Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

This blog is in two parts: the first by Adam Drew (Geography 2013), Fitzwilliam College Cricket Captain 2016, and the second by Andrew Powell, Fitzwilliam’s Bursar. The Cricket Varsity match takes place at Lords on Friday 1 July. Tickets on the gate.

Part 1:  Cricket Cuppers Champions 2016

As a second-string Fitzwilliam side were roundly thumped on an overcast April afternoon in a friendly against a Magdalene team devoid of proper cricketing attire, I did not instinctively think this was a cuppers winning team in the making. Let me start by telling you what cuppers is. Cuppers are intercollegiate sporting competitions. Each sport holds a cuppers competition each year, which is open to all colleges. Back in April, I didn’t really think we’d win. The cricket season is horribly short, and we have to fit in things like exams. The Master tells the story of when Hon Fellow Sir Dennis Byron (Law 1962) came to Fitz as a young man from St Lucia, he couldn’t believe that he wouldn’t be playing cricket in October…  It may not be a year round sport, but cuppers is a prize which every College wants to win – to be the best…

There are huge challenges for a College cricket team. There are weekly essays to fit in, and some of the team are playing or training with the University team (the Blues) whilst others have represented the Crusaders – the University second team.

But we focused – and two weeks later we had a replay against Magdalene. This time it was a serious ‘cuppers’ match and this time we had a near-to-full strength side. We won comfortably by 80 runs.

Our other group match was against Clare Hall who boasted an Australian first-grade cricketer. Our 10-wicket win saw us qualify for the quarter-finals and we were now dreaming of a day at Fenner’s, the glorious University cricket pitch. Our quarter-final was a home tie against Emmanuel. Our semi-final was once again at home, our wonderful pitch in Oxford Road, close to College, this time against Robinson.

During pre-season our Blues wicketkeeper Patrick Tice (Theology 2013) had informed me that one of three colleges could win cuppers: Fitzwilliam, Robinson or Girton. Girton had secured a semi-final tie against Jesus so we knew we would likely have to beat both favoured teams to win cuppers. First, Robinson.  Henry Warne (HSPS 2013) bowled perhaps the spell of his life to soak up the runs, remove their star batsman, and ultimately win us the match. However, just as the match appeared won, Henry delivered a no-ball off what should have been the last ball of the innings which was dispatched for six meaning Robinson could still win the match with another six. Thankfully Henry kept his composure and we won by five runs. We now had the chance to win cuppers for the first time since 1972. We had our day at Fenner’s.

Wednesday 8 June was a glorious, hot and sunny day. A crowd of perhaps 100 – weighted in Fitzwilliam’s favour – turned up for what was a match for the ages. I won the toss and had no hesitation in batting first. By the half-way stage of our innings things were far from ideal. On what appeared a glorious batting track we had scored at barely a run-a-ball for the loss of two wickets including Patrick Tice. The next 10 overs saw the birth of a new Fitzwilliam batting hero, however, as fresher Tom Corner (Natural Sciences 2015) played what must be one of the greatest cuppers-final innings to score 81 and, with a quick-fire cameo from Oli Taylor (History 2015), push the innings score to 167 which was widely felt to be just above par.

We started brilliantly restricting Girton in the early overs with Sam Strong (Geography 2009) – representing Fitzwilliam for the seventh year – picking up a crucial early wicket. Can he make his PhD extend another year?! Girton’s captain counterattacked with a rapid innings of 49 until being brilliantly caught on the second attempt by Dan Mehlig (Engineering 2013) at Cover. And so it continued until we eventually squeezed out a 3-run victory to end a nail-biting contest. The 44-year wait was over. Fitzwilliam were champions. It felt fantastic.

Cricket is a funny old game. I love it because it is an individual game within a team sport. It can turn in a moment and conjures up such a wide range of emotions throughout just a few hours. Also, it’s played in the sunshine (most of the time)! And I can’t quite express the pleasure of winning cuppers. It feels a bit like finishing my degree – not obtaining the grade but actually finishing that final exam knowing you’ve done all you can and (hopefully) having achieved everything you’ve been working towards for the past year.

And now a couple of members of the College team will be playing in the Varsity match at Lords over the coming weeks. I’ll be attending: will you?

Part 2:  A view from the boundary – and beyond

I am the proudest Senior Treasurer in Fitzwilliam this year. The first in 44 years to win Cricket Cuppers! I am taking as much credit as I can, from the provision of the kit, to the pre-season friendly against my old club in which the College made the village team look like internationals, to the staff & Fellows against the students game in which we just gave the College enough of a run out to make the difference in the semi-final against Robinson!

Seriously it was a privilege just to be associated with this great achievement. I managed to get to one of the group games (opposition bowled out for 19, mostly extras), and the latter part of the semi-final, against Robinson at Oxford Road. This was not a team dependent on one or two stars and a bunch of journeyman: from where I saw it, it was a whole team effort. Sure we had our stars – every team needs them – but whenever someone failed, someone else stepped up to fill the gap. We batted deep, bowled long and fielded like demons. Every one was a hero. On the field we looked a well organised outfit. The captain was in charge looking as though he had a plan for all situations and the team followed instinctively. The new ‘Baggy Red’ caps (now surely destined to be more popular than Manchester United football shirts) reinforced the impression of a strong and focused team, inspired confidence in the supporters and fear in the opposition; somehow you never felt they were going to break even though every game was a tight one.

And yet they never made it easy; who but Fitz could contrive to make a cliffhanger out of a situation in which the opposition needed 14 to win off the last ball (semi-final against Robinson)?

Of course this squad is not a flash in the pan. I’m sure they would be first to acknowledge the efforts of those captains over the last three years who have brought Fitz cricket back from the brink. I’m especially pleased for Sam Strong who has played for Fitz for seven years, and done two stints as captain and really pulled us through some difficult times.

Those of us who failed to get to the final had to make do with various methods of communication. At the Past v Present match on Saturday, I heard tales of alumni following the match via Twitter feeds in the office. Back in the College, we had to make do with unreliable text messages. The final message before contact was lost was “Girton 88 for 12 – looking a bit better”. We didn’t even know whether this was the first or second innings, so we were very confused for the rest of the afternoon! When the news came of the eventual victory by three runs, the Fellows were gathering in the Upper Hall for a meeting of the Governing Body. Others will tell the tale of the game, but the JCR President had the pleasure of informing the Governing Body of this historic achievement which drew a round of applause (another first?).

Four years ago we were proud to host the 1972 cuppers winning team holding their 40th anniversary back in College. We look forward to the return of the 2016 champions, and watch out for Fitz Cricket 2060!

Top row from left to right - Tahawar Hussain (12th man); Patrick Tice; Rory Sale; Sam Strong; Oli Taylor; Joe Painter; Dan Mehlig - bottom row from left to right - Tom Corner; Nikhil Patel (vice-captain); Adam Drew (captain); Henry Warne; Christian Moffat.

Top row from left to right – Tahawar Hussain (12th man); Patrick Tice; Rory Sale; Sam Strong; Oli Taylor; Joe Painter; Dan Mehlig – bottom row from left to right – Tom Corner; Nikhil Patel (vice-captain); Adam Drew (captain); Henry Warne; Christian Moffat.

Posted in Guest posts · Master's blog

This guest post is by Fitzwilliam’s Bursar, Andrew Powell.

In October 2014 Glasgow University announced its decision to sell its fossil fuel investments: “Over the coming years we will steadily reduce our investment in the fossil fuel extraction industry, while also taking steps to reduce our carbon consumption.” Last week SOAS, University of London announced that it will divest in fossil fuels within the next three years. Oxford and Edinburgh Universities have deferred decisions on similar motions.

A recent Science Week debate on “The roles and responsibilities of universities in relation to planetary sustainability” (initiated by Fitz Fellow Dr Bhaskar Vira, at which the Master spoke on the panel) and a meeting with Fitzwilliam students involved with CUSU’s Positive Investment Cambridge, have focused my attention on the topic of responsible investing in this sector.

So, what should Fitzwilliam’s response be?

As a charity, our duty is to deploy our resources most effectively in support of our charitable aims. The Charity Commission (which is our regulator) gives the following guidance on ethical investing:

Ethical investment means investing in a way that reflects a charity’s values and ethos and does not run counter to its aims. However, a charity’s trustees must be able to justify why it is in the charity’s best interests to invest in this way. The law permits the following reasons:

  • a particular investment conflicts with the aims of the charity; or
  • the charity might lose supporters or beneficiaries if it does not invest ethically; or
  • there is no significant financial detriment

The College’s first aim is to provide education and learning in the University. As an endowed charity our mission is to continue that ‘in perpetuity’ – making sure at all times that the interests of future students are not damaged by today’s decisions.

Both the College and the University are heavily dependent upon energy to operate– but as things stand, the only alternative that has the ability to substantially replace fossil fuels with a consistent reliable supply is nuclear energy; recent events such as the Fukushima disaster have highlighted how dangerous a large scale switch could be. Renewable technology has a long way to go before it can take over – we are going to be dependent on fossil fuels for a long time to come. And of course oil is the source of a huge number of the chemicals and products that we all use in our everyday lives.

Change is going to have to be gradual, not discontinuous; so whilst investing in renewables we should also be focusing on shifting traditional generation methods from high carbon to low carbon. Ironically the organisations best equipped to drive this change are the energy companies themselves. Amongst all businesses they are the most skilled and focused on planning for the long term.

Companies respond primarily to the needs and behaviour of their customers and the legislative and regulatory environment in which they operate. The recent fall in the oil price has already called into question the value of reserves, and because of that uncertainty the College’s portfolio is already ‘underweight’ in fossil fuel shares. In the policy arena our investment managers are taking a leading role; their formal statement for the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (“Paris 2015”) calls for:

  • a robust system of carbon pricing/ taxation.
  • phasing out of subsidies for fossil fuel consumption.
  • meaningful energy efficiency targets and emission requirements for the buildings industry and transport.

Divestment is a card that can be played only once; any such campaign therefore needs to be very clear about its practical objective and fully think through the likely consequences. It may satisfy the conscience of the members of the institution and have an effect on public opinion but will it actually make a difference to the economics of fossil fuel production?

The financial logic of mass divestment is that the cost of raising capital should rise to a point where the price of fuel goes up, or reserves become uneconomic to extract. This affects all the activities of the company, not just the ones that are targeted by the campaign. In practice a company faced with such action has many choices:

  • Seek alternative investors – there is no shortage of investors in the world at the moment!
  • Move to a less transparent listing centre – the London stock-market is among the most transparent and accountable in the world but the choice of companies to invest in is shrinking.
  • Sell assets to competitors.

None of the above will lead to a reduction in production.

The two usually quoted examples are the campaign in the 1980s against investment in South Africa, and more recently, the campaign led by the health sector for divestment in tobacco companies.

There is no doubt that the campaign for companies to isolate South Africa was an important contributor to the eventual collapse of the apartheid regime. I worked for Barclays at the time, which had a substantial banking presence in South Africa and found itself in the ‘front line’ of the campaign. For several years we argued strongly, and with conviction, that the morally correct position was to stay invested and apply our ethical principles in running the local business. In the end it was the loss of customers, not the action of shareholders that led to Barclays’ decision to withdraw.

The campaign for divestment of holdings in tobacco companies has been running since at least the 1990s and the College’s investment policy has explicitly ruled out such investment since 2002. The campaign has had little effect on the companies themselves but has certainly cost the College some return – tobacco has been the best performing sector since the FTSE index was created in 1985; over the last 5 years a simple tobacco exclusion would have negatively impacted performance by 0.6% per annum relative to the full index.

An interesting article on the effectiveness of divestment strategies can be found at this link.

I have been impressed by the level of debate in the meetings I have attended. I did not hear unthinking calls for divestment. What I did hear was a desire for more transparency in investment decision making, for open debate and scrutiny of the ethical issues surrounding particular companies, and for positive engagement with the managements of the companies in which we invest, using our shareholder power as effectively as we can. I also heard recognition that there cannot be a sudden transition from high carbon to low carbon, that decarbonisation is a journey with many steps.

As responsible investors it is our moral duty to use the rights we have as shareholders in accordance with our own values. I look forward to a constructive and engaged dialogue on these matters over coming months and years.