Pat Benatmane looks into the costs of running a Rugby League club in the 1920s.

I was looking through newspaper cuttings and old Minutes Books during lockdown and came across several which chimed with the times writes Pat Benatmane. The first is from the 1929 to 1940 Finance Book and shows how the club got its priorities right in its November 1929 expenditure.

A big cost was petrol, at £2/7/6. This was when a bricklayer might earn £2 per week, and most people didn’t have a car. As far as I have read, Hunslet were still using manpower, augmented by the local horses munching, to keep the pitch clipped. What could the petrol be for? Next on the list was Brasso, at 7 1/2d.  Brasso – other metal cleaners are available – was used for polishing the trophies as well as brass letterboxes and door handles, so that was an understandable expense.

Next is soap at 2/1. They must have washed a lot to get through that much soap. I’ve never read or heard about when baths were put in at the ground. Most people in the thousands of back-to-backs went to Joseph Street baths and hired a ‘slipper bath’ to get their weekly luxury soak. Normally, it would be a tin bath in front of the fire – coal was given to every miner, so was available to most Parksiders.

Mantles at 6 shillings is next on the list. Gas mantles were small, round mesh objects which fitted over the gas flame in a gas light. So this tells us that the pavilion at Parkside was lit by gas and not electricity. Gas lights used to pop, and mantles were so delicate that the slightest touch and they would crumble to ash and you’d get a clip round the ear ‘ole for breaking it.  Soda at 4 pennies was next on the list. This must have been for washing the kit, or the tablecloths and beer towels.

Finally, Leeds City Brewery was owed almost £48 – £47/19/1 to be exact, as these accounts were – which is a massive amount of drinking to get through in one month. Could it have been a quarterly payment, or were they stocking up for Christmas parties? At only 6 pennies for a pint, that’s 978 pints, if my maths is right! And this was at a time when the Wall Street Crash had set the world on a pathway to the Great Depression and many were out of work.  Thank goodness for furlough.

With our players having to train at home for much of the last year I though James Goldthorpe’s reflections in the Dec 13 1924 Evening News on his younger brother, the great Albert Edward, were apt. “Like many other noted players Albert detested training in its now accepted sense. He could not be prevailed upon to practise running. He would play with a ball for hours but running was distasteful to him.” Well, it was December and no-one likes running into driving sleet. I wonder how many players would normally hate pre-season but this year have looked forward to it.

With all the rain we had last winter I’ve seen lots of trees brought down as their roots were washed away, and fields flooded deeper than usual. In 1917 Parkside had a similar problem where the centre of the pitch had “miniature lakes in wet weather.” 15th September, the newspaper reports that subsidence due to colliery workings is causing “serious” trouble. Not only were lakes appearing, but the open stand was in danger of collapse. “The brick columns on which the stand is based have all broken away from their foundations, and are so much out of plumb as to endanger the stability of the whole structure.” The Committee decided “The risk of accident is too great to be run…”  Crikey! It sounds like one big gust would bring the whole stand crashing down. You’ll be pleased to know that the stadium stand is still there and was built on a former quarry, using the slag heaps to fill it in – but, hey, isn’t that Broom Pit going underneath…?

Lastly, here’s a letter printed in the Yorkshire Evening News on 2nd February, 1924.

“The Hunslet team cost the officials about the same as two crack Leeds players. What Leeds wants are more working players: the Hunslet team, practically without exception, have full-time jobs apart from football. Five are mine workers; all are contented and, win or lose, the Hunslet Committee have a team of triers.” What an endorsement of the 1924 team and doesn’t the spirit just fit with the 2021 team?

Joseph Street Baths in 1915