THE HISTORY OF EGOR FESTIVALS
France was the first European country that had played oldies rugby on an organised base. Already in 1976 French veteran clubs organized their 1st National Tournament, event that after foundation of Union Francaise Ancient Rugby in 1982 took the name “UFAR National Tournament”.
Today UFAR is with over 190 clubs spread in seven Regional Committees the biggest member of European Grand Old Rugby (EGOR).
Of course Oldies Rugby was known in other European countries whose teams played occasionally “veteran games”, either on national, or international level.
For such countries and teams “the real home” was at Jeff Butterfield’s The Rugby Club of London where he, as European/United Kingdom representative of World International GOR Secretariat from New Zealand, with his wife Barbara hosted and entertained for many years not only Golden Oldies, but also rugby people from almost every corner of the world.
So there was not “a better place” where the idea of having the European Golden Oldies Rugby Festival could be born…. and really in 1985, during the 4th World ANZ Golden Oldies Rugby Festival in London, Marko Protega, the founder and captain of the Zrelo Doba, team of Yugoslav ex-internationals,that participated London Festival, had visited with his team, one October evening, Jeff in the Rugby Club of London. Jeff and Marko knew each other for a long time before and idea of having “an European Oldies event” was already discussed between them a couple of times. But this time Marko came with the proposal to stage such European Festival in town of Split – “the sport capital” of former Yugoslavia, where rugby and sports generally has very long tradition.
It took a couple of years for both for Jeff to convince international World GOR Secretariat that Split is the right place for such “Regional event”, and for Marko to prepare the bid and convince Split Sport and Tourist authorities to host European Rugby Veterans in 1992.
By the end of 1990 all decisions had been made and the preparations had begun, just after the town of Split had successfully organised European Athletic Championships.
Unfortunately in the summer of 1991 the first signs of the Civil War in Yugoslavia drew European attention. As the situation escalated it was more and more obvious that the first EGOR Festival had to be organized in some other country.
The time was short, less than a year before the Festival, and the situation was delicate….
The Dutch Exiles Rugby Football Club and their President David Haynes were ready to take over the organisation from Split and Rugby ’59 Veteran Club.
In less than 10 months David and his Exiles prepared everything for the first ever meeting of European Rugby Veterans in Hertogenbosch, June 5th – 8th 1992.
Eighteen teams from 8 countries took part….
The European tradition had begun – the Dutch Exiles introduced the Battered Relic Trophy at this first ever Festival and since then this Trophy is awarded to the team that shows at most “the Golden Oldies Spirit” during the Festival days – on and off the field….
Starting with year 1992, European Festivals have been held biannually, always in a different country.
The second one was in Heidelberg in May 1994. The organiser Rugby Union Baden-Württemberg, headed by Chairman Claus-Peter Bach and Marko Protega, as Festival Director, attracted 20 teams from 12 countries to come to Germany. For the first time ever one oldie team from Greece participated – Athens Spartans RFC, led by Ted Edward Cypiot.
The 3rd Festival in 1996 was in Verona (Italy) and was even bigger. 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 the possibility that a non-European team can participate the EGOR Festival was introduced. The honour to be that first team was given to Gauten Oldies from South Africa.
The 4th Festival was in Scotland, United Kingdom.
Aberdeen, the Silver City by the Grey North Sea, with its “Strollers” and Dave McDonald as the President of the Festival Organising Committee, welcomed in September 1998, twenty teams from 10 countries. The words of City’s motto “Bon accord” that are linked to the toast “Happy to meet. Sorry to part. Happy to meet again” were appropriate as the summary of the Scottish friendship and hospitality.
The 5th Festival in 2000 was held in Moscow (Russia) but unfortunately without the participation of teams from western Europe.
6th Festival was held in Split (Croatia) in 2002, exactly 10 years after the attempt of Split Rugby Veterans to stage the first ever European festival.
Playing all the games on only one pitch of Nada RFC in the very town centre, this event attracted only 16 teams from 8 countries.
The Elders of Zion (Tel Aviv, Israel) with team manager Edwin Freedman, now EGOR Committee member, took part for the first time at one GOR event.
The 7th Festival in Benidorm (Spain) was hosted by Villajoyosa Rugby Club.
This was the biggest ever European Festival with 31 teams from 15 countries.
Ancient Aztecs (San Diego) that organized 15th World ANZ GOR Festival in 2005 took part as the non – European guest team.
8th Festival held in June 2006 in Zurich (Switzerland) attracted 23 teams from 12 countries. The organisers Swiss Gnomes, one of the very experienced oldie teams, with the help of Swiss Rugby Federation, had given “full enjoyment” to around 600 participants…..
Norway Vikings (Oslo) took, for the first time ever, part in a EGOR Festival.
9th Festival in Madeira (Portugal) was organized by the Porto Old Greens
Rugby as a sport has gained too, Madeira Sea Wolves(Funchal),formed specially for this European festival, has developed as the only rugby club among Atlantic ocean islands.
The organisation of the 10th European Festival was given to the United Kingdom for the second time after 1998, when in Scotland (Aberdeen) the fourth EGOR Festival took place.
YGOGS (Caernarfon, Wales, United Kingdom) hosted the EGOR Festival 2010, June 10th – 13th. 32 teams from 14 different nations with about 1.100 participants enjoyed Welsh hospitality.
The 11th EGOR Festival was held in Trieste (Italy) from June 14th – 19th, 2012.
The Italians hosted again a European Festival after 1996 when the 3rd EGOR Festival was organised in Verona by I Cangrandi Old Rugby Club. I TANDIO F.V.G. Old Rugby Club were the organisers of this prestigous European event.
The 12th EGOR Festival was held in Prague (Czech Republic) from June 13th – 16th, 2013 with 31 teams participating. It was the first time that the festival was held in Central Europe and saw several new participants such as the Bay Bucaneers from Gibraltar.
The 13th EGOR festival took place in San Sebastian (Spain) on June 11th – 14th, 2015, with 60 teams participating- More than 1500 participants enjoyed the Basque hospitality, including visiting teams from Argentina and Australia.The festival was organized by Bera Bera RT. For a Review of the Festival, www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgIWEl11rYs
In 2017, the 14th EGOR festival was held in Lisbon, Portugal. After the visit to Madeira in 1996, this was the first time that the EGOR festival was held on the Portuguese mainland.
Information about the future Events is available via E-Mail to EGOR Secretary Matthias Schenker.
EGOR wishes to advise all Festival participants that they are responsible for their own insurance coverage. EGOR does not provide any insurance coverage, medical or otherwise, for participants or accompanying guests.