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The 1960s

The decade began with one hundred and eleven clubs listed in the County handbook as affiliated members. Eleven of the clubs were RAF Bases that in 1960 were mainly playing fixtures against other Bases on a Wednesday afternoon. Most of the RAF Bases had one or two fixtures against club teams often at the beginning or end of the season.

There were also fourteen colleges or universities listed as affiliated members with many of those institutions continuing to play the majority of their fixtures on a Saturday afternoon against club teams. However, most of the colleges or universities were also be able to turn out a team on a Wednesday afternoon playing fixtures mainly against other colleges or universities. There were a number of police teams that played regular fixtures on Wednesday afternoons and two Army bases that were also listed but hadn’t published a fixture list in time for it to be included in the 1960/61 handbook.

At the beginning of the 1960/61 season seven clubs had under 18 colts teams playing regular fixtures with some of those clubs also publishing fixtures for a senior colts team made up of under 21 players. Prior to 1960 one or two clubs had established colts teams  but the increase to seven in 1960/61 began a trend that resulted in twenty seven clubs fielding colts teams by the end of the decade. The growth of colts rugby was presumably an attempt by some clubs to address concerns regarding player recruitment. Many of the colts teams would play fixtures against school first fifteens as well as other colts teams. In 1961 Yorkshire County began playing County colts fixtures against other Northern counties. The first fixture for Yorkshire Colts was at Harrogate against Durham. Yorkshire won the game by 11 points to 8.

Some of the clubs that didn’t field colts teams were fielding three or four teams every week. The third and fourth teams gave a taste of adult rugby to young players who were able to learn about the game from the experienced older players who wanted to continue to play every week but had dropped down to the Extra ‘A’, ‘B’ or in some cases ‘C’ team. By the end of the decade seventy clubs were turning out three teams or more with some of the senior clubs such as Headingley, Harrogate and Otley regularly fielding five and in some cases six teams every week. Some clubs were also  able to turn out a team on a Wednesday afternoon, Roundhay and York both had a team that played regular fixtures while a few other clubs turned out an occasional Wednesday team. In Halifax there was a District team, based at Old Crossleyans, which played on a Wednesday and had a full fixture list.

It is unlikely that participation figures were recorded in the 1960s but if they had been it seems reasonable to assume, from the number of teams playing every week, that the 1960s must have been a ‘golden age’ for rugby participation in Yorkshire.

There were some new clubs that appeared in the 1960s Adwick le Street, Armthorpe Rovers, Dinnington Old Boys, Everthorpe and Wensleydale were all clubs that were formed in the mid to late 1960s but  unfortunately only Dinnington and Wensleydale are still in existence today.

An important event in the majority of club fixture lists was the annual sevens. The rules allowed sevens competitions to be organized either at the beginning or the end of the season. Bridlington, Sheffield Tigers and Yarnbury all held highly successful annual events at the end of the season. Whitby, in those days affiliated to Yorkshire County and playing mainly Yorkshire clubs held their sevens at the beginning of the season. Some of the stronger Yorkshire clubs often entered sevens competitions outside the County such as the ones hosted by the Northern and Manchester clubs.

In the 1960s the majority of clubs planned to play at least thirty games a season and expected to play fixtures on Christmas Eve or Boxing Day. If Boxing Day fell on a weekday, then many clubs would organize fixtures for all their teams. These holiday games, usually local derbies, were often a highlight of the season.

There was a clearing house for fixtures in operation throughout the 1960s. Clubs were able to contact the clearing house if they had a gap in their fixture list and the clearing house secretary would, in most cases, be able arrange a fixture to fill the gap. In the 1960s it was very unusual for any club to be without a fixture at the weekend.

Clubs continued to develop their grounds and clubhouses. A club fielding three, four or five teams needed more than one pitch and also changing rooms to cater for the additional teams. By 1969 the majority of clubs had their own club house; the clubs that didn’t have their own facilities were beginning to find it difficult to improve their fixture list. Potential opponents were reluctant to travel to a club that changed at a school, played on a school or park pitch and used a local hotel or public house for after match refreshments.

Towards the end of the decade the idea was first raised that clubs should be organized into Leagues. Three Northern clubs Manchester, Headingley and Liverpool proposed that there should be a twelve club Northern League and although nothing came of the proposal changes were coming.

Headingley, one of the clubs that proposed a Northern League, had a very impressive fixture list in 1969/70 they were playing many of the leading clubs in the Country.