The tribal gulf between adherents of Rugby Union and Rugby League, caused by the hundred years ‘parting of the ways’ in 1895 when the Northern Union clubs (League wasn’t called League until about 1922) split off over the question of ‘broken time’ payments, i.e. professionalism, remains large and seemingly immoveable.
At the time of the divide all the League clubs were seeking – in circumstances where rugby football was growing in popularity and more games were being arranged, was that working class players, under increasing pressure to take time off work to play in them, should be compensated for their lost wages. The Rugby Union was having none of it, reinforcing its rules on amateurism and deliberately ‘sending to Coventry’ anyone who ever played Rugby League – albeit that it relaxed this hard-line policy slightly during WW1 for military morale reasons.
Perhaps inevitably, positions became entrenched – ‘North versus South’ … ‘Toffs versus Serfs’ and so on.
Even after the advent of professionalism in Rugby Union in 1995, and the subsequent flow of Rugby League coaches into successful elite roles in Rugby Union and indeed the crossing-over of League players into Union (admittedly with less consistent success) – generally, for the fans at least, it has been a case of never the twain shall meet. The hotbeds of Rugby League (Lancashire and Yorkshire) will always regard Union as an inferior, less tough, game and constantly fume with indignation at the saturation media coverage given to it.
Meanwhile fervent Union fans retain a distinct ‘holier than thou’ attitude towards League and similarly regard their version of rugby, for all its complexities – indeed maybe because of them – as infinitely the greater, an attitude that winds up League fans everywhere.
Mind you, everything is not exactly perfect in the world of Rugby Union.
Rust readers might like to consider this comparison between the two.
League club Salford City Reds is currently within its statutory 14-day period to consider whether to appeal against a six-point deduction plus £5,000 fine imposed by the Rugby League authorities for being in breach of the sport’s rules on the salary cap of £1.825 million.
Meanwhile, over the course of the past season, the Aviva Premiership scandal over a suspected four Rugby Union clubs having been consistently over their equivalent (about £4 million) salary cap of in the recent past has been quietly (in defiance of the stated draconian penalties for such transgressions) ‘buried’ – on what terms, unconfirmed informal fines or whatever, completely unknown – under a massive pile of steaming manure in the hope that nobody will notice.
Which of the two versions of the sport has the moral ground now?