Broughton club

The Broughton Rugby Union Football Club has proudly served the Salford community for over 150 years, now the volunteers are struggling to keep the club afloat.

I was contacted by Diane Smith, who’s been working for the club for over 40 years. She said the club is in desperate need of financial assistance.

To Diane, the club tucked away on Yew Street is more than just a job. For her, this club is where she spent most of her teen years and where she met the love of her life. Diane wants to tell the clubs story and its rich history in hopes of saving the club from a sour end.

Broughton club
Image of the Broughton Rugby Union Football Club on Yew Street in 2012.

Diane, from Salford, (60) admitted: “If we’re honest we are struggling to keep it open, we’ve struggled since the pandemic and it’s hit us massively.

“Years ago it was the sport that kept the club open, now it’s the function room, we rely on functions to pay our bills, to keep the doors open and it’s so sad that rugby is losing its history in a way.”

The humble rugby and football club was officially founded in 1869; however the club holds scorebooks before this from 1851 when Broughton played the legendary All England Eleven cricket team.

The old club was demolished in 1993 and the new club house was built after this in June 1994. Image date: Not specified

For the next few decades the club became the focal point (rivalling Old Trafford) for Lancashire cricket.

The club’s last ‘big’  cricket match held on the ground for over 130 years came in 1880 when Broughton played the touring Australians during their 1880 tour of England.

After purchasing Yew Street from the Clowes Estate in the 1920s, Broughton Cricket Club also added sections for hockey and tennis.

The women’s hockey team at Broughton Rugby Union Football Club.Image date: Not specified

The ground was still used for local grassroots cricket up until the early 21st century. However, cricket soon had to be stopped at the club as the cost to “upkeep the green was just not viable”, said Gordon (54), a member of the club.

Since the 1800s the club has also made significant contributions to the early development of rugby union not just in the north of England but also nationally.

The club hosted the first ever rugby match in the world that was played under floodlights in 1878. The match was played against Swinton in October that year and used two Gramme’s lights suspended from 30 feet poles.

A report in the Salford Weekly News in 1878 stated that probably “8,000 to 10,000 (people) were present” at the match when time for kick-off arrived.

A rugby match at the rugby club in Broughton. Image date: Not specified

Following Broughton’s lighting experiment, another match took place in Liverpool later that month under floodlights and very soon the practice became popular nationally.

The 1880s rugby team, Broughton Rangers, featured players of international standing including Charles Montague SawyerJohn Henry Payne, and Frank Moss.

Now, the club has seen a “massive decline” in the uptake of rugby players and for the head rugby coach, Craig, this is worrying.

Craig Barnes (42) has been involved with the club for over 27 years and sees the club as an “extension of his family”.

Craig, from Broughton, added: “When I was growing up I lived round here and it weren’t the best place to live growing up, I think I would have been in a bad situation if I didn’t find this club.

“The people I used to hang around with, if I speak to them now half of them have been inside.

“This club changed my life from the age of 15 onwards. You get a sense of belonging here; you’re not just another person in the club.”

The grounds for the Broughton Rugby Union Football Club. Date: Not specified

As the club means so much to him, it’s obviously been hard for Craig to see its decline. There were four rugby teams when Craig first started and now Craig says they’ll be “lucky” if they manage to form one.

Craig was quick to point out that rugby has also seen a decline in participation nationally.

According to the website, Statista, the share of children playing rugby union in England dropped to around eight percent during the 2022/23 school year.

The club are trying to establish a strong rugby club to return it back to its former glory but it’s hard as they are “literally self-sufficient”.

Craig added: “We get no funding from anywhere, so we struggle at every other point.

“If we didn’t have the function room we wouldn’t be here now.”

Diane also admitted that the electric bills are over £2,000 “besides everything else”.

Image of the inside of the Broughton club taken in 2024.

Diane added: “That’s why we’re struggling. We try and keep it nice but everywhere could do with a good refurb, our roof leaks.”

Gordon chimed in: “Diane’s husband’s been on that roof more times that Santa’s been on that roof.”

The group at the club have organised special fundraising nights and also set up a GoFundMe page, with a £5,000 target.

Diane said: “Funding would just give us that step that we need to get back on track.

“It would be like a reboot for us.”

Gordon added too: “Once we’ve got over this hurdle we can look at doing a lot more for the community.

“That’s what we want to do, we want to build up a good relationship with any ethnic minority within the community, everyone.”

On a side note the members did mention that their Guinness “is the best pint around”. Maybe it’s now up to the community to test that theory.

To donate to the GoFundMe page, click here.

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