In the pre-1900 years, rugby was predominantly played in the parks, which had two football fields; used for both rugby and soccer. However, these were overused with college rugby fixtures alone, with each pitch holding 6 matches per week.
As the Parks are open to the public, the University played its higher profile opposition at the Merton Cricket Ground, where a ‘gate’ could be taken. In November 1887 over 2000 people came to watch Oxford beat Blackheath (price 1 shilling, and ladies entered free).
A NEW HEADQUARTERS
It was not until the 1890s that OURFC at last acquired a headquarters. The moving spirit behind this came from the Honorary Treasurer C.N. Jackson, known as ‘The Jacker’, who knew the importance of University Sports Clubs having their own ground. The site, which included the now Grade II listed cricket pavilion, was purchased from Christ Church College for £1,000. The New Football Ground, as it was known, was shared with Oxford University Football club until 1921, before they moved to the adjacent site inside the athletics track, where they still play today.
Jackson was also the Treasurer of the Athletics club, and had already acquired a large area of land on Iffley Road in 1876. A number of dons were highly critical of ‘the Jacker’s empire building’ and said so in the Oxford Magazine. Whilst the magazine never published Jackson’s reply, generations of Oxford rugby players owe a great deal of thanks to this industrious man, especially today, as many of the University’s sports clubs fail to own their own grounds.
It is a common misnomer that Major R.V. Stanley played a leading role in the purchase of the ground. However we have no evidence of this, and being only twenty-seven years old at the time, it seems highly improbably that he would have taken the lead from the experienced Treasurer.
IFFLEY ROAD TODAY
Today the ground hosts all Men’s Blues home matches, which include Premiership teams, touring sides and the occasional international fixture and also all the Women’s Blues home matches, they currently play in BUCS Premier South and play most games on Wednesday afternoons. Iffley Road also hosts the Oxfordshire County Cup and Shield Finals, invitational 7’s tournament’s and in May the conclusion of the inter-collegiate 15-a-side season with ‘Cuppers Super Finals Day’.