The modern sport of Rugby League that is played throughout the world today has its origins in late 19th century England. A group of clubs based in the north of the country which participated in the one unified rugby code of the time broke away from their governing body to form their own competition. Their motivation was the desire to offer fair compensation to their players for the time off work that was required by playing in Saturday matches. That was a practice outlawed at the time by the then Rugby Football Union and this social phenomenon was the catalyst for a true sporting revolution.
From this point onwards, the game began to evolve via a series of radical and innovative structural changes and changes to on-field rules until it grew into the vibrant and exciting modern sport we know today.
The following is a list of the key dates in the history of Rugby League:
1895 On 29th August 1895, the game that is Rugby League today, began when 21 clubs based in the north of England broke away from English Rugby Union’s governing body and formed their own competition. The breakaway was caused by the northern clubs desire to pay players which was outlawed at the time in Rugby Union.
1897 Batley win the first ever Challenge Cup Final. The ‘line-out’ was abolished. All goals become worth two points.
1902 Two division structure introduced for clubs
1906 Thirteen-a-side introduced alongside the game’s distinctive play-the-ball movement.
1907 First Rugby League tour of the UK by an overseas team – The tour party were New Zealand Union players who had switched and were dubbed the ‘All Golds’ by hostile section of the Kiwi media for their supposed mercenary motivation.
1908 Rugby League was played in Australia and New Zealand for the first time.
1929 Wembley stages first Challenge Cup Final.
1933 France stages its first Rugby League match. An exhibition match between England and Australia.
1948 First televised Rugby League match – Challenge Cup Final at Wembley.
Rugby League’s International Board was formed.
1954 Rugby League stages its first ever World Cup tournament. Great Britain defeat France 16-12 in the final in Paris.
1969 Substitutes allowed at any time during game.
1972 Introduction of the six tackle rule plus timekeepers with hooter / siren at the end of the game.
1981 Fulham Rugby League club formed. They then become London Crusaders, London Broncos and finally Harlequins RL.
1983 Sin Bin introduced for on-field offences.
1991 Academy Under 18 League introduced.
1992 10-metre rule introduced.
1996 Super League is introduced. The sport moves to a summer season.Video replays introduced to assist referees with try scoring decisions.Clubs in the top division become professional with full time coaches and playing squads.Squad numbers introduced for Super League players.
1998 An end of season play-off and Grand Final system introduced to decide Super League Championship.Super League goes on the road playing League matches in Cardiff, Swansea, Gateshead and Northampton.The inaugural Grand Final staged at Old Trafford attracts almost 44,000.
1999 Last Challenge Cup Final to be played at Wembley prior to re-building.
2000World Club Challenge re-introduced at the start of the season.Rugby League World Cup staged in UK
2006 Great Britain stage first extended overseas tour for more than a decade.
2007 Millennium Magic Event introduced - a full round of Super League matches staged over one weekend in Cardiff. Challenge Cup Final returns to the new Wembley Stadium. Catalans Dragons and St Helens contest the first final here. Great Britain win first Test Series for 14 years defeating New Zealand three Test to nil.
2008 Great Britain team to separate into England, Wales, Scotland and Irealand to boost international development and to compete in 2008 World Cup.