Principles, pragmatism, and pressure: the rugby union clubs of North-East England 1895–1914

Gregson, Keith and Huggins, Mike ORCID logo ORCID: (2021) Principles, pragmatism, and pressure: the rugby union clubs of North-East England 1895–1914. Northern History, 58 (1). pp. 109-128.

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By the early twentieth century north-east England had become one of the heartlands of soccer, and its regional rugby union clubs were losing support. But from 1895 to 1914, following the emergence of a new rugby organisation, ‘Northern Union’ (later known as ‘rugby league’) in Lancashire, Yorkshire, Cheshire and Cumbria, rugby union clubs in Durham and Northumberland faced further difficulties. This paper explores the range of challenges they faced: isolated, separated by distance and geography from other rugby union regions, and heavily constrained by the national rugby-union regulations, suffering regular poaching, soccer’s popularity, and the constant possibility of sides joining the new code. Crowds and revenue were declining, player numbers growing fewer, and club survival was often constantly under threat. Indeed, some clubs folded. In response clubs debated over principle, pragmatism and practice, especially over whether to adopt a league structure, like that for soccer, in the face of strong opposition from ultra-amateur officials nationally and regionally. Some clung to life financially only via members’ subscriptions as attendance dropped, or by raising revenue through sports, all much easier for more middle-class clubs. Some achieved temporary success, perhaps by veiled forms of incentive for players. Most simply struggled to survive.

Item Type: Article
Journal / Publication Title: Northern History
Publisher: Taylor and Francis Group
ISSN: 1745-8706
Departments: Institute of Arts > Humanities
Depositing User: Anna Lupton
Date Deposited: 01 Nov 2022 15:25
Last Modified: 13 Jan 2024 11:47


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