For years, and in some cases many, many years, over 35’s throughout Europe, have played Rugby under various names – Old Boys, Old Crocks, Buffties etc but the first Official World Golden Oldies Rugby Festival took place in Auckland in 1979, organised by former New Zealand Player – Tom Johnson – and they have been organised every two years since, alternating from Southern to Northern Hemisphere, by Air New Zealand. A World Committee was created to facilitate the spread of Golden Oldies Rugby….and the first were –
The European Representative on the World Golden Oldies Rugby Committee….and the man responsible for the development of Golden Oldies Rugby in Europe, was Jeff Butterfield, considered to have been one of the most gifted Centres to have played Rugby for England, who began his senior rugby career with Northampton Saints and played for
them 227 times. In addition to his duties at Northampton he also played 54 times for Yorkshire and captained them in two County Championship finals, in 1953 and 1957. Jeff Butterfield was first capped by England in 1953 against France and he played for England for 6 years, including 28 successive matches – in his final season he was captain. Butterfield became England’s most capped back, and on his watch, England won the Five Nations’ Championship four times, the Triple Crown twice and a Grand Slam. As well as playing for Northampton and England, Butterfield is celebrated for his play on the 1955 British Lions tour to South Africa where he scored tries in three of the four test matches. He later toured with the Lions in New Zealand in 1959 but here he was plagued by an injury and was unable to play in any of the matches.
The first European Festival took place in Hertogenbosch, in Holland in 1992 when Teams from 8 countries took part. The European tradition had begun thanks to the local organisers from Dutch Exiles led by David Haynes. They introduced the Battered Relic Trophy at this first ever Festival and since then, this Trophy is awarded to the Team showing the most Oldies Rugby Spirit during the Festival – on and off the field….
In David’s words: “When I was looking for a prize for the Festival I first went to look for the normal shields, plates and cups, but I did not think this was the spirit of the Festival, so I decided to look for something old and maybe chipped and damaged. I spent about 4 hours walking around the city looking at second – hand and antique shops when I came across
the can! It was just like old rugby players: it was bright, just like most of us; it had seen better days, who hasn’t; it was dented, just like many old players feel after a good hard game. Somebody tried to solder and repair the can in places and many Oldies Players have been patched up over the years…. It was in my opinion the perfect symbol for an Oldies Rugby Festival.”
The recipients of the – Battered Relic Trophy – have been …….
|1992||Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands)||SWANSEA VETERANS RFC ( Wales )|
|1994||Heidelberg (Germany)||OLD HIRELINGS R.A. ( France )|
|1996||Verona (Italy)||SWISS GNOMES ZURICH ( Switzerland )|
|1998||Aberdeen (Scotland)||CATERHAM OLD CATS ( England )|
|2000||Moscow (Russia)||Not awarded|
|2002||Split (Croatia)||GELEZINAS VILKAS ( Lithuania )|
|2004||Benidorm (Spain)||PORTO OLD GREENS ( Portugal )|
|2006||Zurich (Switzerland)<||Y GOGS ( Wales )|
|2008||Madeira (Portugal)||KING´S PEBROTS ( Spain, Catalania )|
|2010||Caernarfon ( Wales )||RHINELAND METHUSALEMS ( Germany )|
|2012||Trieste ( Italy )||I CANGRANDI ( Italy )|
|2013||Prague( Czech Republic)||LES MUSQUETS DE LA LEZE ( France )|
The second European Festival, was held in Heidelberg (Germany) in May 1994, hosted by the Rugby Union Baden – Württemberg, headed by Chairman Claus-Peter Bach, and attracted 20 teams from 12 countries. The 3rd Festival in 1996 was in Verona (Italy) where Sergio Caggia as Festival Director with his team – I Cangrandi were proud to announce
that 25 teams had visited the town of Romeo and Juliet. For the first time ever a non-European team participated – Gauteng Oldies from South Africa. The 4th Festival was in Aberdeen (Scotland), the Silver City by the Grey North Sea, where Aberdeen Strollers and Dave McDonald as the President of the Festival Organising Committee, welcomed in
September 1998, 20 teams from 10 countries. A Guest G O Ref from Australia participated. The 5th Festival in 2000 was in Moscow (Russia) was exclusively a local Russian event because no teams outside Russia took part due to extreme
weather conditions. However 12 Russian Teams participated.
The 6th Festival was held in Split (Croatia) in 2002 hosted by local veteran clubs RK Split 59 and RK Dalmatia. Director of the Organising Committee was Siniša Tartaglia. Playing all the games on only one pitch of Nada RFC in the town centre, this event attracted only 16 teams from 8 countries. The Elders of Zion (Tel Aviv, Israel) took part as the first team from the Middle East. It was at this Festival that a more formal approach was decided upon and Jeff Butterfield delegated Dave McDonald as his successor and he was made an Honorary Life President of European Golden Oldies Rugby. Sadly, only two years later, a couple a days before the start of 7th EGOR Festival, Jeff died from a heart attack on April 30th 2004, aged 74.
Saturday 6th December, 2003 was a very important day in the History of the European Golden Oldies Rugby Movement, with the acceptance of mutual Terms of Agreement, when President – Dave McDonald was invited to the Annual
Conference of F.I.R.A. / A.E.R. being held in Paris. The Agreement means that the European Golden Oldies Rugby Organisation is recognised as a key partner of F.I.R.A. / A.E.R. and the Official Organisation for Golden Oldies Rugby in Europe and we have a Link on their Website, to EGOR. www.fira-aer-rugby.com Since then, our Membership has
grown from strength to strength and at present, Oldies Rugby is played all over Europe, with dozens of Countries involved. The EGOR Committee, all Volunteers, represent various Countries….. Croatia, France,
Germany, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, ……and Scotland !
The 7th Festival in Benidorm (Spain) in 2004 was hosted by Villajoyosa Rugby Club with Director – Ignacio Davila. 31 teams from 15 countries took part this time and for the first time a team from America came to our European Festival – Ancient Aztecs (San Diego, USA) as part of their Planning ahead of staging the 15th World Air New Zealand GOR
Festival in 2005.
The 8th Festival was held in Zürich (Switzerland) in 2006 and attracted 23 teams from 12 countries. The organisers – Swiss Gnomes under the direction of Nick Wilkinson and Xavier Speckert, with the help of the Swiss Rugby Federation, hosted around 600 participants.
The 9th Festival in Madeira (Portugal) in 2008 was hosted by Porto Old Greens, managed by Miguel Vareta and José Filipe Belo and attracted 41 teams from 14 European countries and one GOR Team from Argentina – the first coming from South America.
The 10th European Festival was held in Caernarfon (Wales) when Y GOGS Directors Emrys Jones and Brian Roberts hosted the EGOR Festival in 2010 when 32 teams from 14 different nations with about 1.100 participants enjoyed Welsh hospitality and the EGOR Jubilee Festival. Argentina were again represented.
The 11th EGOR festival was held in Trieste (Italy) in June, 2012. Directors Stefano de Rosa and Elio de Anna and I TANDOOI F.V.G. Old Rugby Club were the organisers of this event in 2012. For the third time, Argentina were represented and joining them from overseas were the Golden Lions from outside Sydney !
In 2013 the 12th EGOR festival was held in Prague (Czech Republic) with the matches being played in Ricany. 31 teams took part in this event which was organized by the Old Boys Praha under the direction of their president Slavek Petras and festival organizer Andrej Hronec together with support by the city of Prague and the Czech Convention Bureau. For the first time a team from Gibraltar participated in the event.
In 2015 the 13th EGOR festival was held in San Sebastian (Spain) with the matches being played in Zubieta. 60 teams took part in this event which was organized by the Bera Bera Rugby Club and San Sebastian “OPLA”. About 1.600 participants enjoyed Basque “tapas and Rugby” in the biggest EGOR Festival to date. The 14th festival 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal.
2019, the festival was held for the second time in Split, Croatia. We now look forward to return to Verona, Italy, in 2021.