So far in this series we’ve looked at Rovers programmes from different decades from the 1950s to the 1990s, all very interesting to read and part of Featherstone’s rich history, but none of them likely to make you rich if you happen to come across a copy somewhere. As you delve further back in time, programmes become much rarer and much more sought after. Anything printed pre World War Two inevitably fetches a very good price with some old rugby league programmes now changing hands for £1,000 or more, a figure unheard of until very recently in the collecting community. Featherstone Rovers programmes are particularly hard to find as our pre-war attendances were lower than other clubs and so the print run was also low. So, have a root around in your granddad’s attic and see if you can come up with a valuable souvenir or two.
As far as rare programmes go, today’s featured edition is a very good example, being both hard to get and also of very special significance to Featherstone Rovers. Though it would be hard to tell from a quick look at the cover, this is in fact a copy of the match programme for our 1928 Championship final against Swinton. It looks like a regular home programme of the Oldham club, because the final was played at Watersheddings and the host club, rather than the RFL, was responsible for printing. They made a good job of it though, putting together a sixteen page issue which was a decent read in an age when match programmes tended to be much thinner, perhaps just two folded sheets. The cover price of 2d may seem ridiculously cheap to us, but was probably double the normal price in 1928.
Inside, the lead article pays credit both to Swinton, who were on course for a historic “All Four Cups” season, and also to Featherstone for reaching the Championship final in just their seventh season as a senior club. Inevitably the focus on Rovers highlighted the financial hardships the club had to consistently overcome to put out a competitive team. It was noted that every single Rovers player had been signed by the club for the minimum signing-on fee of £10 at a time when other clubs could afford to pay £100 or more.
Just to show how little things change in the world of rugby league, there’s also an article questioning the playoff system, which was then a top four straight knockout; Rovers (3rd) had beaten Leeds (2nd) in the semi-final. The suggestion was that the side finishing top at the end of the regular season should be champions. It’s a debate that still rumbles on 80 odd years later!
*Many thanks to Stephen Parker for the scan of this programme.