I’m not particularly against it, but it’s never grabbed me, if you’ll pardon the turn of phrase. I grew up down south where if they play it, they play union. I even played for a couple of terms when I went to an ex grammar school. Those terms coincided with a classic All Blacks tour and the “greatest try of all time” being scored by Gareth Edwards at Cardiff Arms Park forty years ago.
I still wasn’t a fan, but I would generally tune in for the five nations matches (as they were then). I lost interest as the matches descended into tactical kicking games with little running rugby.
I was taught that this was the pure code, played by amateurs and unsullied by money. Ha! Well that’s all changed, the players are paid now. Actually it’s always been moneyed. It’s played by grammar school boys (and occasionally girls) and the clubs are based in middle class suburbia. Rugby Union is not a working class sport – certainly not in England. In Scotland it’s predominantly played in rural borders towns and in Ireland it’s a remnant of the English settlers (landowners). Wales is the exception, as it is in so many things.
When I moved to Leeds I discovered Rugby League. Eventually. My daughter really introduced me when she got a cheap season ticket to watch the (say it very quietly) Wakefield Trinity Wildcats.
Being involved with South Leeds Life has introduced me to the extensive grass roots game locally – Beeston Broncos, Hunslet Parkside, Warriors and of course the Hunslet Club. Then of course we have the supporters-owned Hunslet Hawks and their great work in local schools.
So I wasn’t completely surprised to see rugby posts has appear in Cross Flatts Park the other week. Perhaps the Broncos are moving to the park after their successful match at Beeston Festival? But there’s only one set of posts and it doesn’t look another set is going to be installed any time soon.
Then I saw it on Twitter, it’s something to do with the Rugby World Cup. Ah yes, it all kicks off next month doesn’t it?
Someone please sound the “rant” klaxon, this could get ugly …
The Rugby World Cup. Notice they don’t mention “union”. They don’t feel they have to, rugby is obviously rugby union. Isn’t it typical of that middle class, imperialist arrogance that they don’t even acknowledge the presence the other code?
I’m afraid I view these posts as an imperialist act. I mentioned the grassroots game in South Leeds. There’s lots of rugby played, but I’m not aware of any rugby union clubs. So these posts appearing are an aggressive act. Let’s be charitable, maybe they see it as missionary work? But that’s still, at best, patronising and insensitive.
And … breathe out …
I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in conspiracies, I sign up to the cock up theory of history.
The council press release only mentioned posts in Roundhay Park, which is fine – they play union in North Leeds. It went on to say that further posts would be unveiled in other parks over the coming months. So we’ve got the posts but not the explanation, not the sales pitch.
The other problem is where they’ve put the posts. Cross Flatts Park is alive with sport, especially in the evenings and especially during this glorious summer that seems to be finally drawing to an end. As well as the tennis, cricket, basketball and football, there have usually been two, sometimes three volleyball games.
Interestingly, the eastern European games play to rules I’m familiar with – three touches on each side of the net. The Asian match, which has been being played for several years, only takes one touch on each side of the net. If anyone knows why they play different rules, I’d love to hear – please leave a comment.
Anyway, back to the posts, they are bang, smack where one of the volleyball games takes place. The issue is that the Parks department didn’t consult properly. I heard recently that officers we concerned that our park wasn’t well used. The problem is that officers work 9-5 and don’t see the park when it’s busiest.
So what’s the moral of this tale? I’m not sure, but I know that making a grand gesture (the posts can’t have been cheap) doesn’t work unless you get out and talk to the people you are trying to influence.
I’ll be back next week with more of my views from South of the River. If you’re on Twitter, you can follow me: @BeestonJeremy.