FOR just a tenner, Rugby League fans are being offered a “dream ticket” that will mean they spend a day mingling with some of the game’s legends and uncovering its fascinating past.
And they will have a chance to make history themselves, if they share their memories with university students who are working on a project to record the sport’s cultural heritage.
As part of the 2013 Rugby League World Cup, a Celebration Day takes place on Friday 1 November at the John Smith’s Stadium, home of the Huddersfield Giants.
Fifteen of the game’s most historic clubs, including many Super League outfits plus famous names from the Championship, will occupy executive boxes at the stadium, displaying a wide range of memorabilia from their archives. And throughout the day there will sessions featuring all-star panels of speakers, including former players such as Robbie Hunter-Paul, Bev Risman, John Atkinson, Steve Nash, Johnny Whiteley and Garry Schofield.
There will also be men who made their names in coaching, such as John Kear and Leeds Rhinos boss Gary Hetherington, plus administrators David Oxley and Harry Jepson.
The star guests will take part in discussion panels on topics such as past RL world cups and the future of the international game.
The all-day event begins at 9.30am and runs until 5pm. Tickets – which include a buffet lunch – are just £10. Organiser David Thorpe, of the Huddersfield Rugby League Heritage Project, said: “Our aim has been to make this event affordable for fans. It really is a unique opportunity to listen to and meet so many of the game’s leading names in one place.”
“For a Rugby League fan this is a dream event!” said historian Dr Rob Light, of the University of Huddersfield, who is in charge of an oral history project named Up and Under which has collected audio memories of the game from fans and players.
Much of the material was published in a book edited by Dr Light. Now the Celebration Day on 1 November provides an opportunity to add to the Up and Under archive of recordings. A team of history students will seek interviews with RL fans who attend the event, asking in particular for memories of the international game.
The University of Huddersfield’s Archives and Special Collections are home to the Rugby Football League’s official archives, and during the Celebration Day staff will mount a display of choice items from the collection. It was recently announced that the University has been awarded £1.5 million by the Heritage Lottery Fund in order to develop an all-new archive centre and it is expected that the RL collection will be a focal point.
Dr Light, who is a Research Fellow at the University, is in no doubt of the cultural and historical importance of Rugby League, a game born after a meeting at Huddersfield’s George Hotel in 1895.
“Of course the game has enormous cultural significance in the North of England, but the World Cup emphasises that we have this in common with countries such as Australia and New Zealand. We have a shared history.”
After the Celebration Day, a fund-raising dinner organised by the charity Rugby League Cares takes place at the John Smith’s Stadium. And on Saturday, 2 November, England play Ireland in the World Cup first round fixture at the stadium.