Rugby League : A lifelong love

Lets get it out there : I love and I mean love Rugby League and in particular the Challenge Cup final

Its an issue that divides the nation like perhaps no other. 80% of the sporting nation has no interest, the other 20% does …. a lot.

Selling this northern sport to the London public has always been a ‘challenge’. I have been to many finals (8 I think). at one I was just in front of a couple of Londoners who concluded that it was a tough game that would never catch on.

Of course it is a near religion in Australia : something that I may touch on another time.

Anyway the reason for today’s post is that its Challenge Cup final day once again and the mighty Leeds Rhinos have just slaughtered the poor HKR Robins by 50 points to nil.

From a poster point of view its the golden thirties (yet again) that lead the way.

The competition was first held in 1897 and was traditionally played at the end of the Rugby season in April or May. In 2005 the timing of the final was changed and it now takes place in August.

Since the early twentieth century posters featuring a variety of events and pastimes have been used to encourage passengers onto the Underground, often to sporting fixtures across London. These two examples are panel posters, which were designed for display inside Underground railway carriages. Their small size made them economical to print and they could be produced in large numbers just a few weeks ahead of an event.

Wembley was built in 1923 as the new national stadium, in readiness for the Empire Exhibition that took place the following year. People flocked there by Underground to see their favourite teams and activities. The Rugby League Cup Final was first held at Wembley in 1929 and has been played there ever-since.

Created in 1930 as one of a series of event posters, the simplicity and clarity of Charles Burton’s design belies its impact. It conveys the energy and excitement of a hard-won try as a player pushes forward to ground the ball just over the touchline. The designer was known for his bold, modern imagery and the hand drawn lettering that appears in many of his posters. The Rugby League Cup Final promoted in Burton’s poster was played in front of a crowd of over 36,000. It saw Widnes win the championship by beating St Helens 10 points to 3.


Spectator sports like football and Rugby became increasingly popular during the 1930s. This second poster was created in 1933 by one of the Underground’s most successful and prolific female designers Herry Perry. Between 1928 and 1937 Perry designed 55 posters for the Underground Group and London Transport, many of which advertised sporting fixtures. Perry’s vibrant design captures the frenetic energy of a game and highlights the Underground’s capacity to bring rugby fans right into the heart of the action.


There is also I fine RL poster from the Eckersley Lombers stable which may be the subject tomorrow as Tom Eckersley has yet to get a mention in this blog and the time may well have come.

PS, if anyone has a LT Rugby League poster for sale, lets just say I’m interested.

Leave a Reply

Scroll to Top