Grand Old Rugby – History
For years, and in some cases many, many years, over 35’s throughout Europe, have played Rugby under various names – Old Boys, Old Crocks, Golden Oldies, 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. In 1985, the World Festival was staged in London, organised by Tony Carter, Jeff Butterfield and their Team.
The first European Festival took place in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, in Holland in 1992 when Teams from 8 countries took part. The European tradition had begun thanks to 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 Golden Oldies Spirit during the Festival – on and off the field….The second, 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. 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 attracted 23 teams from 12 countries. The organisers – Swiss Gnomes under the direction of Nick Wilkinson, Bob Dean 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) from June 14-19, 2012. Directors Stefano de Rosa and Elio de Ana 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.
Grand Old Rugby has been played in Europe for many, many years, but the first EGOR Festival was in 1992.
Generally, the normal Laws or Rules of the Game apply, with some minor alterations… Unlimited Substitution, Shorter Playing Times, over vigorous Play is discouraged and at all times, the emphasis for all Players is always on – “Fun, Friendship, Fraternity and Family ” Age is shown by the colour of Shorts being worn – and over 60’s cannot be tackled !
Formally set up in 2002, 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 Grand Old Rugby Organisation is recognised as a key partner of F.I.R.A. / A.E.R. and the Official Organisation for Grand Old Rugby in Europe and we have a Link on their Website, to EGOR. www.rugbyeurope.eu
Pictured at the Rugby Europe Annual General Meeting are EGOR President – Dave McDonald – and Rugby Europe (then FIRA) President – Jean-Claude Baqué – signing the Terms of Agreement
Since then, our Membership has grown from strength to strength and at present, Grand Old Rugby is played all over Europe, with dozens of Countries involved. The Grand Old Rugby Committee, all Volunteers, represent various Countries….. Croatia, France, Germany, Israel, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, ……and Scotland !