History of the RFL and Rugby League

History of the RFL and Rugby League

Rugby League has deep roots and history in the United Kingdom, France, Australia and New Zealand. The RFL started in 1895 and has since evolved into a sport played in more than 60 countries globally.

In late Victorian Britain, Rugby was the dominant code of ‘football’ and exclusively a game played by amateurs. Players were unpaid, which people began to realize would restrict its ability to grow.

On August 29, 1895, 22 major clubs from the north of England met and voted to break away from the Rugby Football Union and form their own competition that allowed for payments to players in lieu of taking time off of work to play. From this, The RFL and the sport of Rugby League were born.

The new RFL clubs began to embrace rule changes designed to make the game more attractive to fans. The number of players was reduced from 15 to 13 to encourage open play, line-outs were dropped to reduce delays, the scoring system was adapted to put more emphasis on scoring tries rather than kicking goals and the rules around possession were re-written to create the ‘play-the-ball’ system that operates to this day, and a tackle or “down” system was introduced.

Over the past decade the sport has experienced exponential growth in North America. It is currently estimated that over 220 million people play Rugby globally across all codes.