Parliament welcomes 50th anniversary of Student Rugby League
A motion has been tabled in the House of Commons welcoming the 50th anniversary of Student – now University and College – Rugby League and the formation of Leeds University Rugby League Football Club, the first ever university rugby league team.
The club was formed in 1967 following a conversation between Andrew Cudbertson, Jack Abernethy and Bill Scott on a train back from Huddersfield after a match at Fartown. Cec Thompson, a former international and mature student at the university, brought his knowledge and experience to the club as coach and President. A year later, a team of students at Liverpool University had assembled a side to play against Leeds in the first ever inter-university rugby league match in 1968.
The Early Day Motion has been tabled by All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group Chairman and Member of Parliament for Leeds North West, Greg Mulholland MP. It recognises “that this moment was also the start of student and university rugby league as Leeds was the first university to approve rugby league as an official sport” and also “notes that the official recognition of rugby league at Leeds University marked the start of a widespread growth in Student Rugby League.”
Today, there are over 100 University and College Rugby League clubs across the United Kingdom. The Student Rugby League World Cup has been held since 1986, and all home nations will send teams to the 2017 tournament which will be hosted in Australia this summer.
Greg Mulholland MP, Chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group said “on behalf of the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group, I am delighted to offer my and our congratulations to the UK’s first university rugby league club on their 50th Anniversary. It was an honour, as Group Chairman, as a Leeds MP and also a former student rugby league player myself to attend the celebrations and the unveiling of the blue plaque by University of Leeds Vice-Chancellor, Sir Alan Langlands.
“The recognition of rugby league at Leeds University in 1967 was a historic moment for the sport. To have an official blue plaque is very appropriate, for this anniversary also marks the birth of University and College Rugby League so it is a celebration of this very successful branch of the sport. I and we pay tribute to Andrew Cudbertson, Jack Abernethy and the late, great Cec Thompson, who were the pioneers of Student Rugby League and we toast all founder members of Leeds University Rugby League, for what they started that so many others, including myself, have enjoyed so much.
“It is wonderful to think from that beginning in Leeds, there are now over 100 University and College Rugby League teams. This part of the game has enabled many people new to the game to play rugby league and clubs have been set up at universities all over the UK. Thousands of people whose first experience of rugby league was at university or college go on to have a lifelong love for the sport and many maintain involvement for the rest of their lives. So we thank and toast the Leeds University club, the pioneers of Student Rugby League and all those whose efforts to secure recognition for the sport in universities and colleges have meant that thousands of students across the United Kingdom have been able to enjoy our great game whilst studying at university.”
Founding Member of Leeds University Rugby League Football Club and Honorary Member of the All-Party Parliamentary Rugby League Group, Andrew Cudbertson, said “when we formed the club in 1967, it was with the sole intention of playing the sport we loved to watch. The moment that the Leeds Athletic Union gave us a grant and official recognition, it created the precedent for the game to spend elsewhere at Higher Education level. Fifty years on, I am delighted that University and College Rugby League is blossoming, and that so many have had the opportunity to play rugby league at university.
“It is fantastic that the foundation of the club has been recognised with a blue plaque, which is a tribute to all the players who have represented Leeds University in the sport. I hope that many more will have the opportunity to do so in the future, and enjoy all the physical and social benefits that University and College Rugby League has to offer.”
Leeds University Rugby League Football Club Chairman, Jeremy Shires, added “hundreds of friendships have been formed since the club was established, and the 50th anniversary celebrations have been a fantastic opportunity to bring together many of those who have been able to play rugby league at Leeds University.
“It is incredible to think that thanks to those pioneers who established our club, tens of thousands of students across the United Kingdom have been able to enjoy playing competitive rugby league whilst at university. Our club and the student game owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Ralph Rimmer is Chief Operating Officer of the Rugby Football League. He said “on this 50th anniversary, the Rugby Football League sends best wishes and congratulations to Leeds University Rugby League Football Club, the first University RL club.
“Rugby league in colleges and universities is growing, and over 40% of players getting involved in University Rugby League are new to our sport. I played throughout my childhood and went on to play University Rugby League, and, like thousands of others, I enjoyed the travel and the camaraderie alongside the sport. College and University Rugby League is also an important part of the pathway in our sport. There are 65 University Rugby League teams, 44 College teams, and thousands of players.
“The competition is fierce. Last year’s winners Leeds Beckett face Northumbria in what should be a terrific final. Happy 50th anniversary College and University Rugby League, especially to the hundreds of volunteers who support the players.”
The full text of the motion is as follows:
50th Anniversary of Leeds University Rugby League Club and the birth of University and College Rugby League
That this House welcomes the 50th anniversary of Leeds University Rugby League Football Club which was formed in 1967; notes that this moment was also the start of student and university rugby league as Leeds was the first university to approve rugby league as an official sport; praises the role of founding members Andrew Cudbertson, Jack Abernethy and Cec Thompson, the first black person to play for Great Britain, in starting the club and making it happen; notes that Thompson and Cudbertson’s contribution is recognised by two of University and College Rugby League’s annual awards; notes that the official recognition of rugby league at Leeds University marked the start of a widespread growth in Student Rugby League; notes that there are now over one hundred teams at universities and colleges in the United Kingdom; further notes that the first university game was between Leeds and Liverpool in 1968; celebrates this anniversary and welcomes the erection of a blue plaque at the University of Leeds Student Union Old Bar by University of Leeds Vice Chancellor Sir Alan Langlands on Friday 10th March during the 50th anniversary celebration weekend; looks forward to the 2017 Student Rugby League World Cup in Australia, the ninth time this tournament has taken place; and wishes all current and former Leeds University Rugby League and all current and former student and university rugby league clubs best wishes.
To find out more about Leeds University RLFC’s 50th anniversary, visit www.lurloldboys.com.