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About the Rugby League Oral History Project

Following its ground breaking relationship with the Huddersfield Giants, the University of Huddersfield has now boosted the promotion of Rugby League heritage by awarding an £85,000 grant to fund the ‘Up and Under’ oral history project, which will preserve and celebrate the sport’s rich social and cultural past in West Yorkshire.

For generations, Rugby League has provided an important focal point for many people throughout the region. The memories of fans, players, coaches, administrators and officials of the game not only provide an irreplaceable record of Rugby League’s past, but also offer a window into a vital part of the social and cultural history of West Yorkshire.

Our aim is to record the reminiscences of those who have been, and remain, part of the Rugby League community in West Yorkshire. This will not only enable their experiences to be preserved for posterity, but will also make them available to anyone with an interest in the social and cultural history of Rugby League and the places in which it is played.

In order to set up a permanent archive, we would like to interview anyone associated with professional or amateur rugby league in West Yorkshire, including supporters, players, referees, administrators and journalists.

The oral history recordings will also be made available to the public in a through:

  • A dedicated website
  • Exhibitions across the region
  • Books and CDs
  • Special radio programmes

The University recognises the important role Huddersfield has played in the history of the game and we are delighted that, along with the heritage centre at the George Hotel, such important work is being done to promote the history of Rugby League in the town where the sport was born.


Stephen Kelly – Project Director

Stephen Kelly is a sports journalist mainly covering football. He has written a number of oral histories dealing with football as well as biographies of Bill Shankly, Alex Ferguson and Kenny Dalglish. His earliest memories of rugby league are going to Odsal Stadium in 1962 to watch Huddersfield beat Wakefield in the championship playoff. He is currently the Director of the Centre for Oral History Research at the University.



Dr Peter Davies

Dr Peter Davies helped to write the ‘Up and Under’ project application bid in 2006. He is leader of the ongoing HLF-funded project, ‘The Cricketing Heritage of Calderdale and Kirklees’, at the University of Huddersfield. See



Rob Light – Project Manager

Rob Light is a life long follower of Rugby League. His first memories of the game date from the 1970s and since that time he has been a committed supporter of the Leeds club. In 2008 he successfully completed his studies for a PhD at the International School for Sport History and Culture, De Montfort Universtiy after gaining an MA at the Centre in 2002. Between 2004 and 2006 he worked as a Research Assistant on the ‘The Cricketing Heritage of Calderdale and Kirklees’, at the University of Huddersfield.


David Holmes – PhD Studentship

David Holmes was awarded a PhD studentship in rugby league when the project began in 2006. He is a former archaeologist, paratrooper and policeman. His PhD is on ethnic minorities in rugby league. In particular he is looking at the Irish and Jewish influence in the game prior to the 20th century.

Help has also been enlisted from the popular radio and television Rugby League commentator Dave Woods, who also lectures at the University, and the official RFL archivist and historian Professor Tony Collins, who recently published ‘Rugby League in Twentieth Century Britain’, his second major work on the history of the game.