RUGBY FOOTBALL CAUSERIE
THE RISE OF THE CURTAIN
Some Necessary Preliminaries
“Like ‘giants refreshed’ we footballers are returning to work whether it be in the arena or in the press box. The summer has come and gone, the exhilarating winds of autumn are here, and once more the strident notes of the referee’s whistle sound more or less soothingly on the well attuned ear.”
What fresh can I say about the Brothers Coates? They have exhausted all my stock phrases, for they utilise the who gamut of Rugby proficiency. Norman, both in running, kicking and tactics generally is quite on a par now with Vincent, and if there is a better all round pair in the South I don’t know them.”
RUGBY UNION’S BOMBSHELL
Expulsions and Suspensions
Prominent Payers affected
Sometimes referred to as ‘Trouble in the West,’ the attempted deviations from the strict R.F.U. Laws on amateurism, led to an R.F.U. Committee decision to Expel, Remove or Suspend certain officials and players of the Newton Abbot, Torquay, Plymouth, Devon Albion clubs.
They had been active in trying to introduce the Northern Union game in the South West.
Cornwall affairs were reported as still under consideration and all Rugby football grounds were closed. The treasurer of Devon County R.U. was suspended.
“It may be that for this season there will be no Northern Union League or anything formed but the probabilities are that next season the malcontents will manage to give paid Rugby a foothold in Devon and Cornwall.
On the meantime, the supporters of pure amateurism can only congratulate the English Rugby Union on having showed that they would do their duty in the matter at whatever cost.
It was not a pleasant task which fell to them, and their motives may be misconstrued and misrepresented, but all said and done they have taken the ‘bull by the horns,’ and even if we
stand now at the parting of the ways in the West, it is well that all should know that the Rugby Union will
have nought to do with sham amateurism; that is the lesson to be gleaned from this sensational report, which deals with many players of repute.
It is essential that all those who favour non paid Rugby should rally to the support of the parent body, and if we are to have paid players in the West let us take care to see that it is outside and not inside the Rugby Union.”
By ‘AN OLD PLAYER’
BATH CHRONICLE 7/12/1912.
The Beginning of the Mischief.
“Those who have had experience of modern football management will acknowledge that the ways of Committeemen and players alike are hedged around with difficulties and temptations; Committees get together a good side, and like to keep them, but once players of a certain class find that they are invaluable then they begin to drop hints that they ought to be allowed ‘to make a bit.’ They contend that they are earning gate money and ought to profit therefrom. They add ‘ other clubs do it, why shouldn’t you!’ They also soundly declare that if they are not given a ‘dab in the hand’ they will go North. Wise committees report these players to the authorities, and keep on the right side of the law; less wise committees or some of their members, temporise for the sake of keeping a good side together, and from temporising to paying doles under the head of expenses is quite an easy step. Then, indeed, are such officials in the hands of those they have mistakenly assisted. They can, to put it bluntly, be blackmailed indefinitely, and they are lucky if in to the bargain they do not get exposed in the end as have certain gentlemen in the Far West. No, there is but one course to adopt and that is to sail with the flag of pure amateurism at the mast, perchance even then you may be wrecked, but you will go under with your fair fame unsmudged!”
And the Future?
“Well, what about the future?” said a friend to me, on Monday last. “How is it all going to end?” I was unable to make any satisfactory reply. (Extract)
[By “AN OLD PLAYER”]
“The other evening the fog having driven me to a friendly fireside, I discoursed with a friend on football matters, and while smoking the fragrant calumet of peace we chatted upon the role played by temperament in Rugby. My friend was inclined to be dogmatic in his assertions, and I likewise being inclined to be a little aggressive, we were more often at issue with one another than on a footing of agreement. At the same time we came to the conclusion that temperament could not be overlooked in dealing with the personal side of Rugby. The dictionary defines temperament as follows: ‘Constitution; state with respect to the predominance of any quality; due mixture of different qualities.’
That all sounds very nice, doesn’t it? But when I speak of a player’s temperament I mean the manner in which he emisages the game and adjusts his individuality to it, in short from what point of view he plays. Of course, you and I and somebody else all have different temperaments, and on the field of play this will be extenuated. For instance, you may be irritated because the captain talks too much; I may only laugh at it, while somebody else may thoroughly approve because he happens to be the captain. But this is only fringing the subject, playing with it, as it were. Let us now come to grips with it. What does temperament really do? Well, in the first place it will make one man ‘nervy’ when he has a chance of doing and doesn’t, while another will be as cool and calculated when opportunity occurs and he will make the most of it. But does that make a poor player of the first and an adept of the second? By no means. The ‘nervy’ man may unexpectedly display wonderful strategy when his mind is on the rack, just in the same way as the cool man may do the silliest thing in cold blood. I once knew a very nervous half-back get the ball on his own line against a much stronger side, and yet he dodged through the whole lot, ran the length of the field and scored. In the same match the star player of the other side-a cool, calculating cuss – got clear and had a walk over if he wanted it, but what did he do, but ‘kick dead.’ So much for that side of the question. Then, again, what is it that makes one three-quarter fidgety and walk about like a caged panther when the ball does not come his way, while another will remain like a graven image but still alert – temperament again I say; my friend growls from his armchair something uncomplimentary, but I maintain temperament means much in ‘Rugger.’
Who Invented the Four Threequarters ?
[By An “OLD PLAYER”]
This is a question of perennial interest which is always cropping up. Some people affirm that Gloucester first employed it, but although they were one of the first to employ it, the four three-quarter game was invented if not patented in Wales. Speaking without the book, I believe I am right in saying that it was with the Cardiff Club that the innovation was first tried, and then quite by accident. The tale as told to me in the long ago was that Cardiff* at the time had splendid set of three-quarters-three in number-and one was ‘crocked.’ While he was becoming convalescent another capital three-quarter was introduced,** consequently there was one too many with the invalid three-quarter. The captain had an inspiration, ‘Why not play four?’ and this was done, and the quartet of ‘three’ invented. That is how the tale has been told to me, and I am convinced it was founded in fact.”
* The fourth three-quarter introduced by the Cardiff Club in 1885, at the instigation of the famous Oxonian, J Conway Rees. Wales then adopted the system. (Encyclopedia of Rugby Football 1960. J. R Jones)
of Rugby Football 1960. J. R Jones)
**(probably F E Hancock from Wiveliscombe)
EXTRACTS FROM THE BATH CHRONICLE 1/3/1913
The Lemon Peel Problem
[By “AN OLD PLAYER”]
“The other afternoon I was seated in the grandstand of a certain football ground smoking indifferent tobacco (So a neighbour said), and watching with moody attention a somewhat forlorn Rugby match. I called it ‘forlorn’ for the players seemed somewhat lost, and there was a total absence of combination. But that’s another story! Well, when the interval arrived a friend ‘spotted’ me from afar, and came and gave me the pleasure of his company for a few minutes. As we sat and conversed on the waywardness of things in general, and the slackness of the halfway through match in particular, my friend suddenly waxed sarcastic in these terms: ‘Look at them,’ he vociforated, pointing at the players. ‘While the game was on they could not raise a gallop, and now see what they are doing.’ Naturally I did look. A few of the ‘resting’ footballers were lying prone on the grass, some were kicking the leather about but the great majority were engaged in chucking segments of lemon peel at one another; certainly they were far more energetic than they were during the game. ‘And now observe another thing,’ he said, ‘ look how all these slippery bits of peel are strewn on the field itself, as though the ground was not slippery enough.’- ‘Yes!’ I hazarded interrogatively, for I did not know what was coming. ‘Well,’ he replied ‘why don’t you kick up a shindy in the Press and get this sort of thing put a stop to?’ I brought my sluggish brain to bear on the subject, then I said ‘I will give you a few suggestions on how do away with the evil complained of if it will afford you any comfort. My remedies are as follows: –
(1) Abolish giving away lemons at half time.
(2) Have the segments of the lemon pealed before distribution.
(3) Make the players take their mid-match refreshments off the playing area.
(4) Send a boy round with a basket into which the lemon-tasters could put such parts of the fruit they do not require.
(5) Command each player to bring his bit of peel and put it outside the playing field, flinging it at the spectators if he likes, off the pitch, or best of all
(6) Go and collect the debris off the ground yourself before the game is resumed.
‘What do you think of that?’ I concluded.
Happily for me the game was continued at this point, and my friend left me remarking: ‘go and pick them up yourself,’ and that’s all the thanks I get for trying to solve the tough problem.”
On a lighter note.
[By “AN OLD PLAYER.”]
“I was recently told that I had been growing too serious of late, and what with attacks on the Rugby Union, and references to the Northern Union etc., it is time I gave serious football politics a rest. Therefore, this week I have tried to look on the light side of things if not the bright side, but next week it will be stern business again!
The Too Energetic Treasurer
Rugby football treasurers are traditionally very keen on raking in all the shekels they can get, and the reason for this probably lies in the fact that money with them is generally not too plentiful, for it takes a good deal of trouble with many clubs to make both ends meet. But the following anecdote shows that even a treasurer can go too far. The unfortunate aviator, in the course of his aeroplane flight, met with contrary winds, and although he tried to keep the head of his machine well up, an extra special gust of wind struck it, and the aeroplane and the aviator fell to the ground with a thud, bang in the middle of a Rugby field, with the players fighting out a desperate battle a few yards away. Naturally everyone ran to the spot to see if the airman was still in the land of the living. To the satisfaction of the large crowd the small, but still agile ‘birdman’ crawled out from beneath the wrecked machine and in reply to queries said he was not much hurt. This was an opportunity for which the home treasurer had been waiting, for he stepped up to the shaken aviator and said: ‘Oh, I am so glad you have not damaged yourself, because I want to ask you for 6d., as you have not paid the price of admission to the ground!’ The poor aviator promptly fainted with surprise.”
The Referee Scored
“Viper!” she hissed. “Beast! Brute! Scoundrel! Wretch! Blackguard! Fool!”
Smiling severely, he rolled a cigarette and applied the match to it.
“Villain!” she resumed, her eyes flashing vivid fire. “Robber-r-r!”
“Go on,” he suggested, puffing lazily at his cigarette. “Go on!”
Then a thought suddenly occurred to her, and she sank hopelessly into a chair.
He had been a Rugby referee.
CHARACTERSITICS OF CROWDS
The Philosopher and the journalist.
[By “AN OLD PLAYER.”]
After empathising at length with Gustave Le Bon’s disquisition on “The Crowd,” “AN OLD PLAYER” singled out the following paragraph:
“Whoever be the individuals that compose it, however like or unlike be their mode of life, their occupations, their character, or their intelligence, the fact that they have been transformed into a crowd puts them in possession a sort of collective mind which makes them feel, think, and act in a manner quite different from that in which each individual of them would fell, think and act were he in a state of isolation. There are certain ideas and feelings which do not come into being or do not transform themselves into acts except in the case of individuals forming a crowd. The psychological crowd is a provisional being formed of Heterogeneous elements, which for a moment are combined, exactly as the cells which constitute a living body form by their re-union a new being which displays characteristics very different from those possessed by each of the cells singly.”
“That explains I suppose why it is that some of my friends who are the most mild and courteous of folk in ordinary life become quite transformed when they line up round a football field.They exhibit an intense excitement which is most unusual in them, they follow the play with baited breath, and they permit themselves to say and do things which are quite alien to their nature. I am glad to know that they are more sinned against than sinning, and that it is their environment which turns them from courteous gentlemen and ladies into men and women.”
The Journalist’s Views
“True Blue” in the course of his essay says that he is reminded that ladies “constitute a by no means inconsiderable section of football crowds” Would the critics argue that they ought to play football, too, and if so would they prefer mixed football, a la mixed bathing, or a severe separation of the sexes? I remember that many years ago an attempt was made to introduce football for ladies in this country, but
“When woman rose upon the scene,
Creation’s fair and faultless Queen,”
the purists of that day were extremely shocked, and cried with a loud voice against her dainty imitation of the male footballer’s nether garments, protesting that they preferred:-
“A damsel bright,
Dressed in a silken robe of white.”
It will be noticed that the Journalist is not so much in earnest as the Philosopher, but he, to, has his code and rule for he argues that the argument that crowds that watch football should play has always appeared to me particularly fatuous because of this ground difficulty. Anybody who has had any association with football or cricket knows of the almost insuperable difficulties that are experienced in securing grounds, and I have known even village clubs die solely because they have failed to obtain a playing pitch.
My “Ipso Dixit”
So much for the point of view of the Philosopher and the Journalist, now let me bring my own mind to bear on the question. “Why is it,” I have often asked myself, “that a crowd will watch a member of the home side charge over a visitor who has made his ‘mark,’ and only laugh as if it were a good joke, whereas if a visitor bowls over a homester who has made his ‘mark,’ such a storm of execration arises that one would think that murder was in progress?” Constitutionally, I cannot enter into the frame of mind which makes ‘my’ side all heroes, and the ‘other’ side all blackguards. I like ‘my’ side to do well, but I feel glad when I see an opponent do something good and extort from opposing lookers-on the tribute “well played sir.”
It is the same, too, in connection with the referee. I cannot for the life of me join in howling at that official, crying out that he is in the pay of the other side, or flinging mud at him. All that sort of thing arouses my disgust and ire, and I would willingly see the referee baiters ducked in the horse pond. It is impossible to come across a referee who does not make mistakes, and sometimes some of them blow their whistles too much, but as a race they are much maligned. At the same time I am bound to say that I have even found referees when watching a match from the passive side of the barrier make uncalled for comments on the actions of the man officiating.
There is another phase of a football crowd’s idiosyncrasy which I should like to refer to and that is the way it has of ‘barracking’ some players. I remember on one occasion attending a match in which I had no personal interest in a seaport town. One of the home three-quarters was certainly off colour and dropped a few passes early on. He was distinctly improving but one cheap wit yelled out when the ball went to him “drop it” which he promptly did. Will you believe this one man set the whole crowd ‘chipping’ this poor three-quarter and shouting “drop it” whenever a pass went his way. It was jolly rough on the player, and my only satisfaction was that the home side lost by the only try of the match. I believe this would not have been the result but for the absurd and cruel ‘jollying’ of the three-quarter with the fingers of butter.
One final word about football crowds, and I will give the subject a rest. I remember on one occasion being present at a match for which the kick off was timed for 3 o’clock. The minutes slipped by and still no team appeared, and at a few minutes to four o’clock the crowd became so exasperated that they gathered round the pavilion and booed the members of the home committee quite vigorously. One of the most active of the demonstrators was a gentleman I will call ‘Bill Adams.’ After a while I heard the following colloquy:- Burly Bystander (to Bill Adams): “I say mate, I thought thee was a Committee man.” Bill: “So I am.” Burly Bystander: “Then what be ye doing here, why baint you up in the stand along o’ the rest?” Bill: “Because I thought it safer here.” He changed his mind a minute later!
THE LAST TIME!
“The Bath XV travelled to Mountain Ash yesterday, and it will probably be the last
time they will do so. They started at 12.14 from Bath and arrived at Mountain Ash at
just after 4. This was thought bad enough, but the return journey beat all the club’s
records for travelling. In the first place the match was not over until 5.58, yet some
half a dozen managed to catch the 6 o’clock out of Mountain Ash, due to arrive at
Bath some where about 9. This was extraordinary sharp work. The other part of the
team caught the 7.35 out of Mountain Ash, and if trains had been running to time
would have reached Bath at 12.35. As it was the train to which their saloon was
attached was late leaving Cardiff, and consequently was late for the mail out of
Bristol. When the party arrived here they were told they had missed the connection.
A well known forward who travels a great deal between Bath and Bristol asked for
the next train to Bath and was informed that there was not one before 3.45. This was
almost true, for the party left Bristol about 4.20,** arriving at Bath at 4.45, leaving
just time for some to get home, change their clothes, and give in their checks at work
The game needs little description. The ground is almost as sloping as the road leading
to the Recreation ground, while it was full of ruts”
** Known locally as ‘the waker.’
Article expressed concern at reported Suffragist threats, and suggested extra vigilance at the Twickenham ground.
[By “AN OLD PLAYER”]
Music and Football
“No, I confess I am distinctly opposed to the idea of having orchestral music during football matches. By all means let the bands play before and after games if they will, and also at half-time, but let the only harmony during the matches be that performed by the referee.”