The Merseyside Police rugby team will celebrate 60 years since their re-establishment this year.
But despite celebrating their 60th anniversary, records show origins of police rugby in Merseyside stretch as far back as the 1930s.
The team prevailed post World War II but were forced to fold in 1950 due to lack of support.
It’s argued that the resurrection of the side was initiated by the Liverpool City Police Cadets, who started playing Rugby League in 1956 before reverting to Rugby Union.
During this period, three cadets were selected to represent England Boys Youth Clubs Team (U18).
This was the catalyst that the team needed, and within no time there was a steady influx of serving policemen who were committed to play rugby.
However, it wasn’t until 1960, the 9th of April to be exact, the then called Liverpool City Police faced the Liverpool College of Building at Dwerryhouse Lane.
It’s this date that is formerly acknowledged as the year of re-establishment of police rugby in Merseyside.
Even after establishing themselves as a rugby team in the 1960s, the club had no other option but to ground hop, as it wasn’t until 1985 that Riversdale Road became the side’s recognised home venue.
Prior to securing Riversdale Road as their home ground, clubs such as Sefton, Birkenhead Park and Liverpool St Helens would offer their grounds out to the Force’s rugby team for midweek fixtures as well as important cup matches.
It’s was also during this period that the club progressed through an amalgamation in 1967 and another one later in 1974, in which they were now formally known as Merseyside Police.
Following the later amalgamation in 1974 the club had a very successful period, which saw them involved in five finals of the British Police knock-out cup competition over 10 years from 1979.
The success was finally rewarded with silverware, as the Merseyside Police RFC became National Champions in 1986 and 1988 respectively.
As a result of the multiple accolades that the team had achieved during this period, 12 officers from Merseyside were selected to represent the British Police Team.
The 1990s promised to be much of the same for the club, with members remembering this period as the pinnacle of their club’s existence before their consequential decline.
At that time Merseyside Police RFC were playing in the first division of the North West League, which was only two levels down from the National League.
But, the professionalisation of Rugby Union in 1995 consequently led to the demise of the club, with teams participating in the North West Leagues now required to travel 250 miles to fulfil a fixture.
Increasing demands alongside reduced facilities for sports, subsequently influenced the decision from removing the squad out of the ‘League’ structure to play ‘Social’ rugby in 1999.
Although, going back to ‘grassroots’ rugby was seen as a decline it allowed the committed police officers to continue to be able to play their favourite pastime.
Although the Merseyside Police rugby club returned to the ‘League’ structure back in 2004, they have yet been able to match the success from the 1980s and 90s.
They now play in the Widnes Coaches LTD Division 5 West, which has been postponed after only playing a couple of fixtures due to the Coronavirus pandemic.
It’s still unclear to when the league will be safe to resume, but Honorary Chairman of the league, Fred Swarbrick, released the following statement on the Halbro North West Leagues website.
“You’ll all be aware we have moved to stage D in the standards as set by headquarters with E and F to be met before we can start our fixtures.
“It clearly is the most difficult time and whilst there is nothing concrete, the word does seem to be that it will be at least November before we might commence playing.
“We have contingencies in place, through some hard-detailed work by our Fixture Secretary John Powell to cover all possibilities once we have the starting gun fired.”
With the government placing Liverpool under tier 3 lockdown, it’s still unclear to when any ‘grassroot’ sports will be able to return.