It scarcely needs to be said—not least to a Yorkshireman—that there are few regions of England, or the United Kingdom for that matter, with a similar sporting history as Yorkshire. In addition to the rolling hills of the Yorkshire Dales, the ready availability of real ale, and the many idyllic towns that litter the countryside, sport and sporting prowess is woven into the very DNA of Yorkshiremen.
People who are fortunate enough to call Yorkshire their home are truly spoiled when it comes to sporting choices. With everything from golf, cricket and cycling to football, rugby, and horse racing being equally represented. And regardless of whether you are a player or a fan, there are a huge amount of options on offer in Yorkshire.
Whilst Yorkshire has a particularly strong reputation for cricket—with Yorkshire considered the unofficial home of world cricket—many would argue that the true sporting strength of this historic county lies in rugby.
More specifically, however, we should say that the heart of Yorkshire lies in the sport of rugby league. Although rugby union is well represented in the county, rugby league is, by far, the sport where Yorkshire has made its biggest mark.
Although rugby union has its roots beginning in 1823—when the first game was supposedly played at Rugby School—and 1845—when the official rules of the game were developed by William Webb Ellis, rugby league got its start a little bit later.
Rugby league emerged from a meeting between 21 rugby clubs at the George Hotel in Huddersfield in 1895. It was here that the famous schism in rugby football occurred, which saw rugby league and rugby union split.
Although this split was undoubtedly heated and contentious at the time, the old rivalries have certainly faded. And now both sports are passionately played and followed the world over.
However, what is interesting about the meeting in 1895, is that it put Yorkshire right at the heart of this origin story. The George Hotel (located in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire) hosted a vote between a collective of 21 clubs from across Lancashire and Yorkshire which resulted in a secession from the Rugby Football Union. In doing so, they established the Northern Rugby Football Union which, in 1922, became Rugby League Football—which is where the sport gets its name from.
This location has become a bit of a heritage destination in recent years, with the hotel featuring tonnes of memorabilia and a small heritage centre and museum.
Since then, rugby league has established itself as one of the major sports and is played all over the world. And with the growing popularity of rugby union and rugby 7s, rugby league gets bigger and more popular each year—clearly evident by the level of attention rugby league matches and tournaments get on some sports betting websites such as Superlenny.com. This unique history has etched Yorkshire into the very DNA of the game. And to this day, the North of England, and Yorkshire in particular, are important sites in the development of the game. This legacy is set to deepen in 2021, when England will play host to the world Rugby League World Cup, with the majority of games being played in the North of England. In this sense, it really is ‘coming home’ this year!
Some of the major rugby league teams that call this historic region their home include the Castleford Tigers, the Huddersfield Giants, Hull FC, Hull Kingston Rovers, Leeds Rhinos, and Wakefield Trinity.
In addition to these top-tier rugby league teams, Yorkshire is also home to a number of prestigious competitions.
For example, the BetFred Super League, Europe’s leading professional rugby league competition. Each year, twelve teams duke it out to be crowned championship winners. This typically includes a roster of eleven English teams and one French team—although in recent years this has been switched out for a Scottish or Spanish team. However, most importantly, this roster of eleven English teams usually includes six Yorkshire teams. Which gives you a sense of the dominance of Yorkshire as a force in rugby league!
In addition to the Betfred Super League, there is also the Ladbrokes Challenge Cup. This is by far rugby league’s most historic club competition, and arguably the most prestigious. It is a knock-out style tournament that includes teams from all levels and destinations. It finishes in an epic final held at Wembley Stadium, with teams coming from North America, Ireland, France, and even further afield to claim the top prize!
With all that said, it is easy to see why rugby league is often described as being ‘Yorkshire born and bred.’ There are few sports that have the same close connection to a place in the UK as Yorkshire does to rugby league.