Rugby league in Scotland
|Rugby league in Scotland|
|Governing body||Scotland Rugby League|
Rugby league is a comparatively minor sport in Scotland, dwarfed by the popularity of association football, and to a lesser extent sports such as rugby union, curling, ice hockey and shinty. With the introduction of rugby league into a small number schools and the formation of youth rugby league in Scotland it has seen juniors being signed to Super League clubs.
In 1895, there was a schism within the game of rugby in neighbouring England which saw the sport of rugby divided. Rugby union remained amateur and rugby league permitted payments to players. However, no such split took place in Scotland where the clubs continued to play rugby union. 14 Scottish players would cross over and play rugby league in England before amateurism was abandoned.
The history of rugby league in Scotland goes back to 1909 when the touring Australian team drew 17–17 with a Northern Rugby Football Union representative side at Celtic Park, Glasgow. A further match against the Australians followed at Tynecastle, Edinburgh in 1911, again an 11–11 tie. After this the Rugby Football League largely gave up on expansion north of the border.
Nonetheless, a number of Scottish rugby union players, particularly from the Border region, moved south to play for English clubs. The numbers were not nearly so great as with Welsh players (see Rugby league in Wales), and a Scottish national team was never seriously considered, though Scots did feature for Other Nationalities and were eligible for Great Britain .
In 1989, a Scotland students side was formed at the University of Aberdeen, and this proved to be the catalyst for the formation of a number of other clubs. The national team first played in 1995, and a domestic league followed in 1997.
In 2000 and 2002 the Rugby League Challenge Cup Final was held at Murrayfield in Edinburgh, the home of the Scottish Rugby Union. In 2000 Bradford Bulls defeated Leeds Rhinos 24–18, and in 2002 Wigan Warriors beat St. Helens 21–12. Both ties were played in front of over 60,000 spectators, by far the biggest rugby league events ever held in Scotland.
In recent years the RFL have established a semi-autonomous section for Scotland, the Scotland Rugby League.
The Saltire Schools Cup is a nationwide Scottish schools competition for boys and girls from S1–S4 school age groups. The National Youth League is competed for at under-17 and under-15 level.
Rugby league is a growing sport in Scotland, attracting increased interest. In addition to the four clubs in the Scottish National League, there are a small number of other clubs. The majority of the clubs are based in and around Glasgow, and Glasgow City Council provide funding for junior teams.
There are two weekly rugby league newspapers, Rugby Leaguer & League Express and League Weekly, and two monthly magazines, Rugby League World and Thirteen Magazine. These cover the sport worldwide and across the UK. These publications are usually only available by subscription in Scotland.
BBC Sport own the rights to broadcast a highlights package called the Super League Show which was first broadcast in Scotland in 2008. Prior to this it had only been broadcast in the North of England. Rugby League Raw is not broadcast in Scotland despite the BBC owning the rights to do so. The BBC covers the Rugby League Challenge Cup from the rounds in which the top clubs enter.
Sky has the rights to show live Super League games; one or two live matches are broadcast often fronted by Mike Stephenson and Eddie Hemmings. Sky also hold the rights to show the Rugby League Tri-Nations live, whilst highlights are shown on BBC Sport. Australia's National Rugby League and State of Origin were shown until 2005-06 season when Setanta Sports outbid Sky for the rights.
The national team
There are two Scottish teams selected: Scotland and Scotland A. The Scotland team is predominantly second-generation professional players, born and bred in England, whereas the Scotland A team (nicknamed "the Bravehearts") is selected from the domestic Scottish competition.
A number of Scots have played at the highest level – Super League or equivalent – in UK club competition. These include:
- Dave Valentine – the first man to lift the Rugby League World Cup in 1954.
- George Fairbairn
- George Graham
- Billy McGinty (Wigan)
- Alan Tait
- "Scotland". rlwc2013.com. Rugby League International Federation. Retrieved 22 September 2013.
- "Super League Show to get repeat". BBC Sport. 2008-02-11. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
- Beattie, John (27 October 1998). "Union of disciplines can be good for all Scottish rugby". Glasgow: The Herald. Retrieved 9 December 2014.