The Rugby Football League has announced the addition of Joseph Platt, the founding secretary of the Northern Union, to the game’s Roll of Honour, thus recognising the immense contribution he made to the sport’s early development, at the start of a week of celebrations leading to next Saturday’s 125th anniversary.
Platt played a key role in organising the meeting at Huddersfield’s George Hotel, on August 29, 1895, at which the Northern Rugby Football Union was born.
Originally from Royton, he had been appointed treasurer of the Oldham club in his early twenties, and continued as secretary of the Northern Union – an unpaid role, which he combined with working as managing director for Oldham’s three music-hall theatres –until stepping down as 1920.
During those first 25 years, the Northern Union was often fighting challenges to its existence, whether financial or during the Great War – but the foundations of the modern game were laid, including the reduction to 13 players per side, and the spread of the new code to Australia and New Zealand.
Platt is credited with a key quote explaining the motivation of the rugby rebels.
“We have concluded that it would be impossible to carry out the rules of the rugby union, and decided to form a new union more in touch with present-day football, and with a special view to meeting the requirements of the working man player.”
He was the last of the attendees of the foundation meeting to step down from the Northern Union council, in March 1921. He was also central to the creation of the British Playing Fields Association, which the Northern Union established to purchase pitches for local community teams.
The RFL’s Rugby League Roll of Honour recognises individuals who have made extraordinary contributions to the game across both playing and off-field service. The sport continues to celebrate the exceptional commitment and achievements of leading broadcasters and journalists, players, coaches and volunteers.
Platt’s posthumous recognition is due to be marked by a special presentation at a 125th anniversary celebration in Huddersfield’s George Square being hosted by Kirklees Council next Saturday.
He will become the 41st name on the Roll of Honour.
Jackie Reid MBE