Life behind the whistle: How the game has changed! - Ruck

Life behind the whistle: How the game has changed!

UK’s leading referee takes a step back in time to review some of the oldest known footage of Rugby union from 1930.

The team at ACME Whistles has uncovered some of the earliest footage of Rugby Union, which shows two grass roots teams in Birmingham, and includes a presentation from the owner of ACME Whistles at the time, James Clifford Hudson.

Footage courtesy of the ACME Whistles archive (copyright released for RUCK 2024)

One of the UK’s leading referees, Luke Pearce, took time out of his busy schedule to give his thoughts on how the game has changed over the years. He said:

“It’s amazing to watch this new footage – and it really goes to show how the game has changed.

“Firstly, it’s great to see the pleasure and passion that went into grass roots rugby at the time.

“I watch a lot of local rugby. I’m still heavily involved in our local clubs down here and I go and watch them as often as I can.

“Looking at the footage, the first thing that comes to mind is that it’s chaos, isn’t it.

“One thing that stands out, and still stands out today, is that players aren’t trying to hurt each other.

“They’re on the pitch to have fun and make sure the ball gets passed away and score tries.

“They’re not trying to smash each other at scrums.

“They’re not trying to put someone back 10 metres in a tackle, they’re not trying to smash a ruck.

“They’re just looking to play a physical sport, by taking care of an opposition member as well, and I think that’s one thing that struck me.

“You look back to footage from the Five Nations, or Four Nations as it used to be back in the 70s and 80s, and yes, some of it would be totally illegal now for safety reasons, but players still had a respect for each other.

“For me, the clip also opens up the debate as to what kind of games we want to watch.

“Do we want an all accurate, black and white rugby match? Or do we want to leave it a bit grey? And then if we go grey, what kind of scale of grey do we go?

“We want to make it appealing as possible to everybody for both commercial reasons, for playing and fan enjoyment reasons too.

“I personally want to sit on the sofa on a Sunday and watch a Premiership game and it to be a great advert for running rugby. And how we referee it, where we get involved and where we don’t, has quite a big bearing on how that game ends up.

“If we revert that back to that 1930s clip, if we had refereed it like we do now, I don’t think they’ll be half of that going on.

“So it’s good food for thought.”

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