14 May 2021
It is just three weeks until the AB Sundecks 1895 Cup Semi Finals, which see York City Knights take on the Swinton Lions and Featherstone Rovers go up against the Widnes Vikings in a battle for a place in the Grand Final at Wembley Stadium.
The 1895 Cup was introduced in 2019 to mark the inauguration of the sport into its own professional league in August 1895, when Rugby League broke away from the Rugby Football Union and to give Rugby League clubs a competition to honour the heritage of the game.
A Brief History of How Rugby League Began:
'Although many forms of football had been played across the world, it was only during the second half of the 19th century that these games began to be codified. In 1871, English clubs playing the version of football played at Rugby School which involved much more handling of the ball than in association football, met to form the Rugby Football Union.
Many new rugby clubs were formed, and it was in the Northern English counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire that the game really took hold. Here rugby was largely a working class game, whilst the south eastern clubs were largely middle class.
Rugby spread to Australasia, especially the cities of Sydney, Brisbane, Christchurch and Auckland.
The strength of support for rugby grew over the following years, and large paying crowds were attracted to major matches, particular in Yorkshire, where matches in the Yorkshire Cup (T'owd Tin Pot) soon became major events. England teams of the era were dominated by Lancashire and Yorkshire players. However these players were forbidden to earn any of the spoils of this newly-rich game. Predominantly working class teams found it difficult to play to their full potential because in many cases their time to play and to train was limited by the need to earn a wage. A further limit on the playing ability of working class teams was that working class players had to be careful how hard they played. If injured, they had to pay their own medical bills and possibly take time off work, which for a man earning a weekly wage could easily lead to financial hardship.
In 1892, charges of professionalism were laid against rugby football clubs in Bradford and Leeds, both in Yorkshire, after they compensated players for missing work. This was despite the fact that the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) was allowing other players to be paid.
In 1893 Yorkshire clubs complained that southern clubs were over-represented on the RFU committee and that committee meetings were held in London at times that made it difficult for northern members to attend. By implication they were arguing that this affected the RFU's decisions on the issue of "broken time" payments (as compensation for the loss of income) to the detriment of northern clubs, who made up the majority of English rugby clubs. Payment for broken time was a proposal put forward by Yorkshire clubs that would allow players to receive up to six shillings (30p) (equivalent to £34 in present-day terms) when they missed work because of match commitments. The idea was voted down by the RFU.
In August 1893, Huddersfield signed star players George Boak and John 'Jock' Forsyth from Carlisle-based club, Cummersdale Hornets. The transfer was sudden and both men were summoned to appear before Carlisle magistrates' Court for leaving their jobs without giving proper notice. Huddersfield was also accused of offering cash inducements for the players to move clubs contrary to the strict rules of the RFU. After an investigation, Huddersfield eventually received a long suspension from playing matches.
The severity of the punishments for "broken time" payments and their widespread application to northern clubs and players contributed to a growing sense of frustration and absence of fair play. Meanwhile, there was an obvious comparison with the professional Football League which had been formed in 1888, comprising 12 association football clubs, six of whom were from Northern England. In this environment, the next logical step was for the northern rugby clubs to form their own professional league.
On 27 August 1895, as a result of an emergency meeting in Manchester, prominent Lancashire clubs Broughton Rangers, Leigh, Oldham, Rochdale Hornets, St. Helens, Tyldesley, Warrington, Widnes and Wigan declared that they would support their Yorkshire colleagues in their proposal to form a Northern Union.
Two days later, on 29 August 1895, representatives of twenty-two clubs met in the George Hotel, Huddersfield to form the Northern Rugby Football Union, usually called the Northern Union (NU). This was effectively the birth of rugby league, the name adopted by the sport in 1922.' 1
Marking the birth of Rugby League, the 1895 Cup was inaugurated in 2019 to give professional clubs outside of Super League the chance to play at Wembley and being massive advocates of the sport, AB Sundecks were only too happy to sponsor the competition in its first two years!
Sadly the events of the last 18 months meant that the competition had to be postponed in the 125th year of rugby league but it is back (plus one) on the field and welcoming fans to feel the tension of live rugby once again.
On Sunday 6th June the semi finals of the cup will take place to see which two teams will make it to Wembley on Saturday 17th July when the Betfred Challenge Cup Final will also be played. York City Knights kick off at 3pm at the LNER stadium in York against Swinton Lions, whist Featherstone Rover play at the LD Nutrition Stadium in Featherstone at 3pm against previous finalists, Widnes Vikings.
AB Sundecks are proud to support the 1895 Cup. “It’s no secret that the team at AB Sundecks are proud fans of rugby league. Coming from a northern working class town we were brought up on the game and it’s values as a family sport. Throughout its 125 year history, rugby league has represented the working classes and in return for that the sport attracts a loyal and faithful following. Over recent years the sport has grown impressively throughout the community’s women’s and girls teams gathering momentum with each season. We would like to see the sport recognised for what it represents and see it fill more and more stadiums across the country and the world and show other sports that rugby league is actually the greatest sport on earth” – Laura Beaumont, AB Sundecks.
1. History of rugby league - Wikipedia