26th January 1871. Apartheid in Rugby.

Today 20 clubs attended the Pall Mall Restaurant, London which resulted in the foundation of the Rugby Union. 


Rugby School where the first set of rules in 1845 was established.

The myth goes that William Webb-Ellis, a 17 year boy at Rugby School in 1823 picked up the ball and ran with it ignoring convention in those days of flexible rules.

Early reference to the story stems back to 1876 to that recorded by Mathew Bloxam in the school magazine, but the old Rugby Society didn’t report the story until 1895 when Bloxam was dead.

In 1839 at Cambridge the Old Rugbeians challenged Old Etonians to a game of football, but the controversy concerning using hands in those rule-less days led to the establishment of the later Cambridge Rules and the differentiation of the two codes of football.

Further schism came in rugby after a meeting at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895 on 21st August when the Northern Rugby Football Union with 21 clubs was founded.

The issue mainly centred on the notion of amateurism as three years earlier Bradford and Leeds had started to pay compensation to the players for time off work. 27 years later it became the Rugby League.

With the Rugby League players coming from the industrial cities, a class apartheid resulted, with the northerners seen as OIKS by the well-heeled, middle class, public school educated southerners who could afford to play without recompense.


Inside the first Rule Book.

The Rugby Union had seen the effects of professionalism with Association Football where control had shifted to the working class with its big fan base and where the original upper class teams like Old Etonians were soon to give way to town and city professionals.

Rules 1851.

Rule Book of 1851 sold in Cardiff for £13.000. The signature on the left is of Old Rugbeian William Waddington who unusually, in the 1870.s was Prime Minister of France.

However for some time there had been an element of hypocrisy where Rugby Union players had been paid extravagant expenses and in 1995 this ‘sham-amateurism’ was abandoned with the game now becoming fully professional. This along with TV rights helped to bring players into line with other highly paid sports.


theguardian.com/sport. 5.2.2006.


historic-uk.com/culture/Pic at top.

bbc.co.uk/wales/sport.13.5.2016/Pic of rules book.



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About colindunkerley

My name is Colin Dunkerley who having spent two years in the Royal Army Pay Corps ploughed many a barren industrial furrow until drawn to the 'chalk-face' as a teacher, now retired. I have spent the last 15 years researching all aspects of life in Britain since Roman times.

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