Liverpool_City_(rugby_league)

Liverpool City (rugby league)

Liverpool City were a professional rugby league team from the city of Liverpool in England.

History

The first Liverpool City (1906-1907)

A professional club first emerged in Liverpool, called Liverpool City, in 1906. They hold an unwanted record in the professional game in the United Kingdom as being a team who lost every game in the season. In 1906-1907 they lost 30 games - they drew one against Bramley which was expunged because the return game wasn't played and also lost to Pontefract, but that result was expunged after Pontefract withdrew from the league. At the end of that season they were replaced by two Welsh clubs, Merthyr Tydfil and Ebbw Vale.

The Liverpool City name would be resurrected by the Highfield franchise but there is no connection between the two teams.

Wigan Highfield (1880-?) and (1902-1933)

Wigan Highfield were formed around 1880 and went out of existence for a few years following the rugby schism of 1895. Despite the "Highfield" tag, Wigan Highfield played in Pemberton down the road from the Highfield Grange area of Wigan. They reformed in 1902, the club originally played in a league comprising the "A" teams of the major clubs.

In 1921—22, the club made an application for full Rugby League status, but it was decided that Tunstall Lane was not big enough. By incorporating a field, it was possible to increase the size of the ground and in the 1922—3 season the club entered the Rugby League as Wigan Highfield. Their first match was against Wigan on September 2nd 1922 at Tunstall Lane, in which Wigan beat Wigan Highfield 25-10.

Highfield generally struggled in the lower half of the league tables but in 1927-1928 they managed to finish above Wigan in 7th place on points percentage. However in their ten year existence Wigan Highfield beat Wigan only once, 9-3 at Central Park on 13th September 1930.

London Highfield (1933)

In 1933, Wigan Highfield finished second from bottom in the league and were saved by the intervention of the owners of the White City Stadium in London who agreed to pay off their debts. They moved the club to the White City Stadium and renamed the club London Highfield. London Highfield wore blue and yellow. The White City Company lost money on the venture and decided not to continue with rugby league beyond the first season despite good crowds.

Liverpool Stanley (1934-1951) and the second Liverpool City (1951-1968)

In 1934, Highfield returned north to the Stanley greyhound stadium in Liverpool and became Liverpool Stanley. Liverpool Stanley's colours were red and yellow.

In 1935/36 Stanley won the Lancashire League. During the Second World War Liverpool Stanley continued playing, but in 1942 they dropped out, returning after the war in 1945-1946.

For the start of the 1950/51 season the club moved to Mill Yard, Knotty Ash and was renamed Liverpool City.

In 1956 they hosted the touring Australian national team, losing 40-12 in front of a crowd of over 4,700.

Huyton RLFC (1969-1985)

In July 1964 the club's board were informed that the Knotty Ash lease would not be renewed and negotiations then took place with nearby Huyton local authority for a 21-year lease at the new Alt Park Ground which was eventually ready in August 1969. Alt Park was of poor standard and often suffered from vandalism.

The club continued as Huyton RLFC and struggled in the second division until 1985, when the club moved to Runcorn FC's Canal Street, Runcorn after Alt Park's main stand was declared unsafe. The club then became known as Runcorn Highfield.

Runcorn Highfield (1985-1990)

When Highfield drew Wigan at home in the John Player Trophy on 13 November 1988, the club’s supporters saw it as an ideal opportunity to persuade the people of Runcorn to come and give Highfield a try. However, the directors had the game switched to Central Park in exchange for a fee from Wigan, on the grounds that Canal Street did not have the capacity.

The players, seeing that the club would receive more money, asked for a greater share. However the directors refused, leading to a mass player strike. The team that faced Wigan comprised a number of trialists and reserves together with the coach, Bill Ashurst, who had come out of retirement. Highfield lost 92-2 in front of a crowd of 7,233 at Central Park and Ashurst was sent off after 11 minutes. The club never seemed to recover from this blow, and they went on to lose every game in the 1989/90 season, finishing eight points behind second bottom club Nottingham City.

When Runcorn Football Club increased the rent for Canal Street, Runcorn Highfield signed a 99-year agreement with St Helens Town FC in August 1990 and moved to Hoghton Road, Sutton. The move was opposed by St Helens RLFC and the Rugby League Board but approved by the full Rugby League Council by 26 votes to 6 on 5 October 1990. The club was renamed Highfield for the 1991-92 season.

Highfield (1991-1996)

In their first season Highfield finished a highly respectable fourteenth out of twenty clubs in Division Two, and reached the second round of the Challenge Cup. Two years later they managed eleventh place, above such teams as Fulham, Huddersfield, Workington Town and Keighley. However, Highfield could only manage an average attendance of 331, rising to 515 the following season.

The 1994-95 season was a disaster for Highfield. They won only two games all season - against amateurs Ovenden 12-6 in the first round of the Regal Trophy and against Barrow 14-12 in the league. They lost to amateurs Beverley 27-4 in the Challenge Cup and their final game (played at Rochdale Hornets ground on 23 April 1995) was a humiliating 104-4 defeat by Keighley Cougars. Their final home game was on 17 April 1995 when they lost 34-8 to Barrow in front of a crowd of 195. Needless to say they finished bottom of the Second Division with only two points. They conceded a grand total of 1,604 points in 30 league games.

Despite all this Highfield survived into the Super League era but fared even worse in the 1995-96 season gaining just 1 point all season (a 24-24 draw against York), their only win coming against amateurs Hemel Hempstead in the first round of the Regal Trophy. Their final game was a 82-0 defeat away at Hunslet on 21 January 1996.

Prescot Panthers (1996-7)

Highfield moved to Valerie Park in Prescot and were renamed Prescot Panthers for the start of the 1996 season. They enjoyed by their standards a comparatively successful season winning two games. They struggled on for the 1997 season again winning two games but bowed to the inevitable and resigned from the league at the end of the season. Ironically the club's final game was a 72-10 defeat by Carlisle, who were also playing their final league game. Prescot finished at the bottom for a fifth successive season.

Chairman Geoff Fletcher accepted a one-off payment of about £30,000 for the club to resign from the Rugby Football League.

Rugby league in Liverpool

Rugby league is not a major sport in Liverpool, which is dominated by soccer. However there is a Super League team in the neighbouring town of St Helens and the city has a thriving student rugby league scene. Liverpool University took part in the first university game in 1968. Today there are a number of amateur teams in the city, including Liverpool Buccaneers, who in 2006 won the regional final of the Rugby League Conference and in 2008 were elevated to the Rugby League Conference National division.

References

External links

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