Cornwall RLFC

History of the Rugby Football League

The George Hotel in Huddersfield, where the meeting was held to form the Northern Football Union, which was to later be renamed the Rugby Football League – SWPix


On August 29, 1895, Rugby League was born as 21 clubs based in the north of England broke away from English Rugby Union’s governing body and formed their own competition. The breakaway was caused by the northern clubs’ desire to pay players which was outlawed at the time in Rugby Union.


On April 24, Batley became the first ever winners of the Challenge Cup, overcoming St Helens 10-3 in front of 13,492 people at Leeds’s Headingley Stadium. The year also saw the ͚line-out͛ removed from the game, while conversion, penalty and drop goals all became worth two points.


This year brought about a change in structure as the separate Lancashire and Yorkshire leagues were changed to become a two-tier competition. Halifax were the First Division winners, finishing four points clear of second-placed Salford for their first of four titles to date.


Nine years after the creation of the sport, the first ever International Rugby League match took place. In front of a 6,000-strong crowd at Wigan, an Other Nationalities side, wearing green jerseys and made up of Welsh and Scottish players, edged past England 9-3 in a friendly on April 5.


Rugby League became a 13-a-side sport, alongside the introduction of the game’s distinctive play-the-ball movement, while all 31 professional teams were merged into one league. Bradford, who finished the year in 12th place, won the Championship Final 5-0 against 18th-placed Salford.


The first Rugby League tour of the UK by an overseas team took place in 1907 as converted New Zealand Union players, dubbed the ‘All Golds,’ travelled overseas. The first 13-a-side international Rugby League match took place on this tour, with Wales winning 9-8 against the All Golds before a crowd of 20,000 at Abedare.


Rugby League was played in London for the first time as Great Britain fell to a 6-18 defeat to New Zealand in front of 14,000 people at Chelsea FC’s Stamford Bridge Stadium. The sport was also played in Australia and New Zealand for the first time after official competitions were established a year earlier.


In November 1921, the first £1,000 transfer fee was recorded as winger Harold Buck switched from Hunslet to local rivals, Leeds. Buck made his debut for Leeds against Wigan at Headingley Stadium on Saturday November 5th, 1921. He went on to play 99 matches for Leeds scoring 72 tries and 15 conversions.


Wembley staged its first Challenge Cup Final in 1929. After a nomadic existence which saw the final hosted at no fewer than ten different venues across Yorkshire and Lancashire, the Challenge Cup showpiece moved to London. In the final, Wigan beat Dewsbury 13-2 for their second Challenge Cup win.


In 1932, the first rugby league match under floodlights was played. It was an exhibition game between Leeds and Wigan at the iconic 93,000-capacity White City Stadium in London. Leeds won the game, which kicked off at 8pm, 18-9, in front of a crowd of around 10,000 people.


France staged its first Rugby League match in 1933. The game was held in late December and was a friendly international between Great Britain and Australia. The impact of this game was widespread, with the French Rugby League formed on April 6th, 1934, quickly followed by the creation of 225 French Rugby League clubs by 1939.


Rugby League’s first ever televised match took place in 1948 as Wigan beat Bradford 8-3 in the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley. Also, the Rugby League International Federation was formed in Bordeaux, put in place to act as the game’s first worldwide governing body.


The total crowds for the British season hit a record in the 1949/50 season. Over 69.8 million people were recognised as paying customers to have attended matches across all competitions which took place around the UK that year. This is a record which remains today.


Rugby League became the first code of rugby to stage a World Cup tournament. Great Britain and France dominated the competition, eventually contesting the final. The decider took place on November 13 in Paris, Great Britain won 16-12 for their first of three World Cup titles to date.


David Attenborough, then controller of BBC2, scheduled regular televised Rugby League games through the creation of the BBC2 Floodlit Trophy. The competition was designed to create Tuesday evening games for a wider audience and was a seen as a success until its demise, due to BBC cuts, in 1980.


Substitutes were now allowed at any time during game. Five years earlier, substitutes were allowed for the first time, but only for players injured before half time. This progressed from two replacements initially, to four, a rule which remains in the present day.


The six-tackle rule was introduced. Having been unlimited from 1895, plays were reduced to four in 1967, but adjusted to six in 1971. Meanwhile, the value of drop goals was halved to one point, alongside the introduction of sponsors for the first time and official timekeepers.


The World Club Challenge begins unofficially as Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs beat St Helens 25-2 at the Sydney Cricket Ground. Wigan overcame Manly-Warringah 8-2 in 1987, the next staging of a similar game, before Widnes won the first official World Club Challenge in October 1989, beating Canberra Raiders 30-18 at Old Trafford.


Fulham Rugby League club is formed. They then become London Crusaders, London Broncos and Harlequins RL, before returning to their moniker as Broncos. To date, they are the sport’s most successful club outside Yorkshire, Lancashire and Cumbria, having spent 19 seasons in Super League.


In 1983, the sin bin is introduced for on-field offences in the UK. Referees now have the power to yellow card an offending player, leaving them to serve a ten-minute suspension. In the same year, the number of points awarded for scoring a try increased from three to four.


The academy Under 18s League was introduced to Rugby League to aid the development of young talent from professional and semi-professional clubs. It would go on to pave the way for an under 20s Super League competition before the introduction of an under 19s elite league alongside a Reserves competition.


The ten-metre rule was introduced in Rugby League’s 98th season of the professional game. Wigan finished top of the 14-team table under the new rule, with St Helens winning the Premiership final. The game also saw a restructure from three divisions to two divisions of 16 teams each.


Super League begins, seeing the sport move to a summer season of three divisions and video replays are introduced to assist referees with try-scoring decisions. Also, clubs in the top division become professional with full time coaches and playing squads, while squad numbers were introduced for Super League players.


An end-of-season play-off and Grand Final system is introduced to decide Super League Championship. Super League goes on the road playing League matches in Cardiff, Swansea, Gateshead and Northampton, while the inaugural Grand Final, staged at Old Trafford, attracts a crowd of almost 44,000.


The last-ever Challenge Cup Final to be played at the ‘Old’ Wembley takes place. London make the Final for the first time, but Leicester-born Lance Todd Trohpy winner Leroy Rivett scores a then-record four tries in the game to help Leeds to a 56-12 win over the Broncos, their 11th Cup title.


London Skolars become the first team in 80 years to progress from the community game to the professional game, entering the third tier. They finished bottom of the league in their first year as a professional club but have remained a mainstay of the division ever since, finishing fourth in 2013.


Catalans Dragons become the second French team to enter Super League, following on from Paris Saint Germain in 1997. The Dragons won their first ever Super League match, overcoming Wigan 38–30 on Saturday 11 February 2006 at Stade Aimé Giral, going on to finish third in Super League just three years later.


The Millennium Magic Event is introduced. A full round of Super League fixtures is staged over one weekend in Cardiff, while the Challenge Cup Final returns to Wembley. Catalans Dragons become the first French side the reach the Final and Younes Khattabi the first Muslim to score a try at the Stadium, but St Helens win 30-8.


May 23, 2009 sees the first Super League match contested between two non-English sides as French side Catalans Dragons beat Celtic Crusaders of Wales 30-18 in front of 2,927 people at Bridgend’s Brewery Field. June 20 also hosts the first Super League game ever to be played in Spain, Warrington beating Catalans 24-12.


South Wales Scorpions become a professional club, entering the third tier. The Scorpions’ first ever competitive game comes against Workington Town on February 28th, 2010. They win 22-20 in front of a crowd of over 500 at The Gnoll. They go on to finish sixth in the table and make the play-offs.


Hemel Stags, Gloucestershire All Golds and Oxford RLFC are all introduced to the professional game. Hemel and Oxford would go on to make the play offs that year, with the All Golds finishing bottom.


The Rugby League World Cup is held in Europe. Seven grounds achieve sell-out crowds, with four setting stadium records. Games held in both Wales and Ireland were watched by the biggest crowds ever for Rugby League games in those countries. The final is played in front of 74,468 people at Old Trafford, a record crowd for an International Rugby League fixture.


The possibility of promotion and relegation returns to Rugby League’s top tier, with the top two divisions splitting into three tiers of eight after 23 rounds; the Super League, the Qualifiers and the Championship Shield.  Coventry Bears enter the professional game, while the iPro Sport Cup is founded and the Summer Bash begins.


League One sees an overhaul in structure with the division splitting into two after 15 weeks. The top half play off for promotion to the Championship, while the lower half play for the League One Shield. Toulouse Olympique also return to the English game after leaving the Championship in 2011.


Toronto Wolfpack enter League 1, becoming the first trans-atlantic professional sports team. Following a successful first season they gain promotion to the Championship via the end of season Super 8s.

RLWC2017 takes place in Australia and New Zealand and England reach the World Cup Final losing out narrowly 6-0 to Australia.


The 125th anniversary of the Rugby Football League. 29th August 1895 will mark 125 years to the day since Rugby League was official born, as 21 clubs based in the north of England broke away from English Rugby Union’s governing body and formed their own competition.


Cornwall RLFC are formed and will play in Betfred League 1 for the 2022 season.

This is rugby league’s first truly professional venture into the South West and the club will play home matches at the Memorial Ground, Penryn – Cornwall’s oldest rugby ground.


England host the Men’s, Women’s and Wheelchair Rugby League World Cups simultaneously in the biggest and most inclusive Rugby League World Cup of all-time. England lifted the Wheelchair title with a dramatic victory over France at Manchester Central before Australia took home the Men’s and Women’s crowns with a double victory at Manchester United’s Old Trafford against Samoa and New Zealand respectively.