Posts Tagged ‘John Taylor’

Rugby union: it’s not just for the posh boys

01/02/2013, 05:17:28 PM

by Ian Stewart

Aside from politics, I find both codes of rugby excellent spectator sports, especially rugby union. I can’t say that I like football all that much, excepting an interest that Norwich City stay up, and Ipswich Town do badly.

I know this puts me in a minority, and in some leftwing circles such an admission seems as outrageous as professing a liking for bullfighting.

After all, isn’t the fifteen player game synonymous with class privilege, as in the Jam’s excellent “Eton Rifles” (unlike David Cameron, I actually do understand the point of the song), what chance do we have against a tie and a crest indeed?

From the historic meeting at the George hotel in Huddersfield in 1895, rugby league has been seen as the workers version of the game. True enough, the league sanctioned payment for players, was (and still is) firmly rooted in the working class culture of the industrial north, and quickly became the biggest code in more egalitarian Australia. Yet at the top, the game was still controlled by the same hard-nosed men as football, probably best portrayed as the Leeds United and Derby County directors were in the stonking “Damned United.”

Snobbery was out, but although workers could afford to honestly play, there would be no question of any workers control (Incidentally, what a history Huddersfield has – the best choral society, rugby league, the philharmonic, and the last British performance of the Sex Pistols in 1977, a benefit for striking fire fighters, puts other towns to shame.)

Yet in south Wales and south west England, rugby union remained a popular working class sport, both for players and fans. The 1908 county champions, Cornwall represented Great Britain at that year’s Olympics, gaining Silver against Australia, and although a lacklustre match, the team included a true working class hero – Bert Solomon.  A shy man devoted to his pigeons, this legendary winger sold the first dummy in international rugby.


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