As well as being the largest multinational Rugby Club in China, the Shanghai Rugby Football Club is also one of the most competitive, dynamic and social sports clubs in the country. Our top grade facilities at the SCSC are home to 3 men's teams, a women's team, a veteran's team and junior teams from 5 to 18 years old. We love our rugby full contact and full speed in 15s, 10s and 7s formats. The men and women of the SRFC compete in both Representative rugby and Social rugby, in Mainland China and all over Asia.
The SRFC Black Squad is the representational team for the SRFC. The best players from the club are selected to represent Shanghai in matches and tournaments all over Asia. The SRFC Black Squad is the current Cup Winners of the 2014 Xiamen 10s, Winners of the Ambassadors Cup (Versus the Chinese National Academy) and Runners-Up in the 2014 Kowloons 10s.
History of the SRFC
Before the Founding of the Rugby Club
Long before the SRFC was founded, rugby was played in Shanghai. The first Shanghai Football Club was founded in Shanghai on 25th November 1867. In those days, the club played what we would consider a hybrid of rugger and soccer. Regardless of whether it was rugger or soccer, when they did play the games were played on the ‘Base Ball’ Club’s field space which formed part of the interior of the race course, the present day Peoples Square.
In November 1875, five years after the first Shanghai Football Club had disbanded and six years before the second one was founded an ad-hoc game was played. This was the first match that we would recognise as being a game of rugby, although back then the game was very different from the one we play today. In the second Shanghai Football Club, there was no preference for either code, a report from 1882 stated that “If sufficient members muster, Rugby Union rules will be played, if not, then the Association game can be played”. The second Shanghai Football Club fell apart in December 1887 and the third was formed in November 1888. It lasted only thirteen months. The fourth Shanghai Football Club was created in November 1892, specifically to play rugger.
The Shanghai Rugby Football Club is Born
As noted above, by 1904, there was some friction between the adherents to the soccer and rugger codes. It was therefore to break away. On 22nd September 1904 the SRFC was born and more games were played in a surge of enthusiasm. In 1907, an important tradition began - The ‘interport fixture. The first interport game took place on the 22nd February 1907 against Tianjin. The teams met a further seven times up to 1924. Shanghai won the series by six games to two.
The Great War
In common with many men across the British Empire, the players of the Shanghai Rugby Club enthusiastically volunteered to fight in the Great War. More than forty members of the Club joined up, of whom at least eleven were killed in action. During the war, following the lead from the Rugby Football Union at Twickenham, no rugby was played in Shanghai.
Post War Rebuilding the Club
It was not until December 1920, six years after the previous game, that rugby was played again in Shanghai. Interport games resumed in 1921. The first post war interport game was against Hankow, (present day Wuhan). Shanghai travelled by boat up the river Yangtze to Hankow on eight occasions until 1935. Winning four, losing three and drawing one. Hankow never visited Shanghai. What eventually became the most important interport annual fixture and the most enthusiastically attended started in January 1924 when Shanghai travelled to Hong Kong. The teams played each other fifteen times from 1924 to 1949. Hong Kong edged the series winning eight games to Shanghai’s seven.
The Introduction of American, French and Japanese teams
As the 1920’s progressed, the US 4th Marines who were based in Shanghai learned to play rugby. Their high levels of fitness, aggression and unorthodox play ensured that they developed into formidable opposition for the best that both Shanghai and the British Service teams could throw at them. In 1926, for the first time Shanghai hosted a team from Japan. Keio University was composed entirely of Japanese students and were the best team in Japan that year. In subsequent years, several other teams from Japan visited (Meiji and Waseda Universities and the Imperial Japanese Railways). In December 1932 a Shanghai based Japanese college team called Tung Wen made their first of many appearances. A second Shanghai based Japanese team was formed in 1938, the Shanghai Nipponjin. Somewhat surprisingly, given the size of the French population in Shanghai, it was not until February 1932 that a Shanghai based French team; the Association Sportive Française was formed.
The Army and Navy Teams Take Centre Stage
As the 1930’s progressed and tensions grew in the Far East, the number of Navy and Army teams sent from the UK also increased. Teams such as the Seaforth Highlanders, the Durham Light Infantry, the Lancashire Fusiliers and the Royal Welch Fusiliers provided tough opposition and the standard of rugby played reached its peak.
The Second World War
By late 1941 things had changed. The Marines had withdrawn from Shanghai as had the British Army and Navy. At the AGM of the Club in November 1941, it was reported that “the standard of rugby in Shanghai has gradually waned”. The Club was looking towards the French Forces team and the Japanese civilian teams to do battle with. The last appearance of a SRFC team for very nearly five years was against the Japanese team Tung Wen on the 6th December 1941. Tung Wen was victorious. Two days later on the morning of 8th December the Japanese entered the International Settlement completing the invasion of Shanghai which had previously stopped at the International and French boundaries in 1937.
Post War Events
After the Second World War ended, the first rugby game played by SRFC was on 6th November 1946 against a British Navy team. Initially things looked bright. There were a lot of service teams to play against, including some from the Australian Navy. In 1948 after a break of eight years an interport fixture was played against Hong Kong, with Shanghai returning to Hong Kong to play in 1949. The original cup, the Saker Cup had been lost in the war so a new cup -the Morse Cup- was donated by HSBC’s taipan.
The End of the Club
In May 1949, Communist troops liberated Shanghai. At the AGM in November 1949 it was noted that “the club is facing one of its most difficult post war seasons”. Many civilian players had already left Shanghai and the Shanghai team’s opposition in the form of the military teams had also departed. The Club struggled on. At 2.45PM on 18th March 1950 a final game of rugby was played. The teams were the SRFC and the Club’s ‘Retired Gentleman’. At the request of the retirees the game was limited to two twenty minutes halves. The result was not recorded but we do know that hot water would be provided but the players had to bring their own towel and soap. And so, the players were able to enjoy one last communal bath before the Shanghai’s rugby lights were turned off for forty-five years.
Simon Drakeford, who plays for the present day Shanghai Rugby Football Club, has been researching the history of rugby in Shanghai for the past two years. He published a book “It’s a rough game but good sport” - The life, times and personalities of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club, in 2013. He would be delighted to hear from anybody who can add to his research on firstname.lastname@example.org
Find out about the history of our club at the website www.treatyportsport.comwhere you can find details about how to buy the book It's a Rough Game but Good Sport, the definitive history of rugby in Shanghai from 1867 to 2013.