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Carl Mullen signs rugby ball for small boy

The First Rugby Club

The generally accepted date of formation for various clubs is faithfully reproduced below, but they have not all been verified. Many people have asked "What was the first Rugby club ?". Before answering such a question there are others that need to be considered (Some possible answers have been provided below, but no doubt other historians might have different views):

1) What is a Club? A group of persons organized for a social, literary, athletic, political, or other purpose.

2) What is a Rugby Club? An athletic club organized to play football according to Rugby rules/laws. Schools do not qualify as clubs, e.g. Marlborough school (1850) where Rugby rules were adopted but without hacking, however, former pupil clubs would qualify.

3) What Rules/Laws should apply? Some type of general adoption of Rugby Rules/Laws is required, (as was generally the case when an Old Rugbeian introduced the rules to a school or club). There was, for example, a football club founded in Edinburgh in 1824 by John Hope which lasted 10 years but this is too early to be associated with either Rugby or Association football since at that time there were no written Rugby or Association rules. Note: later other clubs published rules e.g. Blackheath 1862 [4]

4) What if the club had some local variations? Rugby rules were documented at Rugby School Aug 28th, 1845 but these were far from exhaustive and many clubs instituted local variations see laws. Often captains would meet prior to games to thrash out which rules would apply, and then also arbitrate during the game itself [3]. So this particular issue is open to a wide range of interpretations.

5) From what point is the Rugby Club officially founded/formed? When it holds its first general meeting to formalize the constitution of the club.

6) Doesn't the first documented game count as when the club was founded? Whether against itself (which was often the case) or against an opponent, no, since many clubs played a number of informal games prior to the club becoming official.

7) Does it still need to be in existence? No, however, if the question was phrased "Which of today's rugby clubs is the oldest?" then obviously yes. The next problem would be "what if it had a break in service for some period e.g. during the world wars?"

Considering the above and the scarce information available on which to make a judgment, identifying the earliest Rugby club is extremely difficult. The candidates commonly brought forward for the title of the earliest club include :

Barnes Club (Barnes RFC) formed 1839 but not well documented, 1858, 1862 (first recorded result).
Guy's hospital
(1843)[2], 1866 (The football annual 1873) [9]
Cambridge University 1846 [5] (stemmed from an earlier football club formed in 1839 by Old Rugbeians)
Marlborough school - Rugby rules but without hacking 1850, 1852 [8]
Durham Grammer School circa 1850
Neuenheim College in Heidelberg 1850
Trinity College (Dublin University Football club) - Dublin 1854[2][7]
Liverpool [first game 1857]
Academical Football Club (Edinburgh) 1857 [4] 1858 -based upon first AGM [2][6]
Blackheath 1858 (closed club formed, Old Blackheathen Football club), 1862[2]
University of St Andrews RFC 1858
Merchiston school 1860 [4]
Manchester RFC 1860
Sale 1861
Richmond 1862 (founded in 1861 but switched to Rugby rules a year later)[2]
Glasgow Academicals 1866 (played their first match in the season 1867-1868)

Club History Links

This page contains an alphabetical list of club history page links.
A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Note: Rugby Football History has no control over the content.

All clubs around the world are encouraged to capture their club's history and publish it via their web site (if you don't have a web site, rugbyfootballhistory.com will host it until you do). Don't let the information die with the old boys, seek it out, write it down, scan in those pictures and make it live again.

If you would like your club's history page added click here and send the url.

  Marked for removal due to bad link  
A    
Academical Football Club (Edinburgh)   1857/8
Advance RFC, Aus.   1880
Amherst RFC   1957
Army Rugby Union   1906
Asheville RFC   1983
Assassins RFC   1967
B    
Bath RFC   1865
Beaconsfield RFC   1952
Bedford Blues RFC   1886
Bedford Swifts   1882/1950
Birkenhead Park RFC   1871
Blackheath RFC   1858/1862
Boca Raton RFC   1976
Bordeaux-Bègles x 1907
Boulder RFC   1967
Bracknell RFC   1955
Brown University RFC   1960
Brown Women's RFC   1977
Bryncethin RFC   1890
Buccaneers RFC   1994
Buffalo RFC   1966
Burton RFC   1870
C    
Cardiff RFC   1876
Cardiff High School Old Boys RFC   1927
Carlow FC   1873
Cambuslang RC   1903
Chesterfield Panthers   1919
Chipstead RFC   1959
Clifton RFC   1872
Columbia University RFC, NY X 1960
Coventry RFC    
D    
Darlington RFC   1863
Darlington Mowden Park RFC   1950
Dartmouth RFC   1951
Dings Crusaders RFC   1897
Doylestown Rugby Football Club   1974
E    
Eastleigh RFC   1931
Edinburgh University   1857/8
Exeter Chiefs RC   1871
F    
Farnham RC   1975
Ferndale RFC, Aus.   1885
Flint Rogues RFC   1972
Ft. Lauderdale RFC   1977
G    
Glasgow Academicals   1866
Glasgow Hawks   1997
Gloucester RFC   1873
Gordon League Rugby   1885
Gosforth RFC   1877/1996
Greenock Wanderers   1873
Grimsby RFC   1885
Guy's Hospital   1843, 1866
H    
Hartford Wanderers RFC   1966
Hawick RFC   1873
Hessle RUFC   1886
Hove RFC   1933, 1952
I    
J    
K    
Kendal RFC   1905
Kenilworth RFC   1924
L    
Leamington RFC   1926
Leeds Tykes   1991
Lions RFC   1889
London Irish   1898
Long Buckby RFC   1875
Longwood University Rugby   1979
M    
Maitland RFC, Aus.   1877
Melrose RFC   1877
Metropolitan Police Rugby Club   1923
Monmouth RFC   1973
Mountain Ash RFC   1875
Moseley RFC   1873
N    
Nashville RC   1969

Napier Old Boys Marist R.F.C.
(merger of Napier Old Boys, established in 1910, and Marist, founded in 1908)

  1990
Neath RFC   1871
Nelson Bay RFC   1870
Newcastle Falcons RFC   1877/1996
Newcastle Football Club, Aus.   1877
Newport RFC   1874
Southsea Nomads RFC   1978
North Penn Rugby   1988
Northampton Casuals RFC   1922
O    
Old Alleynians   1898
Old Blue RFC   1963
Old Colfeians RFC   1928
Old Collegians (OC)   1937
Old Cranleighan RFC   1919
Olney RFC   1877
Oriental RFC, Aus.   1885
P    
Palmyra RFC   1980
Penarth RFC   1879
Penn RFC   1900s
Peterborough RUFC   1870
Pontypridd RFC   1876
Portland RFC   1961
Princeton RFC   1876/1931
Preston Grasshoppers RFC   1869
Q    
Queanbeyan RFC X 1954
R    
Red Car Rugby Club   1921
Red Mountain RFC   1992
Rochester RFC   1999
Rosario Athletic Club
Club Atlético del Rosario
  1867 (1886 first Rugby game)
Royal Artillery RFC   1924
Rugby Club Toulonnais   1908
Rugby Club Zurich   1968
Rugby Lions RFC   1873
Royal Navy RUFC    
Ryton RFC   1880
S    
Seattle Quake RFC   2002
Shannon RFC   1884
Southend RFC   1870
Staines RFC   1926
Stanford Women's Rugby   1976
St. Lambert Locks RC   1983
Stourbridge RFC   1876
Strathcona Druids RFC   1960
St. Ives RFC, Cornwall England   1887
St. John's University RFC   1938ca
St. Vincent and the Grenadines RFC   1998
Sydney University Rugby Club   1863
T    
Tiverton RFC   1868
Trojans RFC   1874
Truman State University RFC   Late 1970s
Tullamore RFC   1937
U    
Union RFC, Aus.   1885
United Rugby Football Club   1995
US Air Force Academy RFC   1969
US Army RFC   1961
US Naval Academy RFC   1963
V    
W    
Wallsend RFC, Aus.   1877
Washington RC   1963
Wasps   1867
West Maitland RFC, Aus.   1885
Western Suburbs RFC   1976
Western Suburbs Rugby Union Club   c.1932
Wellington RFC   1874
White Horse RFC   2002
Wichita Barbarians RFC   1973
X    
Y    
Z    

*
All links are checked approx. once a month and if a link is found to be bad a search is made for an alternative link. If no alternative is available and the site is still down when next tested it will be removed. So if you change your url please let me know.

References:

1.         Marshall, R., Football - The Rugby Union Game. 2nd ed. 1893: Cassell & Co Ltd. 564.
2.         Richards, H., A game for hooligans : the history of rugby union. 2007, Edinburgh: Mainstream. 317 p. [4] p. of plates.
3.         Thorburn, S., The history of Scottish rugby. 1980, Lond.,: Cassell Ltd. 346.
4.         Scottish Rugby Union. and A.M.C. Thorburn, The Scottish Rugby Union : official history. 1985, Edinburgh: The Union in association with Collins. xviii, 210 p, [90] p of plates.
5.         Owen, O.L., The history of the Rugby Football Union. 1955, London: Published for the Rugby Football Union by Playfair Books. 368 p.
6.         Edinburgh Academical Football Club., The Edinburgh Academical Football Club centenary history : a history of the club and of football at the Edinburgh Academy. 1958, Edinburgh: The Club. 165 p., [12] leaves of plates.
7.         Van Esbeck, E., One hundred years of Irish rugby : the official history of the Irish Rugby Football Union. 1974, Dublin: Gill and Macmillan. 246 p., [12] leaves of plates.
8.         Birley, D., Sport and the making of Britain. International studies in the history of sport. 1993, Manchester: Manchester University Press. 358 p.
9.         Tyson, D., London's Oldest Rugby Clubs. 2008, LLG Publishing. 168 p.

 

 

 

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