field during the match. See below for official criteria.

Because of the prestige that is attached to it, the status of “Blue” is jealously guarded at both Universities and a close watch is kept on it by the Blues Committee. This Committee is a collection of notable sportsmen (usually Full Blue Presidents and Captains) who keep under review the status, skill and style of each sport played in the University in relation to the standards outside the University. At Cambridge, the President of the Boat Club is Chairman and one senior member acts as Secretary. The Committee at both Universities is empowered to award “Blues” and “Half Blues”, and monitor club colours. The urge to obtain the accolade that a “Blue” grants, both within and outside the two Universities, has led to the enforcement of strict rules of eligibility. In October 1983, the Blues Committee at Oxford and Cambridge drafted, discussed and agreed rules that laid down that only bona fide student members of the Universities are eligible to play in inter University sporting contests. These rules may be varied in a particular sport with the agreement of both Universities.

The current rule for hockey is that an undergraduate member reading for a first degree is eligible to play until the end of the academic year in which they complete their course up to a maximum of 4 years, and they may attain a further 3 “Blues” as a post graduate. If a player is already holding a degree from a recognised university, their eligibility is limited to 4 years from the time of their first admission.

Cambridge first awarded a “Half Blue” for hockey in 1984 and Oxford in 1900. Cambridge awarded a “Full Blue” for hockey in 1908, Oxford not until 1926.

Current Criteria (updated for 2020)

For the first time, we will see men and women from both Universities awarded the 'Blue' based on equal criteria. The starting XIs, that being all 44 players, will be automatically awarded full Blues, while the Captain of each time can award a full or half blue to each or all of the substitutes at their discretion.

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