A local history of sport

Women and children have increasingly become involved in playing soccer and rugby, part of “The Sport for All” . The expansion of boy’s leagues in particular ensures continuity of playing staff and reflects the contemporary male role of child caring.   Women are thus more available to pursue interests of their choice in keeping with the aspirations of the women’s movement. Is it the case that youth football also satisfies the desire of fathers to look backward at their own playing days, so strong is the need to belong to a team or community? It would seem that playing football and representing the local patch remains an important modern male rite of passage from youth to adult.

The traditional attendance at the Saturday match may be less attractive to some, but the opportunity to do so is still very much available with men in the majority. It would seem that the drive for male identity is still as strong as ever and continues find a powerful expression in watching sports like soccer and rugby.

It could be argued that both playing and watching sport in the modern era still fulfil male needs for identity through community. Participation however may be closer to a more traditional offering than innovative enterprise professional clubs and as such is more akin to “The heritage movement”? is an attempt to reconstruct a common identity in the face of fragmentary modern social tensions and conflicts. Economics (local cultural industries), physical (transport, safety, car-parking,street-lighting, child-care) culture (building a sense of place, fostering public awareness), symbols (McAlpine Stadium), social and political. More about improving quality of life, not by social and political engineering, but by participation – grass-roots don’t pursue own objectives.

If expanding leisure time constitutes a problem what might be done to overcome it?  Membership and participation in a local group or community are also powerful personal distinctive stamps. How might this strong sense of belonging be maintained within a

It will be argued that whilst playing and supporting may be minority activities, a majority of men still gain identity from sport and its role in their relationships, especially with other men (Holt – 1993 – p.347).

Moving to the second point, in Victorian Britain an alliance of wealth and birth formed in the public schools. This infused sport with a new idealism whilst simultaneously segregating the elite from members of the lower classes who took part in the same form of exercise

Around 1800, as other rural pastimes declined, it was “the fierce unregulated football played even in the dark, in any rough meadow after the mill ‘loosed’ by up to fifty men, each playing for himself”, that survived.

Between the wars, paradoxically, their was high unemployment, a rise in consumerism (more cars, house-buying), and a fall in the hours worked per week.  Despite the depression, sports remained popular. In 1935 the forerunner of the Central Council for Physical Recreation (CCPR) was set up, as the first attempt to coordinate post-school sport. Whilst there was concern for the health of men prior to another world war, there was also a desire to assist with the dreams of the many sports organisations. In 1888, twelve leading soccer clubs agreed to play each other regularly, calling themselves the Football League.

later years

poor performances, low rates of participation1960’s

concern for health fashion1970’s

worries about inner city deprivation unemployment1980’s

Sports Council advising government  – low financial input everything to free market

initially working class who were underprivileged and fought for their  whtaever = today the 6 groups  not socialised , no money

The Football Association was set up in 1863. The amateur Huddersfield and District League was formed in 1897 and 10 years later Huddersfield Town Association Football Club Ltd. was established. Around the turn of the century every local village and factory had either a soccer or a rugby team. The golden ages of the two professional teams followed, before and just after The First World War.  Their achievements are just within living memory of some, while most have had nostalgia for the glory years handed down.

role of the older people

Loyalty to sense of place reinforced by fear of unknown (moving)

and duty to friends and family.

Quality of life

Enterprise culture is “designed to replace the philosophy of collectivism and the practise of public provision…….. opposing all forms of public intervention, planning, ownership or control” (Corner and Harvey – 1991 -). Middle class values, like amateurism, are much less prevalent under the influences of nationalism, the media and market forces.

Victorian rugby was attractive to players whatever their background as a haven for the expression of certain male values. However, those who administered the game came to the view that rugby should not be an opportunity for paid employment.  Social class and income were thus behind the subsequent voluntary, but economically necessary exclusion, otherwise known as the breakaway of “The Northern Union”. There was never any evidence for government involvement.

Manufacturing has been replaced by knowledge-based service industries (Giddens – 1997 – p.   ), and the work ethic has given way to innovation and enjoyment. As suburban residential life has increased, so the once proud Victorian town-centre may have been overtaken by poverty, crime, disease and decay, leaving urban areas to developers and other investors (local authorities coming to depend on revenue raised through land-sales or rents). Even the social use of town centres, apart from shopping, has suffered as a result of poor transport and fear for personal safety. Modern rugby thus needed to change with the times as the immediate post-war rugby boom could not be sustained. Many RL amateur teams, like the Huddersfield and District  team, Saddleworth Rangers, re-formed by the strenuous efforts of locals who had survived the war, nearly went out of existence in the late 1950’s as these veterans retired, noone being available to replace them (Walker – 1980 – p.30).  A staggering 102,000 watched the RL league play-off at Odsal in 1954 (Macklin -1984 – p.108), and yet by 1958 TV deals were needed to keep the professional game going.

The current, so-called “post-modern”, western world comprises free market economics, democratic politics, bureaucratic administration and a rational scientific culture (Moore -1995 – p.   ).

Crowds include more women and children. Private development (eg. The McAlpine Stadium, Lockwood Park, Laund Hill) has been complemented by local government initiatives, such as the road network, town centre safety and the Kirklees Passport (discounts for most local authority premises, including all the sports centres), whilst being tempered by the requirement for everyone to be seated following the Hillsborough disaster. In addition the local paper has a long standing commitment to “Pride in Huddersfield”, raising awareness of Huddersfield as a “quality” prosperous outfit. Since WW2, whilst one third of the labour force has been engaged in textile manufacturing, the rest were sufficiently diversified  for serious unemployment to be prevented. The textile industry concentrated on specialised high quality worsteds, requiring a highly skilled workforce. One local firm achieved a Queen’s Award for exports. Another company, ICI, was very successful at understanding the dyes and chemicals market-place. The workforce thus tended to remain put, generations staying in the traditional occupations. Leisure was also a source of pride with high quality choral and brass band traditions. Successive generations look backwards to these good times, much as Victorian workers must have had communal memories of their agricultural past.

It might appear that no one is excluded from rugby in its modern format.

Yet, so berated in the northern working-class, was an essential component of successful business. Thus male values could be expressed during a game This leads into the distinction between professional and amateur. Giving players financial compensation for time off work allowed skills to improve, such that people would willingly pay to watch, the resultant revenue in turn footing the wage bill. The professional players could therefore become mercenaries, originating from outside the towns and cities where teams were located. Spectating thus went beyond the local neighbourhood and other than where people stood or sat, was classless.  Improvement in real wages and transport, and the Saturday half-day off work, provided the rational background to an irrational expression of civic pride and identity. The crowd in a sense found out who they were, dissimilar sections of the town sharing in an expression of male values.

It might be argued that the management of professional clubs were in collusion, diverting the working classes away from organising themselves and hence preventing them from challenging the bosses. However, despite being ruthless businessmen, the club directors persisted in the notion that football was not really a job. Thus playing and watching seem to fulfill the needs of all men, whilst being paid for playing and running a club like a business went contrary to middle class beliefs.

Despite being “professional”, club administrators concentrated on providing facilities rather than speculating in the entertainment business. A middle class shareholding or directorship also offered a sense of self-importance – it “made you something in the town”. Thus notions like amateurism and fair play remained very influential, coexisting with the practical requirements of building a winning team, and attracting the paying public.

If the Victorian era was a story of small clubs prospering by their own efforts,  modern rugby is an amalgam of sport, big business and politics. Rugby Union went professional in 1995. The top RL and RU clubs are competitive businesses, growing their commercial interests in areas such as night clubs and conference venues. Rugby income is generated through the turnstile, advertising, sponsorship and a share of TV deals, allotted by the RL and RFU. Additional commercial initiatives include Sunday RL, summer RL, joint use of stadia with soccer clubs (eg. The McAlpine Stadium), clean toilets, edible pies and identifiable drinks. There is a sense of “them and us” however, as less wealthy clubs fail to compete, witness the small number of professional RL clubs who have been defeated by amateur teams in RL’s Challenge Cup. Whilst not at the very top of their respective leagues, both Huddersfield’s “pro” teams nevertheless offer full or part-time employment opportunities to talented rugby players.

At the other end of the scale, amateur rugby remains popular.  Huddersfield YMCA actually field very successful teams in both RU and RL.  The RFU administers the whole of rugby union (the premiership clubs might disagree), whilst the Huddersfield based British Amateur Rugby League Association (BARLA), formed in1973, is responsible for the survival and growth of amateur RL (from 150 teams in 1973 to over a thousand, including youth teams, in the 1990’s).  Sponsorship is common (BARLA itself is sponsored by British Nuclear Fuels), supplemented by grants (eg. Sports Council, Local Authority) and National and local lotteries.  Despite this income, BARLA and most amateur rugby clubs are funded by member subscriptions and generous donations from benefactors.

The administration of rugby, in both codes, at all levels, remained mostly in middle class hands.  Similarly anyone who is good enough and wants to play will succeed in modern rugby.  However, the entrepreneur, probably not from a public school, has replaced the club administrator.  An alliance of the “working” rugby player and the businessman, scorned in1895, has thus grown.  The RL and RFU remain ponderous reactionary middle class institutions.  Again, men who cannot afford to play will be excluded – the low paid and the unemployed.  The list of exclusions is longer today, despite “Sport for all”, as it includes the alienated school-leavers and unemployed youth.

Football, participating and spectating, emerged from the Victorian era as an i

On the

Thus there is evidence for men learning very early in life with constant reinforcement that it is good, expected ? to mix with other men and play or watch sports.

Similarly the unfettered capitalism of modern rugby is simply about profit.  Those who can afford to, can join in.  There is no exclusion on the basis of class, the connection between the top club bosses and the middle class public school having been lost.

Women, ethnic groups and parents with young children may well have other priorities and may choose to do other things.  Campaigns to promote the family and counteract racism in sport are well-known.  Rates of taking part in rugby seem to have increased in women and Asian men, whilst prejudice on the terraces may still stop these groups from doing something they want and can afford. However Government, whilst supporting verbally, have never actually given  money for anything.

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