In the latest issue:

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick

SurrogacyTM

Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

‘Trick Mirror’

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling

Close

Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website (www.lrb.co.uk — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.


  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.
Close

On a rugby tour of New Zealand some years ago, a friend of mine returned to his hotel room in Auckland to find two chambermaids making his bed. From the bathroom, he could overhear their conversation. There was none of the customary exchange of minutiae, no talk of boyfriends, pop music or soap operas. Instead, they were engaged in an animated discussion about the relative merits of the two scrum-halves vying for a place in the All Blacks side. One had a better pass, but the other was more mobile. It was a tough call, they agreed, before fluffing the pillows and departing, leaving no doubt that this was a country where the game was somewhat more than a game.

A touching scene at the New Zealanders’ training camp in Pretoria during the Rugby World Cup offered further evidence. Crowds of Kiwi supporters had gathered to watch a practice session and, on the sideline, stood a four-year-old boy and his mother. The child picked up a rugby ball and disappeared to a neighbouring pitch. When he returned, his mother asked: ‘Did you play rugby?’ The boy nodded. She followed this up with the enquiry that was entirely natural to her. ‘Did you win?’

Rugby Union is not the most democratic of games, as this World Cup has vividly demonstrated. Soccer has days when the world hierarchy is reversed, when Cameroon beat Argentina or Algeria defeat Germany. But rugby, with its reliance on physical attributes, has no such capacity to shock. Japan may shore up their side with the odd Tongan or Fijian but they will never compete on equal terms with the All Blacks; the Ivory Coast would probably struggle to beat an Australian side with their legs tied together. Nevertheless, when two teams are of roughly equivalent standing, victory will invariably go to the one which wants it more. That is why New Zealand almost always win at rugby and why, as the sun disappeared behind the jagged peaks of the Cape on that traumatic Sunday afternoon, Englishmen were left disoriented and bewildered.

Even Jack Rowell, the stoic manager of the England team, had his senses scattered in the wake of the All Blacks’ crushing victory in the World Cup semi-final. There were no tears or hard-luck stories as there had been when England’s footballers were beaten by Germany at the same stage of Italia ’90; Rowell was lost in awe for opponents who, when they took a 35-3 lead early in the second half, had turned it in every sense into a day of reckoning. What had made the All Blacks such a brutally effective force? Rowell was asked. His answer was remarkable, and some may say treacherous. ‘They play like a Rugby League side,’ he explained.

If the watching millions at home had scarcely believed what they had seen for the preceding 80 minutes, this comment must have caused a universal double-take. Hold on a minute. Here’s the man who stands at the summit of Rugby Union peering enviously at the lusher terrain of a code traditionally despised by the English establishment. If Rowell had admitted to cross-dressing, it would have been only slightly more surprising.

What Rowell’s assessment represented was an acknowledgment, however grudging, of something everyone lucky enough to have been born in the North of England has always believed: that Rugby League is intrinsically the better of the two codes. The handling is more proficient, the players are faster and fitter, the tackling is stronger, and just by dint of having 26 men on the field instead of 30, the play tends to be more open, encouraging the sort of vibrant attacking style with which the All Blacks demolished England. There is an almost subterranean quality to much of the action in Union and, given the raft of technical offences that can be committed when the ball is hidden under a pile of bodies, matches can often descend into little more than a fusillade of penalty kicks. True, the standard of place-kicking at the World Cup has been quite outstanding-but it’s no spectacle. And it is also difficult for a League man to be swept along by the acclaim for Jonah Lomu, the giant All Black wing who cut a swathe through England with the certainty of a combine harvester. He has a commanding physical presence and speed to burn, but he may not be quite such a phenomenon in an arena where players’ livelihoods depend on halting him in his tracks.

After this World Cup, it is generally recognised that the lines between the two rugby codes will become increasingly blurred. Exactly a century ago the miners and factory workers of the North of England opened up the divide by demanding compensation for loss of earnings and establishing a breakaway part-time professional game – though I should explain what ‘professional’ means in this context. Rugby League players do not fit in the stereotype of modern full-time sportsmen: they do not as a rule drive Mercedes convertibles, escort former topless models to fashionable nightspots and live in mock-Tudor homes. They are paid by their clubs to turn up for training two or three nights a week and get bonuses based on results. In addition to this they have full-time day jobs; most are employed in local industries and because they mix on an everyday basis with their public, they are not encouraged to betray their roots. During the miners’ strike, those players who were blacklegs were jeered by their own supporters.

Rugby Union, by contrast, has made a sacrament of its amateur status, despite revelations of under-the-counter payments and scandals over perks and bungs. Even though the idea of the true-blue amateur playing at international level now exists only in the minds of the most hardened committee men, the game’s patrician ruling classes have resisted all pressures to follow athletics, tennis and golf down a path that means players legitimately getting their hands on some of the vast amount of cash generated by their efforts.

However, the differences between the two games go beyond the question of payment. There has always been an element of class struggle in their mutual antipathy. Union has its roots in the middle-class South of England: its players are largely professional men and its administrators products of the days of empire, whereas League, born in the industrial North, is firmly working-class in its basis. Players who crossed the divide in the pursuit of riches – most of whom came from Wales, where Union has a more working-class profile – were ostracised and, in an outrageous abuse of human rights, banned from playing the amateur game again. Attitudes have softened in recent years, but, in Batley and Basingstoke as in Soweto and Stellenbosch, a generation must pass before apartheid is struck from people’s hearts as well as the statute book.

Nevertheless, the International Rugby Board – the world governing body of Rugby Union – is to meet in Paris this month, and high on the agenda is a revision of the amateur regulations. The Board may stop short of sanctioning pay-for-play, but even a body of men seemingly impervious to the shifts of the modern world now recognise the need for change. Yet while the players are agitating with growing vehemence for their share in the jackpot, and while the World Cup has demonstrated the need to keep the best players in Union by offering more tangible rewards, it is pressure from an altogether more powerful source that may demolish the edifice. This process has begun with Rupert Murdoch’s $550 million deal for Southern Hemisphere Test rights.

Rugby League has already succumbed to temptation, having sold the jerseys to Murdoch for £78 million in April. Unlike the deal which took Premier League football onto the Sky satellite channel, or the purchase of the major American football games by Murdoch’s Fox TV, the contract with Rugby League involved upsetting the entire structure of the game. The butchers, bakers and bookmakers who run the sport, dizzied by negotiating with one of the world’s most powerful men via a video link with America, fell over themselves in the rush to pocket the cash. A Super League was born; clubs would have to be merged; the season would change to the summer and, of course, it would be available only on satellite TV. A sport more familiar with muck than brass would receive an unprecedented financial injection, which would at least enable it to upgrade the dilapidated grounds that in many cases have received little more than a coat of paint since the relief of Mafeking. The world’s best players from either code could be tempted into the new Super League with greater financial inducements. The spectators would be more comfortable, the players would be better rewarded, and the clubs, most of whom have been living below the breadline for decades, would be more secure.

Trebles all round, you may think. But Murdoch has no reputation for philanthropy. In particular, the proposal that clubs would merge was greeted with a mixture of derision and despair. In Featherstone, a tiny Yorkshire mining town often characterised as a set of traffic lights on the main road between Leeds and Pontefract, they used to attach washing lines from the terraced houses to one of the outside walls of the town’s Rugby League club. There could be no more tangible symbol of the links between a community and its rugby club, and no more vivid expression of the character of the game and its importance in the social fabric of the North of England.

Rugby League has stronger links with the community than almost any other sport in the world and provides a sense of identity for towns that, through the systematic industrial pillage of the Thatcher years, have lost their main reason to exist. Featherstone, with its defunct pit winding gear standing as a sad memorial of a past long gone, is one such town. In the Murdoch master plan, Featherstone Rovers were told that they would be asked to merge with their neighbours Castleford and Wake-field to form an identikit ‘super’ club. The three towns are so close that you can cover them with a shirt button on an ordnance survey map, but the rivalries run deep and the idea that their selfhoods could be bought and sold had an arrogance that struck at the heart of supporters’ allegiances. It was this tide of rejection and anger that propelled people on to the streets of Featherstone earlier this year, just as they had marched during the miners’ strike of 1984. As a local writer and arts administrator called Ian Clayton observed, with some prescience, two years earlier: ‘What would Fev be without rugby, or Cas or Leigh or anywhere? Small grey towns that had their day, that were born from coal and died with it, like so many in the North.’

The parochialism of Rugby League is one of its strengths. The idea that its development had been stunted by the adherence to its Northern roots, and that it needed to be thrust as a new product in front of a world-wide television audience, was not likely to be received favourably in the game’s heartland, where, after all, the Luddites did most of their damage. But how many supporters – in any sport – would give up the club they cherish in return for a higher profile of the sport at large? It soon became clear that the plans to combine clubs had to be abandoned. Nevertheless, when the game re-emerges, blinking in the sunlight, next summer, it will have changed for ever. The phoney attempts at re-invention – Bradford Northern, one of the game’s greatest names over the past century, have already decided to become the Bradford Bulls – will be only part of a Murdoch marketing plan that is sure to be at odds with the sport’s heritage and traditional appeal.

In addition, the raising of the slakes and the colossal amount of money soon to be washing around have prompted some of the top League clubs to embrace full-time professionalism. Many players are unhappy about going along this road, which seems certain to lead to the game being further distanced from its roots. The possible benefit is that this may counter the domination of Wigan, the most prosperous club in the League. (Wigan have won the Challenge Cup, the biggest prize on offer, eight years in succession.) The hegemony of this one club, which had the resources to go full-time professional some years ago, is regarded as a serious fault in the present structure, yet it is naive to imagine that the Super League – which is specifically designed to ensure that the rich get richer – will correct this imbalance. further-more, all this is another example of sport being packaged for viewers rather than spectators. Sky have won widespread praise for their coverage of Rugby League so far – they have certainly taken presentation on from the days when the BBC, with the execrable Eddie Waring at the microphone, portrayed the sport as as a muddy form of morris dancing – but the fact that the Super League is to be available only to those who have a satellite dish adds the element of holding-to-ransom that is the key to Murdoch’s strategy.

The truly pernicious aspect of the deal is that, for the first time, the destiny of a game is in the hands of one paymaster. It is this development that ought to cause palpitations among the Rugby Union authorities. One of the motivations for Murdoch’s purchase of Rugby League is its suitability for the Australian market, where he is prosecuting an unholy war with Kerry Packer. If sport is to become the toy of a media mogul, then Rugby Union has plenty of bells and whistles. It is a global game with high exposure, and is particularly attractive as a property in markets in the Southern Hemisphere, where there are satellite systems to be sold and cables to be laid. So what’s to stop Murdoch or Packer, or Berlusconi or even Tony O’Reilly, marching in, brandishing chequebooks, buying up the best players and burning the rule book? The IRB is surely aware of the infidels gathering at their gates and will probably conclude that it is unrealistic to continue to stand in defiance of market forces. They must pay the players.

Rugby Union has come a long way in a short time. In 1986, the English Union was run by retired colonels and had an ex-directory number; today they have a marketing department, sponsorship agents to negotiate huge TV deals, a state-of-the-art stadium at Twickenham, and are willing to embrace all the attendant corruptions of the modern world. Unless they take the final step and abandon the principle they hold most dear, matters will be taken out of their hands. And then there is a danger of the whole thing careering out of control. The incentive to merge the two codes will be irresistible, yet maybe that’s no bad thing. A series between Great Britain’s Rugby League team and the All Blacks under hybrid rules would not only put bums on seats and dishes on gable ends but could go some way to settling the debate about the relative merits of the two codes.

In the not too distant past, such a thought would have been considered fantastic. But then so was the idea that the Berlin Wall would be demolished or that apartheid in South Africa would collapse. The Hundred Years War between Rugby Union and League is admittedly more intractable, but a tough peace may now be on the horizon.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.

Letters

Vol. 17 No. 14 · 20 July 1995

Simon Kelner’s Diary (LRB, 6 July) reminded me of a poster I saw at the Sydney Cricket Ground in May 1968, when Australia were playing France in the final of the Rugby League World Cup. It ran: ‘Sydney Young Socialists say, FRENCH TO WIN THE REVO AUSSIES TO WIN THE FOOTY’. In Oz, I remember thinking, even subversives had their priorities right, which may help to explain why out record against them at Rugby League has been so dismal ever since 1963, the year Gasnier and Co. cut us to ribbons at Wembley.

But another reason for our poor showing is, I believe, the parochialism which Kelner lauds. I share his distrust of Murdoch, whose ambition it must be to fuse the two rugby codes and create an advertiser-friendly game like gridiron. But can you really blame the ‘butchers, bakers and bookmakers’ for pocketing the cash? The days when you could whistle down a mine and come up with another McTigue or Karalius are long gone. It can be no coincidence that Australia’s supremacy dates from the Sixties, when poker machines were legalised in New South Wales and clubs like South Sydney and St George at last had the resources to match Wigan and St Helens.

Michael Barber
London SW19

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

letters@lrb.co.uk

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.