Debunking Rugby League Myths
Myth No 1. Rugby League started in Huddersfield. It didn’t.
It’s true to say that the first recorded meeting of the Northern Rugby Football Union was on Aug 28th 1895 but, not all of the foundation clubs were present at The George Hotel on that day. The first full meeting of all the 22 clubs who broke away from the RFU met seven days later in…Manchester. Only 21 clubs were present at the infamous meeting at The George Hotel in Huddersfield but all 22 clubs were to met for the first time at the Spread Eagle Hotel, close to Victoria Station on seven days later on the 3rd of September.
The Spread Eagle was host to many meetings leading up to the Great Split due to its close proximity to Victoria Station and ironically the main topic of discussion at the Spread Eagle meeting was to discuss fixtures for the coming season which was to start less than five days later so even then, the short term culture of the sport was present. Plus ca change! This site is now commemorated by a plaque on the wall of Selfridges.
Myth No 2. Manchester has always been a football city. It hasn’t.
Our research tells us that over 300 clubs have played rugby league at some time or another since 1895 with over 200 clubs being active around the time of WW1.
Illustrious business names such as the Manchester Guardian, whose team were stacked with left wingers, Boddingtons and the Manchester Ship Canal Company all had teams at one time or another, often in the Broughton Rangers annual ‘workshop’ League which often boasted more than 30 teams. The spread of teams playing in Manchester spanned from Irlam and Atherton in the west, across to Reddish in the east.
Sadly, WW1 ended the life of many clubs who were never to be seen again from 1918 onwards. Fascinatingly, the Bradford (not that one) and Clayton club in the east of the city played on a ground which now sites the National Cycling Centre on Stuart St, which was shared with Newton Heath F.C, later to be renamed Manchester Utd.
Myth No 3. Fattorini and Co made the Challenge Cup in Bradford. They didn’t.
Research in the Batley News and Bradford Telegraph newspapers, supported by evidence from Fattorini and Co themselves, tells us that the iconic trophy was made in the Northern Quarter of Manchester by Messrs Lloyd, Paine and Amiel in a building which still stands today on the corner of Thomas and High Streets. Fattorini have long been linked with rugby league, with one of the famous family being on the board of the Manningham Club that was a founder member of the Northern Union in 1895 and who regularly outsourced more specialised items of the manufacturing process such as the intricate skill of ‘silver chasing’ to other companies.
We’re extremely grateful for the support of Manchester rugby league expert, Graham Morris who has been a great source of inspiration and guidance.