Growing up in the United Kingdom, many boys were engaged in the sport of rugby either through academic channels or in outside teams on weekends, generally run by their parents, playing in men’s unions. It left the impression that the sport was somewhat nepotistic and as the boys grew, they still associated with their former teammates and that seeped into other areas of their lives. They suffer a reputation of being a wild bunch that continued to engage in the sport even as they grew and developed their own careers.
As this was occurring, early in the 20th century, many employers recruited workers from the pool with which they were most familiar and that meant the many of their former school and team mates banned together within the confines of adult industry to continue their camaraderie. With companies filled with a group of former players, corporate teams evolved and companies established pitches, encouraging participation in the sport as a means of teambuilding and backslapping. With corporate coffers, there was ample support in developing some of the best pitches in the United Kingdom. Soon, all types of industry had established their own teams, complete with private facilities resembling men’s clubs.
Companies cited the qualities of loyalty, dedication, resilience and other rugby related qualities as the rationale for supporting the game within their institutions. As the century rolled on, the second part of it was losing the lustre of the past heyday of rugby and clubs were challenged to ensure that they had sufficient players, forcing them to open their elitist teams to outside players. Additionally, a new dynamic was emerging turning the significance of property into a lesser value than cold hard cash. Slowly the grounds and clubhouse began to hit the chopping block and many organizations began to sell off their sports facilities. Many of the major banks were the first to unload their sports grounds to developers and many other industries such as insurance and manufacturing companies soon followed. The properties went at a tidy profit, encouraging others to follow suit and those that didn’t let the ground fall into disrepair. Corporate paternalism was on the decline and all the spoils that accompanied that were no longer relevant. Many of these beautiful and ornate houses had been around since the early days of the 20th century and they were absolutely magnificent. One in particular in south London even had its own clock tower and was featured in some media properties that were developed in the area.
Overall these clubs existed primarily due to the loyalty of the childhood players themselves and their propensity to continue to support each other even in adult professional life. Rugby was their connection and in the spirit of reliving their glory days, they made the sport a part of their businesses. Tied up in the pretty bow of supporting their teammates, it may have been less than obvious to see the nepotistic bent. It’s difficult to imagine that being acceptable in modern corporate life although something similar exists in the country clubs and men’s social clubs even to this day. But paternalism is no longer in vogue and if it does exist within a company, those that support it will be rather furtive in their practice of perpetuating it. The sale of these facilities was their last bastion of pride.