The man in charge of rugby league visited the sport’s extensive archive at the University of Huddersfield.

Rugby Football League chief executive Tony Sutton came to the university’s Heritage Quay which is home to the archive containing thousands of items including kit, programmes, recordings, administration records, photographs, posters, memorabilia, player registers and more.

Rugby league was born in Huddersfield when rugby clubs from Yorkshire and Lancashire met in the town’s George Hotel and agreed to break away and form their own version of the sport, which subsequently became rugby league.

The sport’s archive has recently expanded thanks to a surge in interest in women’s rugby league and also hosts the Women in Rugby League collection, which includes many items generously donated by two pivotal figures in women’s rugby league, Julia Lee and Jackie Sheldon.

Julia was the first woman to referee in the men’s professional game in the 1990s while Jackie was head coach for the Great Britain Women’s Rugby League squads in 1998, 2000, 2002 and 2003.


Tony viewed a selection from the extensive archive alongside rugby league historian Tony Collins, author of Rugby League: A People’s History, and was shown some of the key items from the women’s Rugby League collection by Julia Lee. Julia has coordinated ‘The Pioneering Years’, a collection focusing on grassroots rugby.

Tony said: “I’m incredibly grateful to Julia and the staff at Heritage Quay for the time and effort they took to show me round just some of this impressive and precious collection.

“I was genuinely fascinated as I have always been a big fan of history generally but, in particular, reading first-hand documents from so long ago.

“It was wonderful to see such items related to our great game and to see what a great facility Heritage Quay is for ensuring that the history of rugby league is so well catered for so near its birthplace.”

University archivist Dr Rebecca Bowd added: “It’s a privilege to care for these important collections at the University of Huddersfield and we look forward to working closely with the Rugby Football League to ensure the history of the game continues to be preserved for generations to come.”

Written by ANDY HIRST who runs his own Yorkshire freelance journalism agency AH! PR ( specialising in press releases, blogging, website content and copywriting.