Interviews

The European Clubs Championship

In 1993 six teams were invited to take part in an inaugural European Clubs Championship, not only to bring three countries together but also to try and export Rugby League to Spain. The six teams consisted of two from Russia; Tiraspol and Moscow Magicians, two from France; Carcassonne and Treize Catalan and Batley and Huddersfield. The competition was to last a fortnight with games played in France , and the final to take place in the Olympic Stadium, Barcelona to coincide with the start of the Mediterranean Games.
 
Only weeks before departure the grandiose plans crumpled as both Russian clubs pulled out due to financial difficulties, closely followed by Batley. On arrival in France, Huddersfield found themselves in the middle of a players’ strike at Carcassonne who had just five players available for their last scheduled league match because of a row over pay. This left just Huddersfield and Treize Catalan to meet in a game billed as the Coupe Europeenne de Rugby a XIII on local posters.
 
Because of the lack of preliminary games, a friendly was arranged at Stade Aime Giral, the home of Perpignan Rugby Union, against Rousillon Select. The French, mainly comprised of players from amateur team Saint Hippolyte won 26 – 10. Worse was to follow when on returning to the team bus after a reception it was found that all the kit, boots and first aid had been stolen in a robbery. Luckily the first team kit was at the team’s hotel and boots were dispatched from England within 24 hours.
 
There were nearly 100 Huddersfield supporters in the Olympic Stadium among an official attendance of 9,850 but the stadium was open for general sightseeing and there appeared to be around 2,000 specifically to watch the match. As a promotional exercise, the game was a thrilling exhibition of hard, fast and entertaining rugby, with the lead changing hands three times before Huddersfield held on for a one point victory by 23 – 22. Captain Gary Senior was presented with the Alex Angel Trophy, a ceramic and marble statuette specially made by Catalan sculptor Carlos Sainz. In the very place where Linford Christie and Sally Gunnell struck gold for Britain in 1992, a rugby league game had taken place between two teams who would meet again thirteen years later in Super League.