Cardiff Council look to honour rugby league’s codebreakers

Cardiff Council are looking at ways to honour and promote their rugby league legends.

Several of rugby league’s greatest players hailed from Cardiff – many of them were black sportsmen – and they moved up north to England to further their careers. They went on to break down barriers and become rugby league legends between the 1920-70s.

Following on from the popular BBC documentary The Rugby Codebreakers, a number of groups have come forward to build on the momentum provided by the stories of Billy Boston, Jim Sullivan, Roy Francis, Colin Dixon, Johnny Freeman and Clive Sullivan.

Cardiff Council leader Huw Thomas said: “As a council we are often approached to see how the outstanding contributions made by so many of our great sportsmen and women might be celebrated.

“But what became obvious from the Codebreakers programme was how the story of rugby league has largely gone unnoticed here, and what’s really fascinating is the social and racial background behind why so many players went North.

“As we all take stock to consider the Black Lives Matter campaign and examine how Wales’ Black History is reflected in our public spaces, the story of the Codebreakers is clearly one that resonates today. Many of these incredible men were Black, and many felt they had to leave Cardiff to get an opportunity in life. They went on to become huge stars and fantastic role models, yet there is no statue or plaque in their hometown to celebrate that.

“We want to put that right, and we want to find a way to tell their stories to residents and visitors. Cardiff has always been a multi-cultural city, and that diversity needs to be celebrated. When you look at the achievements of these men it’s a crying shame that their lives aren’t celebrated openly in the city.”

Wales Rugby League chief executive Gareth Kear said: “The Welsh connection with rugby league is incredible and the many great players from Cardiff who have captured the hearts and minds of fans of the sport all across the world is something we feel hasn’t been given the credit it deserves.”

“We’d love to see the stories behind these global greats, potentially alongside those of men and women from other sports, brought more into the public domain to demonstrate how sport really can help to break down barriers in society.”

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