To the Varsity Match with FTI to watch Oxford win (and other things)

I went yesterday via Terminal 1 at Heathrow to the Varsity Match as a guest of FTI, where Oxford beat Cambridge 21-10. The last time I watched rugby at Twickenham was 4 November 1967, when the Queen nearly ran me over.

That is a paragraph which raises more questions than it answers for many readers. What is a “Varsity”? What is “rugby”? Who on earth remembers precisely where he was 43 years ago? Oh, it’s that bloke who is always at Heathrow – but what is he doing there on a journey from Oxford to south-west London? How does a homicidal head of state come into it? At least the name FTI means something, so let’s start there.

FTI Consulting is a large international advisory company, whose business segments include FTI Technology. FTI Technology owns well-known discovery brands, such as the review tool Ringtail Legal and the processing tool Attenex Patterns, and has developed other products and consultancy services around them. It therefore competes in the same marketplace as both the software-led and the consultancy-led e-disclosure / e-discovery vendors in addition to its wider consultative role, something which is often overlooked by those who are short-listing e-discovery providers.

FTI Technology is amongst the sponsors of the e-Disclosure Information Project, which gives me the opportunity to hear and then write about a wide-range of discovery-related topics. Coming up, for example, is a piece about a paper which FTI has commissioned from RAND on eDiscovery in European Countries, which ties in with FTI Investigate, FTI’s recently-launched global investigations initiative.  I have been speaking on panels on US-EU data collections in both the US and Europe recently, and the subject is one which matters.

That much explains why I was amongst the guests who assembled yesterday in a corner of a car-park in south-west London for an al fresco meal. I did not wholly believe my hosts when they sent out an enticing menu of hot food – in my experience, car parks, winter and fine dining do not go together. I was wrong – it was first-rate. Some of the other guests were from exactly the kind of law firm which I like to go and speak to – indeed, one of them in fact turned out to be the organiser of my recent visit to his firm, as we eventually established from beneath our scarves and hats.

Heathrow comes into it because the shortest line between Oxford and Twickenham passes the airport, and there is a fast, direct, wifi-enabled airport bus between the two. My only fear, given the number of times I use that bus for its intended purpose, was that I would leap out by instinct at Terminal 5 and find myself at a check-in desk without a passport, luggage or any idea where I was supposed to be flying to (the latter, I have to say, is not uncommon – I show them my passport and they tell me where I am going). I had a row with the cabbie who took me on from there, thanks to the GPS-enabled blue dot which moved across my iPad’s map and showed how indirect his route had been – “You have been round three sides of this bloody stadium already”, I observed, as he set off towards the fourth.

Rugby football, for those puzzled by these things, is not to be confused with plain “football” or what Americans call “soccer”. It is played by 15 hulking brutes on each side with an elliptical ball. Points are scored by touching the ball down behind the other side’s H-shaped goal which entitles you to have a go at kicking the ball between the posts for some more points. Teams comprise forwards, who seek access to the ball by pushing their opposite numbers off it in a pack or by jumping higher than them in line-outs. The aim is to get the ball out to the backs, who pass it down the line with a sideways cork-screw movement whilst running like hell for the line. It is a cross between ballet and a pub brawl, and a fast, open game is a joy to watch. Unlike American football players, who dress in armour as if for jousting organised by the Health & Safety Executive, these boys protect only their teeth and (in some cases) ears, relying on good refereeing and rules about tackling which make the brawling much safer than it appears (a bit like judicial case management, if you insist on having e-disclosure parallels on a Friday afternoon).

I can still feel the break in my arm from being tackled hard on my 18th birthday, and two of my sons in due course broke theirs from the same cause, the result of being at the sort of schools where rugby and Christianity were religions of equal significance and were equally compulsory. It is a tough game played by gentlemen not, like football, a game for pomaded peasants who come simpering out of their hairdressers and dive in simulated pain whenever someone from the opposing team brushes past them.

And so to that date, 4 November 1967 – how can I be so specific about the last time I was at Twickenham (it was at 2.45pm incidentally)? One of the assistant housemasters in my house at Haileybury, which I joined in that year, was R D Hearn. You did not need to be sporty (I was not) to be proud of the fact that he played at centre for England, and my father bought tickets for the game against New Zealand All Blacks so that I could watch him play. This page (about another player) has team photographs and copies of tickets and programmes. If you start at the match of 25 February 1967 (about two-thirds of the way down), Hearn appears in the photographs and the team lists for the games against France, Scotland and Wales in the spring of that year. Then you reach a copy of the ticket for the All Blacks match (5 shillings, standing) and the programme. Danny Hearn’s name is missing; he had broken his neck in a flying tackle against a New Zealand player on the previous Saturday. I was later one of those who helped take him for swimming exercises, a privilege not a chore.

The match was the first one broadcast in colour – a YouTube video shows a classic example of a fine try starting at 04.30 for those still mystified after my description above, with three even better ones in part 2 (enjoy the two giants tying to strangle each other at 06.16). I remember nothing of the game itself, but I do remember hurrying out of the gents and almost under the wheels of a large black car bringing the Queen into the ground.

And “Varsity”? What does that mean? Until the end of the 1950s, the word was used non-ironically to refer to Oxford or Cambridge, and was scorned by those at the “red-brick” universities. The democratisation of higher education which came with the “plate-glass” universities in the 1960s killed the use of the term in every context except for sporting and other contests between Oxford and Cambridge, especially the Boat Race and the rugby. Thirty years ago, as someone observed yesterday, the city would empty for the Varsity Match, since almost everyone working there had been to one or other of those places. That, inevitably and rightly, has changed, but still 27,500 people turned out yesterday to watch a student match.

University students and big, black royal cars came together yesterday in a different context. The police, who had ample notice that there would be trouble in London’s streets last night over university tuition fees, allowed a brightly-illuminated car containing Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall to drive through a riot guarded by a solitary (and very brave) police constable – this is what we call “police intelligence”, I suppose. It was attacked by a screaming mob, which broke a window. I would not trade my iPad, YouTube and Terminal 5 for the days when only a privileged few went to university and a colour television broadcast was an event, but we do seem to have lost something along the way.

One last point from the game. A big screen at each end showed all the action, except when someone was hurt, when the picture was tactfully replaced with some white writing on a black background. Who, I wonder, decided that there was a fantastic marketing opportunity in showing the word “Microsoft” as an automatic corollary to injury?

My thanks to FTI for a thoroughly enjoyable day out which, like all the best corporate events, involved enough business-related discussions to leave me feeling that I had not just been playing hooky for the day. It also allows me to comply, in part at least, with a long-standing request from a US lawyer for me to “just explain the rules of rugby.. oh, and cricket”. Frankly, it would be easier to talk people through a comparative study of common law e-discovery regimes or the implications for US-EU data collections of the Aérospatiale decision, but it is good to help narrow the cultural gap a little.

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About Chris Dale

I have been an English solicitor since 1980. I run the e-Disclosure Information Project which collects and comments on information about electronic disclosure / eDiscovery and related subjects in the UK, the US, AsiaPac and elsewhere
This entry was posted in Discovery, eDisclosure, eDiscovery, Electronic disclosure, FTI Technology, Litigation Support. Bookmark the permalink.

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