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Rugby league can save the Brexit dream Its communal spirit could power Britain's identity

Sport and nation are facing the same question (Anthony Broxton)

Sport and nation are facing the same question (Anthony Broxton)


August 4, 2023   6 mins

It must have taken a lot for Boris Johnson — onetime Eton prop-forward; archetypal rugby union boy — to go begging for the votes of those who play rugby league. But as Britain went to the polls in 2019, Johnson knew that he had to do something remarkable to “Get Brexit Done”. All great election winners have conquered parts of the country that are not their natural homes: Attlee with the Home Counties; Thatcher with “Essex Man”; Blair with Middle England. While these winners looked south, Johnson went north.

For supporters of rugby league — a game associated not with public schools but the towns of the post-industrial North — the arrival of the Conservative Party into its territory was a surprise. League had always been part of a working-class culture which was intrinsically Labour, played out across the coalfields of Lancashire and Yorkshire, in the weapon and shipbuilding plants of Cumbria and by the docks of Humberside. But when Brexit proved to be a reckoning for those areas, with the Conservatives vowing to see it through, the sport was inevitably drawn in.

This is how we ended up with Ann Widdecombe addressing a Labour club in the rugby-league heartland of Featherstone in early 2019. In an ex-mining town that had once looked to Arthur Scargill, she won cheers for attacking the “traitors in parliament” and the “bureaucrats in Brussels”. The only boos came when anyone mentioned the prospect of a “second referendum”. It was part of a political sea change. Featherstone’s MP, Jon Trickett, was one of the lucky survivors of the collapse of the Red Wall in 2019. But the gradual decline in his vote share over recent decades emphasises the disconnect between the party and the people. In 1997, Trickett won over 70% of the vote, making it a rock-solid New Labour area. By contrast, in 2019 his share was down to just 37%.

Labour politicians can no longer afford to take those voters for granted. Lisa Nandy, who represents another ex-mining rugby league town in Wigan, has since made the connection between sport and her constituents’ sense of place. In her book All In, she notes how almost every Labour club in Wigan has been demolished, how the once-beloved ground, Central Park, is now a Tesco.

For all the changes to society, however, rugby league stands firm in those areas as a focal point for working-class communities to come together. Despite operating in an ever harder financial climate, clubs remain the place where identities are forged, and community cohesion is harnessed. When Covid-19 hit, for instance, it was the clubs that were at the forefront of the organisational response — from co-ordinating welfare checks and running foodbanks to raising money for NHS services. When the Johnson Government ensured the game had a loan to keep operating when the doors were closed, Oliver Dowden said it was because “it has been the social glue holding communities together”.

If there is one area that symbolises the historic importance of a team to a community then it is Featherstone Rovers. Often described as just a “set of traffic lights on the road from Wakefield to Pontefract”, the club has prided itself on punching above its weight by producing generations of international players — the likes of Jimmy Thompson, Paul Newlove and Zak Hardaker. For much of the 20th century, players did the same jobs, drank in the same pubs, lived on the same streets, and sent their kids to the same schools as the supporters who idolised them on the terraces. When a group of sociologists visited the area for the study Coal is Our Life, rugby league was judged alongside the pub and the cinema to be “the only institution bringing large numbers of people together”.

This organic community began to dissolve in the Eighties. Any town that was linked to coal-mining was hammered when the pit closure plan was initiated, and, during the miners’ strike, Featherstone became emblematic of the turmoil that was engulfing the region. League players picketed by day while those working in other industries were stopped and interrogated by the police as they went about their daily business. Wives of miners stopped fundraising for the club and started supporting each other instead. Rovers let striking miners in for free on the assumption that they would reimburse them when they were back at work. But the pits never did reopen. The community was broken up and people took on new jobs as labourers and taxi drivers. The local historian Ian Clayton watched on as a succession of building societies and well-established businesses were boarded up and broken into. Crime, which had never been a factor in the town’s day-to-day life, increased. “For the first time to my knowledge, I’ve known Featherstone folk pinching off one another,” Clayton wrote.

At the same time, rugby league looked set to abandon Featherstone, too. The sport’s attempt to come to terms with the settlement of the Eighties was the plan, fuelled by a mega broadcasting deal with BSkyB, to merge small clubs together and expand into the cities. “We have 35 clubs in terrible little, tiny areas all competing to get the same sponsors, the same people through the turnstiles, the same players,” argued Maurice Lindsay, who spearheaded the move. “Nostalgia”, he concluded, “does not pay the bills.” For the “expansionists” who wanted the game to grow and move into the cities, teams such as Featherstone were symbolic of the league’s parochialism and the “cloth cap” image that it wanted to distance itself from. A profitable future for the sport would come through big money and big media.

The loyal fans of Featherstone Rovers (Anthony Broxton)

Lindsay tellingly likened it to Nigel Lawson’s financial “big bang”, allowing clubs to amalgamate like banks and building societies had. Others saw it as an attempt to change the image of the game. The veteran rugby league journalist Paul Fitzpatrick wrote that the sport could not hope to survive when it was “played in dumps and against a background of stark poverty”. But, in 1995, when Featherstone supporters were told that their club would merge with neighbours Castleford and Wakefield (to become Calder), it stirred deep emotions within them.

The resistance to the mergers was soon framed as a battle between the people and the elite. Supporters made protest signs — “Bought and Sold for Murdoch’s Gold,” read one — and came together in community halls and Labour clubs to orchestrate a campaign of protest. One, speaking at an anti-Calder meeting, declared rugby league is not a “commodity to be bought and sold by billionaires”. The “expansionists” framed the opponents as reactionaries who were unable to see how society and the marketplace around sports was changing. But revisiting those debates today, it is clear that the battle to conserve those identities was not just about the past. It was also about the future. For all that had been lost during the Eighties, there was hope that, through rugby league, their areas could one day be part of the national story again.

So, when Ian Clayton was invited on to the BBC to debate the mergers, he dreamed that “one day a woman would wake up in Toulouse one morning and turn round to her husband and say, ‘Do you fancy a weekend in Featherstone?’” His campaign even printed T-shirts which emphasised this philosophy, urging people to “Think Global – Act Local”. But due to the huge fan pressure, the rugby league mergers never happened. Instead, dreams of global expansion were traded for the preservation of heritage, and league continues to serve the same working-class communities that formed the game over 125 years ago. It was the same lesson that football learned when they tried to instigate the European Super League in 2021: when faced with a direct choice between cash and community, fans will pick community every time.

It’s a sporting simulacrum for the vote to leave the European Union. But, just as with Brexit, there is a clear economic trade-off when you focus on the local rather than the global market. Today, league clubs remain community assets but are increasingly irrelevant on the national stage. In the fierce battle to secure sponsorship and TV revenue, league increasingly arrives at the table with a weak hand. While the organisers of the Rugby World Cup forecasts that it will make €45 million this year, the league equivalent, hosted in England last autumn, failed to drum up much public interest. Had it not been subsidised by the British taxpayer it would have run at a significant loss.

The lack of funds at the top of the game means that the sport is always battling for survival. Just last month in Featherstone, the local amateur club, the Lions, who run junior clubs, put out an appeal to raise money to fix craters and potholes, as well as rebuild their toilets and showers. The organiser admits that “the last thing our kids and wider community need is for our club to close due to financial reasons”. For now though, Featherstone on a matchday remains a place where the community can come together. It is the place where ex-players can meet in the clubhouse and reminisce about the “good old days”; where young people can sit, vape, and hang out together; where new parents can park their prams and let their children play.

As Britain navigates its post-Brexit landscape, the dilemma facing rugby league is not too dissimilar to the one facing our politicians. How can areas protect those community assets in an economy that has been dependent on market forces for so long? Brexit and the 2019 election put places such as Featherstone at the centre of the debate about Britain’s future and its identity. As we struggle to adapt to our new era, their communal spirit, powered by rugby league, might once again hold the key.


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Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
11 months ago

There is a lesson from Rugby (of both the League & Union variety) that should be applied to political debate generally and the Brexit debate most particularly.
One of the great joys of Rugby – something surely that can be celebrated even by people who don’t follow the game – is that opposing side’s fans all sit together. There is never crowd trouble – they’ll be some good natured joshing, for sure, but never any trouble.
Whether it is lower league club rugby, through to a top-of-the-table clash between premier sides, or even a bitterly fought international match, the fans sit together, drink and sing together and – as often as not – a fan of the losing side will congratulate a winning supporter on their success at the end of it.
My younger son’s first experience of a live game (quite some years ago now) was taking him to Wasps v Harlequins at the Stoop on his 5th birthday. I was a lone Wasps fan sat in a crowd of Quins supporters, and Wasps that day were on the wrong side of a hiding. All the guys around us were telling my son that he shouldn’t follow his Dad and should instead become a Quins fan. We were all chatting and laughing and they found out it was my son’s birthday.
As we took our seats again after half-time, a group of total strangers had been to the Harlequins shop and bought him a Quins shirt, a Quins hat and a Quins flag. By the end of the match he was standing on his seat singing “The Mighty Quin” whilst I was being teased about my son now being a cuckoo in the nest.
He is, I’m afraid to say, an ardent Harlequins fan to this day.
That is one of the (many) reasons I love Rugby.
It should be perfectly possible for people who passionately support one side of an argument to be able to respect people who passionately believe in the other side. We can believe the other is misguided and wrong, but there is no need to insist that they must therefore be evil!
ï»żThere is much too much of that in evidence in political debate over the last several years and, at a guess, such attitudes have never yet convinced anyone to change their mind.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The segregation at the football is what gives it the atmosphere though. I’ve been to rugby games and found them to be incredibly sterile experiences. Loads of middle class bores who make a song and dance about being morally better than the louts who shout, swear and sing rude songs at the football

Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So you prefer the company of ‘louts who shout, swear and sing rude songs at the football’ (not to mention the physical violence), thereby ruining the experience for others not of the same persuasion.
Give me the ‘middle class bores’ any time.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Yes, I much prefer the company of louts at the football crowd. It doesn’t ruin the experience of anybody at the game because everybody who goes does so because they like the atmosphere and the tribalism they way it is.
The violence at the ground has now all but disappeared anyway

Last edited 11 months ago by Billy Bob
Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So you like women being terrified ?Having lived near a football club who failed to obtain promotion resulting in groups of violent supporters wandering the streets, the women who lived in the halls of residence were terrified of being raped.
Rugby league never attracted violent supporters even though it is a much tougher game than football.
Once there was a rugby union match where there was trouble. Willie John Mcbride said ” Put them on the pitch and lets see how tough they are ” .
It would be interesting to compare how many football supporters play football or have done so and that for rugby, league or union.
There are fundemental differences. One can kick a football around on a hard surface such as concrete and do little damage to the body.Rugby has to be played on grass because players are tackled. Players of rugby need to be more robust to withstand the impact of tackles and being kicked in a ruck.
When it comes to the World’s population , there is much smaller percentage who will be able to play rugby as it requires a larger, more rubust and resilient physique.
After a match players shake hands and then have a drink with one’s opponents which requires resilience, robustness, an absence of spite and an unwillingness to hold grudge. It is a matter of character. Rugby, a ruffians games played by gentlemen, football, a gentlemens game played by ruffians.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So you like women being terrified ?Having lived near a football club who failed to obtain promotion resulting in groups of violent supporters wandering the streets, the women who lived in the halls of residence were terrified of being raped.
Rugby league never attracted violent supporters even though it is a much tougher game than football.
Once there was a rugby union match where there was trouble. Willie John Mcbride said ” Put them on the pitch and lets see how tough they are ” .
It would be interesting to compare how many football supporters play football or have done so and that for rugby, league or union.
There are fundemental differences. One can kick a football around on a hard surface such as concrete and do little damage to the body.Rugby has to be played on grass because players are tackled. Players of rugby need to be more robust to withstand the impact of tackles and being kicked in a ruck.
When it comes to the World’s population , there is much smaller percentage who will be able to play rugby as it requires a larger, more rubust and resilient physique.
After a match players shake hands and then have a drink with one’s opponents which requires resilience, robustness, an absence of spite and an unwillingness to hold grudge. It is a matter of character. Rugby, a ruffians games played by gentlemen, football, a gentlemens game played by ruffians.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Rocky Martiano

Yes, I much prefer the company of louts at the football crowd. It doesn’t ruin the experience of anybody at the game because everybody who goes does so because they like the atmosphere and the tribalism they way it is.
The violence at the ground has now all but disappeared anyway

Last edited 11 months ago by Billy Bob
Rocky Martiano
Rocky Martiano
11 months ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

So you prefer the company of ‘louts who shout, swear and sing rude songs at the football’ (not to mention the physical violence), thereby ruining the experience for others not of the same persuasion.
Give me the ‘middle class bores’ any time.

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I didn’t know this, and found it very heartening.
I once shared an office with a passionate Rugby Union player. He was at one time a reserve for the England squad (“One snapped tendon away from playing for my country!”). He was a perfect gentleman and interestingly said that although the players loved the game, none of them took their status all that seriously.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Your concluding words could hardly be more needed or better expressed.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

The segregation at the football is what gives it the atmosphere though. I’ve been to rugby games and found them to be incredibly sterile experiences. Loads of middle class bores who make a song and dance about being morally better than the louts who shout, swear and sing rude songs at the football

Simon Neale
Simon Neale
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

I didn’t know this, and found it very heartening.
I once shared an office with a passionate Rugby Union player. He was at one time a reserve for the England squad (“One snapped tendon away from playing for my country!”). He was a perfect gentleman and interestingly said that although the players loved the game, none of them took their status all that seriously.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago
Reply to  Paddy Taylor

Your concluding words could hardly be more needed or better expressed.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
11 months ago

There is a lesson from Rugby (of both the League & Union variety) that should be applied to political debate generally and the Brexit debate most particularly.
One of the great joys of Rugby – something surely that can be celebrated even by people who don’t follow the game – is that opposing side’s fans all sit together. There is never crowd trouble – they’ll be some good natured joshing, for sure, but never any trouble.
Whether it is lower league club rugby, through to a top-of-the-table clash between premier sides, or even a bitterly fought international match, the fans sit together, drink and sing together and – as often as not – a fan of the losing side will congratulate a winning supporter on their success at the end of it.
My younger son’s first experience of a live game (quite some years ago now) was taking him to Wasps v Harlequins at the Stoop on his 5th birthday. I was a lone Wasps fan sat in a crowd of Quins supporters, and Wasps that day were on the wrong side of a hiding. All the guys around us were telling my son that he shouldn’t follow his Dad and should instead become a Quins fan. We were all chatting and laughing and they found out it was my son’s birthday.
As we took our seats again after half-time, a group of total strangers had been to the Harlequins shop and bought him a Quins shirt, a Quins hat and a Quins flag. By the end of the match he was standing on his seat singing “The Mighty Quin” whilst I was being teased about my son now being a cuckoo in the nest.
He is, I’m afraid to say, an ardent Harlequins fan to this day.
That is one of the (many) reasons I love Rugby.
It should be perfectly possible for people who passionately support one side of an argument to be able to respect people who passionately believe in the other side. We can believe the other is misguided and wrong, but there is no need to insist that they must therefore be evil!
ï»żThere is much too much of that in evidence in political debate over the last several years and, at a guess, such attitudes have never yet convinced anyone to change their mind.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

In an otherwise thoughtful article, repeating this Remainer-type canard:

“It’s a sporting simulacrum for the vote to leave the European Union. But, just as with Brexit, there is a clear economic trade-off when you focus on the local rather than the global market.”

– just ruins it. Shame really, because it immediately puts the author into the category of someone unable to think beyond anti-Brexit sloganism; slogans which are patently untrue.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Murray
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There is equally a clear economic (and social) trade-off when you focus on globalism at the expense of the local. Poorly argued.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

About six months after Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a speech on his country’s putative new place in the world. “Brexit emphatically does not mean a Britain that turns in on herself,” he said. “We are not some bit part or spear-carrier on the world stage. We are a protagonist — a global Britain running a truly global foreign policy.”
According to one of its main architects, Brexit was a vote for the globalism you so despise.
You guys need to make your mind up as to what Brexit was actually for. 
After 7 years, one would have thought that you’d have got your story straight lol.    

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Somewhat strange to lump all people who voted Brexit as “you guys”. Sure there are a small number of “Singapore on Thames” extremists, but most people wanted more control of U.K. policies. rather than outsourcing industrial decisions to the “cheap labour” globalists at the EU.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

“NO SURRENDER!” eh Frank?

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Somewhat strange to lump all people who voted Brexit as “you guys”. Sure there are a small number of “Singapore on Thames” extremists, but most people wanted more control of U.K. policies. rather than outsourcing industrial decisions to the “cheap labour” globalists at the EU.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

“NO SURRENDER!” eh Frank?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

About six months after Britain voted in 2016 to leave the European Union, then-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson gave a speech on his country’s putative new place in the world. “Brexit emphatically does not mean a Britain that turns in on herself,” he said. “We are not some bit part or spear-carrier on the world stage. We are a protagonist — a global Britain running a truly global foreign policy.”
According to one of its main architects, Brexit was a vote for the globalism you so despise.
You guys need to make your mind up as to what Brexit was actually for. 
After 7 years, one would have thought that you’d have got your story straight lol.    

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m struggling to see how the line you refer to is anything other than indisputable, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on. Brexiters often argue that the economic pain is worth it because of sovereignty or whatever. I thought the article was a good hearted attempt at positivity.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago

it was a good hearted attempt at positivity – but there has been an undisputed negative effect on many working class towns as a result of successive governments following a globalist agenda- rather than looking after its own industries and towns. There is economic pain from this angle too.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“Following a globalist agenda” is itself a bit of a lazy clichĂ©. No government has seen itself as doing that. Protectionism in the 1930s was not a rip roaring success, nor were the 1970s. If “not pursuing a globalist agenda” means endlessly subsidising (this means taxpayer’s money) politically favoured industries, that is a road to nowhere. We don’t live in a low tax “night watchman” state, or anything remotely resembling it. We need much better productivity in Britain, easier said than done of course. Governments of all stripes sometimes have to take tough decisions; I can’t recall the last time when someone argued that the government should not spend more and more in their pet area, as a solution to all ills.

I support Brexit, but on balance I think the economic case supports Britain, which is not in general a world class technical hub, forming part of the Single Market.

Last edited 11 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

That’s pretty much a Requiem for GBplc.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago

What do you mean by GBplc? If you’re referring to public companies (plc), the very nature of them is that they are owned by international investors.
You should have said GBlimited, which would be both legally accurate – and more apt lol.
 Brexit impacts on business. Unfortunately, as your comment demonstrates, it was driven by ideologues with a rather limited understanding of business. Wasn’t it Mr Johnson (who knows SFA about business) who remarked: “f**k business” lol.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Limited then.
When did we last have a PM who did understand business? Neville Chamberlain perhaps?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Limited then.
When did we last have a PM who did understand business? Neville Chamberlain perhaps?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago

What do you mean by GBplc? If you’re referring to public companies (plc), the very nature of them is that they are owned by international investors.
You should have said GBlimited, which would be both legally accurate – and more apt lol.
 Brexit impacts on business. Unfortunately, as your comment demonstrates, it was driven by ideologues with a rather limited understanding of business. Wasn’t it Mr Johnson (who knows SFA about business) who remarked: “f**k business” lol.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Fisher

That’s pretty much a Requiem for GBplc.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

“Following a globalist agenda” is itself a bit of a lazy clichĂ©. No government has seen itself as doing that. Protectionism in the 1930s was not a rip roaring success, nor were the 1970s. If “not pursuing a globalist agenda” means endlessly subsidising (this means taxpayer’s money) politically favoured industries, that is a road to nowhere. We don’t live in a low tax “night watchman” state, or anything remotely resembling it. We need much better productivity in Britain, easier said than done of course. Governments of all stripes sometimes have to take tough decisions; I can’t recall the last time when someone argued that the government should not spend more and more in their pet area, as a solution to all ills.

I support Brexit, but on balance I think the economic case supports Britain, which is not in general a world class technical hub, forming part of the Single Market.

Last edited 11 months ago by Andrew Fisher
Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

I’d already referred to it as “thoughtful” – my home town rugby league club is pretty much in the boat as Featherstone Rovers, and much of what the author wrote rang true, hence my dismay at his cheap reference to Brexit. In actual fact, our economic outlook is now far more global than it ever could’ve been as part of the EU. Failure to acknowledge that is exactly as i described it – simply following Remainer sloganism.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago

it was a good hearted attempt at positivity – but there has been an undisputed negative effect on many working class towns as a result of successive governments following a globalist agenda- rather than looking after its own industries and towns. There is economic pain from this angle too.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

I’d already referred to it as “thoughtful” – my home town rugby league club is pretty much in the boat as Featherstone Rovers, and much of what the author wrote rang true, hence my dismay at his cheap reference to Brexit. In actual fact, our economic outlook is now far more global than it ever could’ve been as part of the EU. Failure to acknowledge that is exactly as i described it – simply following Remainer sloganism.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Aha. I’d love to see you standing in front of investors, seeking funding for your new business. First question will be how do you intend to grow the business. From your response above, one assumes you’ll tell them that you have a fantastic new “no exports” policy, and, instead, you will focus on e.g. Bolton.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Come of it Frank, the worst investment the UK has ever made sine the War, or at least since 1947, has been, your own comfy abode, Northern Ireland (NI)!

The subsidy dolled out to NI is simply staggering*, and even more than that to similarly dolled out to “needy” Scotland and Wales.
Yet even known it hangs like a putrefying Albatross around England’s neck, solely because ‘some of us’ are too ridiculously sentimental to get rid of it.

Having jettisoned the EU, it is time for ‘charity to begin at home’ and likewise jettison NI.
I’m sure you’d be far better off on your own, don’t you?

(* The dreaded Barnett Formula.)

Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

I sometimes wonder how your brain works.
I agree that Barnet formula is wrong.
But at least NI wants to be, so far, part of UK.
UK spends many tens of billions per year on supporting useless immigrants.
So while supporting NI might be expensive, at least many of them gave their lives for King and Country.
How many Muslims would do that?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Off course NI wants to be part of the ever bountiful UK (really England) as do the wretched Scotch and greedy Welsh. Who wouldn’t given our magnificent generosity?

That is also precisely the reason that Sinbad & Co are paddling across The English Channel as I type.

However I do agree with you that we are also spending far, far too much on these feckless ‘invaders’, to whom we owe NOTHING, and who will NEVER properly integrate with us! In fact how could they?

Returning to NI you maybe too young to recall that they were EXEMPT from National Service 1947-1963, because they were considered to be so very unreliable as to be regarded as absolutely worthless.

Additionally they (NI) then indulged in a revolting civil war between 1968- 1997, costing about 3,000 lives. Even now these wretches* are using the Legal system to persecute via vexatious prosecution an 80 year former Paratrooper**for an incident that occurred more than 50 years ago.

However I am mindful of the sacrifice many from NI made in WW1 & WW 2, and in particular at Thiepval Wood in 1916.
Sadly ‘their’ performance since then has been of such a low order that I for one feel it is time to ask them to leave, and make their own way in this world. In short we owe them NOTHING.

More tea Vicar?

(* Aided & abetted by the USA via NORAID.)
(** Soldier ‘F’.)

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Reply attempted at 20.27 BST, but CENSORED.
This really is too much I’m afraid.

Perhaps like me you have a personal interest in the place?

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Off course NI wants to be part of the ever bountiful UK (really England) as do the wretched Scotch and greedy Welsh. Who wouldn’t given our magnificent generosity?

That is also precisely the reason that Sinbad & Co are paddling across The English Channel as I type.

However I do agree with you that we are also spending far, far too much on these feckless ‘invaders’, to whom we owe NOTHING, and who will NEVER properly integrate with us! In fact how could they?

Returning to NI you maybe too young to recall that they were EXEMPT from National Service 1947-1963, because they were considered to be so very unreliable as to be regarded as absolutely worthless.

Additionally they (NI) then indulged in a revolting civil war between 1968- 1997, costing about 3,000 lives. Even now these wretches* are using the Legal system to persecute via vexatious prosecution an 80 year former Paratrooper**for an incident that occurred more than 50 years ago.

However I am mindful of the sacrifice many from NI made in WW1 & WW 2, and in particular at Thiepval Wood in 1916.
Sadly ‘their’ performance since then has been of such a low order that I for one feel it is time to ask them to leave, and make their own way in this world. In short we owe them NOTHING.

More tea Vicar?

(* Aided & abetted by the USA via NORAID.)
(** Soldier ‘F’.)

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Andrew F

Reply attempted at 20.27 BST, but CENSORED.
This really is too much I’m afraid.

Perhaps like me you have a personal interest in the place?

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Kevin Godwin
Kevin Godwin
11 months ago

And just for Frank’s appreciation you could have finalised your worthy response with the term ‘LOL’

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Godwin

Sorry, but I’m not familiar with that expression but I thank you just the same.

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Kevin Godwin

Sorry, but I’m not familiar with that expression but I thank you just the same.

Last edited 11 months ago by Charles Stanhope
Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

I sometimes wonder how your brain works.
I agree that Barnet formula is wrong.
But at least NI wants to be, so far, part of UK.
UK spends many tens of billions per year on supporting useless immigrants.
So while supporting NI might be expensive, at least many of them gave their lives for King and Country.
How many Muslims would do that?

Kevin Godwin
Kevin Godwin
11 months ago

And just for Frank’s appreciation you could have finalised your worthy response with the term ‘LOL’

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago
Reply to  Frank McCusker

Come of it Frank, the worst investment the UK has ever made sine the War, or at least since 1947, has been, your own comfy abode, Northern Ireland (NI)!

The subsidy dolled out to NI is simply staggering*, and even more than that to similarly dolled out to “needy” Scotland and Wales.
Yet even known it hangs like a putrefying Albatross around England’s neck, solely because ‘some of us’ are too ridiculously sentimental to get rid of it.

Having jettisoned the EU, it is time for ‘charity to begin at home’ and likewise jettison NI.
I’m sure you’d be far better off on your own, don’t you?

(* The dreaded Barnett Formula.)

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There is equally a clear economic (and social) trade-off when you focus on globalism at the expense of the local. Poorly argued.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I’m struggling to see how the line you refer to is anything other than indisputable, regardless of which side of the fence you’re on. Brexiters often argue that the economic pain is worth it because of sovereignty or whatever. I thought the article was a good hearted attempt at positivity.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
11 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Aha. I’d love to see you standing in front of investors, seeking funding for your new business. First question will be how do you intend to grow the business. From your response above, one assumes you’ll tell them that you have a fantastic new “no exports” policy, and, instead, you will focus on e.g. Bolton.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
11 months ago

In an otherwise thoughtful article, repeating this Remainer-type canard:

“It’s a sporting simulacrum for the vote to leave the European Union. But, just as with Brexit, there is a clear economic trade-off when you focus on the local rather than the global market.”

– just ruins it. Shame really, because it immediately puts the author into the category of someone unable to think beyond anti-Brexit sloganism; slogans which are patently untrue.

Last edited 11 months ago by Steve Murray
Bob Downing
Bob Downing
11 months ago

Interestingly optimistic, in an otherwise gloomy world dominated – and not improved – by lashings of money from outsiders. Here in my small southern town our local soccer club is once again doing its best to claim that it has the right to dictate how a public recreation ground should be managed – entirely for its benefit, apparently. It has periodically proclaimed itself worthy of joining the ranks of teams in rather higher leagues, only held back because it has not been given a private ground (and the cash to run it). Few residents or Councillors care much what happens, and seem in thrall to “the beautiful game”, whereas they would care were it a genuinely community-based rugby league club. We lack the sense of community, history and identity of “the north”. So good luck to them!

Last edited 11 months ago by Bob Downing
Bob Downing
Bob Downing
11 months ago

Interestingly optimistic, in an otherwise gloomy world dominated – and not improved – by lashings of money from outsiders. Here in my small southern town our local soccer club is once again doing its best to claim that it has the right to dictate how a public recreation ground should be managed – entirely for its benefit, apparently. It has periodically proclaimed itself worthy of joining the ranks of teams in rather higher leagues, only held back because it has not been given a private ground (and the cash to run it). Few residents or Councillors care much what happens, and seem in thrall to “the beautiful game”, whereas they would care were it a genuinely community-based rugby league club. We lack the sense of community, history and identity of “the north”. So good luck to them!

Last edited 11 months ago by Bob Downing
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago

It seems that the reference to Brexit was shoe-horned into this article – without any apparent justification – presumably to get clicks. Shame.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Andy White
Andy White
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Bit harsh? A lot of the traditionally Labour places that voted Leave -some even switching to Conservative in 2019 – were also the heartlands of Rugby League.

To many voters in those heartlands Brexit was a protest vote, a way to give a negative verdict on their area’s recent past and future prospects. These were the Leavers who pressed the reset button without having a clear idea about what the reset would look like. Others were more thought-out ( I heard complaints about how the Single Market kept wages low), but still voted Leave without having much hope of winning.

But negativity and hopelessness can only get you so far, you need to find some kind of positivity and self-belief just to carry on. For a lot of the Leave-voting areas in Yorks and Lancs, the local rugby clubs are the living proof that hope never died. Where community pride exists, you can do something with it That’s how I read it anyway

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Andy White

I’m with you on nearly all of that. Labour and the unions were dead set on not joining the EEC as it would reduce UK wages. This is exactly what happened. At least now the struggling communities have more of a chance of kicking out the next lot of people who “screw them over” . Supporting this principle is more important than any immediate plan – and provides hope to influence the future.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago
Reply to  Andy White

I’m with you on nearly all of that. Labour and the unions were dead set on not joining the EEC as it would reduce UK wages. This is exactly what happened. At least now the struggling communities have more of a chance of kicking out the next lot of people who “screw them over” . Supporting this principle is more important than any immediate plan – and provides hope to influence the future.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Andy White
Andy White
11 months ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Bit harsh? A lot of the traditionally Labour places that voted Leave -some even switching to Conservative in 2019 – were also the heartlands of Rugby League.

To many voters in those heartlands Brexit was a protest vote, a way to give a negative verdict on their area’s recent past and future prospects. These were the Leavers who pressed the reset button without having a clear idea about what the reset would look like. Others were more thought-out ( I heard complaints about how the Single Market kept wages low), but still voted Leave without having much hope of winning.

But negativity and hopelessness can only get you so far, you need to find some kind of positivity and self-belief just to carry on. For a lot of the Leave-voting areas in Yorks and Lancs, the local rugby clubs are the living proof that hope never died. Where community pride exists, you can do something with it That’s how I read it anyway

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
11 months ago

It seems that the reference to Brexit was shoe-horned into this article – without any apparent justification – presumably to get clicks. Shame.

Last edited 11 months ago by Ian Barton
Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

It is very interesting article, which highlights real problems in former industrial heartlands of Britain.
But reality is that without mergers the local clubs are to small to be successful or even repair toilets and showers.
So choice is between being local and poor or not local and more successful.
There is no way that small town can generate enough following to create great club.
Just look at football. What happened to Blackpool, Preston, Sheffield etc?

Andrew F
Andrew F
11 months ago

It is very interesting article, which highlights real problems in former industrial heartlands of Britain.
But reality is that without mergers the local clubs are to small to be successful or even repair toilets and showers.
So choice is between being local and poor or not local and more successful.
There is no way that small town can generate enough following to create great club.
Just look at football. What happened to Blackpool, Preston, Sheffield etc?

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
11 months ago

I enjoyed the piece, so sorry to nitpick, but “Had it not been subsidised by the British taxpayer it would have run at a significant loss” should read ” it made a significant loss that was picked up by the taxpayer”. A subtle but important distinction.

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago

In South Africa it is Rugby Union for all comers – am very thankful for that.

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

How’s the beach? And the ‘Great Whites’?

Charles Stanhope
Charles Stanhope
11 months ago

How’s the beach? And the ‘Great Whites’?

Lesley van Reenen
Lesley van Reenen
11 months ago

In South Africa it is Rugby Union for all comers – am very thankful for that.

AJ Mac
AJ Mac
11 months ago

Where is Mr. Charles Hedges among these comments? I suspect he may have ghostwritten this article!

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
9 months ago

Not sure about that, but as an outsider, it always struck me as a fantastic game – I’d watch it in preference to rugby union. Never understood why it isn’t more popular.