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In response to falling sales, many clubs have stopped producing programmes, those once integral features of the Rugby League matchday experience that informed and entertained in equal measure
Like cigarette cards before them, programmes look to have had their day and their demise, for all the instant gratification offered by social media and the internet, leaves the sporting world somewhat poorer.
It may be that, like vinyl records, programmes will make a comeback should future generations realise their value, not least for the important part they play in telling the story of Rugby League, its clubs and the heroes who have thrilled millions of fans down the years.
Many supporters will have their own programme collection stashed away, a few hundred mini-magazines that represent a time capsule of memories uniquely important to their owner.
However, few collections are as comprehensive as that amassed by Nigel Wood, the former Rugby Football League chief executive whose passion for programmes over almost half a century shows no sign of diminishing.
Nigel, who is now chief executive of the Rugby League International Federation, has collected almost 25,000 programmes since attending his first game of Rugby League at Odsal as a small boy.
That collection now forms the basis of a National Programme Archive that is housed by Rugby League Cares at Heritage Quay, the state-of-the-art storage facility at the University of Huddersfield which is home to the sport’s wider collections.
Nigel has set himself the monumental task of collating and cataloguing all the matchday programmes from the professional arm of the sport since the Second World War, and for that matter, as many as possible pre-war.
He has so far deposited 23,000 programmes in the archive, most of which have been catalogued and are available to view online.
Nigel, who played at Colts level at Halifax and for the A-team at Bradford Northern before injury dashed his on-field dream, said: “I started collecting programmes as a boy, from all clubs, and got up to about 5-6,000 before I concluded it wasn’t a particularly cool activity for an aspiring young player to be nipping off to the club shop before heading to the dressing rooms.
“I stopped but my programmes went with me from house to house, much to the annoyance of my wife, especially when eventually the ceiling started to bow a little. By then I’d rescued plenty more from recent years that were heading for landfill after being deposited at the RFL.”
There are some important gaps in the collection, including club programmes from Batley, Dewsbury, Featherstone and the Cumbrian clubs, as well as Bramley, whose entire collection was lost to water damage.
Details of the National Rugby League Programme Archive and the sport’s official collections can be accessed by visiting heritagequay.org/archives/rfl/
Anyone who would like to donate programmes to the archive that they feel are missing from the collection should contact Stuart Sheard at email@example.com