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1886 - 1895 - Schism in Rugby

The question of “reward” or redress for “broken time” had been a source of contention within the Game in the North from its earliest of times, with the matter being raised at RFU AGMs from 1886, the question came to a head in 1893 when the RFU declined to pass a motion to allow “broken time” payments. By 1895 a group of clubs from Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cheshire met in Huddersfield to form the Northern Union to form what became the Rugby League – initially they applied to join the RFU as a body, but their requests were declined.

Clubs in the North East largely decided to stay with the RFU, but the split must have had a big effect on major clubs such as Rovers, as can be gauged from the clubs listed in the Rovers v South Shields programme (see below), that would no longer be available. Several clubs from our area followed the Yorkshire, Cheshire, and Lancashire clubs in joining the NRU, including South Shields and the Wallsend club only to find they were out of business in a short time.

The Robert Wood collection contains several items that also show how the arguments on money were current at the time, an Address from Fred Alderson covering many aspects of the “modern” problems in the game is in this Gallery. In addition, a letter from Arthur Hill, then County Secretary, sets out the process for Testimonials, another area that by the late 1890s produced fears within the RFU that the Welsh Union may join the Northern Union!

It is also of interest to compare the two Balance Sheets on this site, one from 1890, the second just a few seasons after the split in the Game, the former lists how the various gate monies, both inward and outward, were disbursed to/from clubs. The latter from 1898, only has gate monies received plus a list of guarantees for the Rovers, Welsh, and South Western tours.

 The immediate effect of the formation of the Northern Union can also be gauged from comments in Rovers 1896 AGM when they noted the cancellation of game with Hunslett, St Helens, Halifax, and Oldham. They succeeded in arranging alternative games with Pemberton (Manchester), Jedforest, Edinburgh Wanderers, Aspatria (Cumbria) and Leicester but the burden was great as Rovers were obliged to pay heavy expenses and large guarantees to the visiting clubs. The Leicester match poster from this season is also included on this site along with a few Clubs from Scotland who also made their visits in the seasons following.



Gallery images