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Q. Can anyone name a town in Europe whose football club has a better record in their national league (and European competition) over the past 15 years than Auxerre in relation to the town's population, in this case 40,000.

A. The answer can be found in Auxerre's own league, where AS Monaco, with a population of 27,000, have won two Championships (1982 and 1988) and three domestic cups (1980, 1985 and 1991) since 1980.

They also finished as runners-up in the 1992 Cup-Winners' Cup. Of course, hardly a single player who participated in these triumphs was born in the Principality - but few of Auxerre's players are Burgundians. Three of their most famous players certainly were not. Cantona was from Marseille, Vahirua from Tahiti and Verlaat is a Dutchman. - James Troy, London NW1

Q. The University Boat Race, contested by Oxford and Cambridge, has an enduring quality, but how did it start and why is it rowed on the Thames?

A. It is natural that England's two leading universities, Oxford and Cambridge, should meet in sporting contests. Indeed, the first cricket match between the sides (at Lord's on 4 June 1827) pre-dates the Boat Race. This, in fact, was initially held on 10 June 1829 when Oxford beat Cambridge easily. However it was not raced on the Thames, but over the 21/4 miles between Hambledon Lock and Henley Bridge: Oxford covered the distance in 14min 30sec.

The next race was not until 1836, held from Westminster to Putney and won by Cambridge in 36 minutes. For several years, however, Henley Regatta was used for the match, which did not become an annual race on the Tideway until 1856.

Incidentally, Varsity contests at rackets (1855), tennis (1859), athletics (1864) and rugby football (1871-72) show just how long the tradition of Oxford v Cambridge sport is.

Credit, though, should be given to Charles Wordsworth, an Oxford man whose father was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, for starting things off in the 1820s. This liaison made contact possible, and he has been called the "inventor" of both the Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race and Cricket Match. Wordsworth actually took part in both events (1829), ending up on the winning side. - Tim Mickleburgh, Grimsby

Q. A feature of matches at Recreation Park, Alloa, is for the ball to leave the ground either on to the Clackmannan Road or on to the disused railway line. Does this happen at other grounds?

A. I remember attending a reserve game at Gigg Lane in the early Seventies between Bury and Liverpool, which featured such players as Peter Thompson. At one point the ball was heaved over the south stand and out of the ground. The players stood around for a while and it gradually became apparent that a replacement ball was not available. We went up to the back of the south stand in time to see a club official knock at the door of a nearby house to ask for his ball back. Fortunately, this request was granted and after a break of several minutes the game was able to resume. - Jeff Hoyle, King's Lynn.

Q. Can anyone tell me who was the first black cricketer to play county cricket, for which club, when and at which ground?

A. An early non-white cricketer to play county cricket was K S Ranjitsinhji, who first appeared for Sussex in 1895 against the MCC at Lord's, when he scored 77 not out and 150. He represented Sussex from 1895 to 1904, being captain (the first non-white captain of a county side?) from 1899 to 1903. He took part in 14 Test matches for England and his final season for Sussex was 1912. - Kenneth B Stone, Bexhill

ANSWERS PLEASE

Q. Some years ago the Football League adopted the seemingly illogical scoring system, whereby three times as many points are scored for a win as for a draw. One purpose was to encourage attacking play and more goals. Was there, in fact, any increase in the average number of goals per game? And was there a year in which important League placings would have differed significantly if the old points systems had still been in use? - Peter G Large, London SW15

Q. I was surprised to read recently in a magazine that dragsters can reach 300mph in only five seconds. This sounds too fast to be true. Is it correct? - Deryck Teasdale, Southall

Q. With the US Masters golf tournament having just finished, what is the origins of the famous green jacket? Do the winners get presented with anything else other than their prize money (ie a trophy) and why is the presentation not done outside in view of the public who have paid to see it as well as the golf? - C Matthews, Weston-super-Mare

Q. Which grand prix driver initiated the now standard post-race ritual of spraying champagne? - Adrian Brodkin, London N2

Q. Since league racing in speedway started, is it correct that this sport has had the biggest turnover of teams in UK sport? - Kevin Maguire, Batley

Iy you know the answers to any of these questions, or have a sporting question of your own you would like answered, write to:

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