Saracens: Club History

With the growing success of the Club over recent years, there has been a growing interest in the Club’s origins and history.  Unfortunately, there’s no single location to find answers, so this page can serve as a link to the various sources of online information and to other published material.

On the Saracens website: http://www.saracens.com/club/history/yourclub

Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saracens_F.C.

Publications

SARACENS FC (RFU) Outline History 1876-1926  O.R.G.Williams   30th January 1926  (This link will take you to the introduction and opening chapter)

Saracens 125 Years of Rugby 1876-2001  Robert Huntley  (Saracens Ltd)

The Red and the Black: Glory and Uncertianty at Saracens Ltd, Michael Aylwin with Matt Singer  (Mainstream Publishing)

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In the beginning

SARACENS FC (RFU) Outline History 1876-1926  (introduction and opening chapter)

FOREWORD

When reading the pages of this brief outline of the history of Saracens Football Club, the reader must bear in mind that the records of the Club had been lost, and nothing was known of its origin and early years when this work was commenced.  The disclosure of such records as are contained in these pages is for the most part the result of protracted search, and thanks are due to Messrs, F.W.Dunn, C.C.Reed, H.E.Reed, A.Barton, W.R.D.Keys, J.H.Williams, T.Sawer, J.G.Brodie, A.J.Wilson, and D.McMillan, all old Saracens, for their personal reminiscences concerning the respective periods of their playing days.

It is now proved beyond dispute, however, that for fifty years the Saracens have consistently supported the Rigby Football Union in its stand against professionalism in Rugby Football, but the great difficulty with which the Saracens have always been confronted is that of a permanent and suitable ground.  Once this difficulty is removed there can be no doubt that the Saracens Club will continue for another fifty years and more, and it is to be hoped that the efforts of the Club Officials to acquire a permanent ground will meet with the support and success they deserve.

O.R.G.Williams   30th January 1926

 

SARACENS

The Saracens Football Club came into existence in 1876, when a few enthusiastic Old Boys of the Philological School, Marylebone Road (now Marylebone Grammar School), formed the club and procured a pitch on the Primrose Hill Playing Fields.  Amongst the first members were F,W.Dunn, F.Turner, H, Turner and H.Carter, all of the St George’s Bicycle Club.  The Saracens commenced unpretentiously enough, with just sufficient numbers for one fifteen, but, owing to the keen sporting spirit of its members, season upon season, the jubilee anniversary arrives with the Club placing in the field five fifteens.  The advantage of a regular nursery from which to draw its recruits has never been enjoyed, and so it is that the Club’s progress towards its present position is not an unbroken series of successes.  Indeed, its very existence was at one time seriously jeopardised, but the Saracens rallied together and preserved their Club until Dame Fortune once again smiled on them.  It is not certain whether any Saracen was awarded his international cap, but it is certain that several Saracens played in international trials.  The club, therefore, cannot boast a long list of internationals, but they have what is perhaps more important, and certainly more difficult of attainment and retention – Tradition.  The tradition of the Saracens is well known amongst metropolitan clubs, of both ancient and recent formation, and in periods when games were more often lost than won that traditional spirit remained.  Although the continuance of a club in a large measure depends upon the success of the premier side, yet this fact, whist being borne in mind, was not allowed to smother the spirit in which the game was played.  The principles laid down by Mr G.Rowland Hill and his colleagues were seriously taken to heart, and we find the Saracens treating their matches as sport, pure and simple, with the better side winning, thus ensuring their opponents’ enjoyment of the game in the same spirit as themselves during and after the period of play.  This, then, is the tradition of the Saracens.  Come what may. The true spirit of rugby football predominates over all other considerations.

The first President was Lord George Hamilton MP, but, in accord with the prevailing custom of those times, the brunt of the presidential duties fell to the Vice-President, the Rev. J.R.Diggle, who was then a curate of St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, and subsequently became the Chairman of the London School Board.  He was followed by the Rev. F.J.Jomini MA, who was also a curate at St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square.  The Club colours were a black jersey with a red star and crescent badge, white knickers and red stockings.

Details of the playing record for the first season are lacking, and it is not until the 29th December 1877, that any record of Saracens appears in the Press.  The Saracens then played and defeated the Crusaders by 1 goal (dropped by F.W.Dunn) to 4 tries (three by H.Blackburn and one by Avis).  In those days a goal was all important, as tries, although an advantage in cases of drawn games, were of little scoring value as against goals.

The Crusaders, whose ground was also on Primrose Hill Playing Fields, were the neighbours of the Saracens, and despite ancient history, were very particular friends and rivals.

In 1878 the Crusaders obtained a new ground at South Mills Fields, Pond Lane, Lower Clapton, and enjoyed a very successful season, with wins against Primrose, Portland, Buffalo, Rob Roy, Clapton and Richmond Rovers.  The Saracens also did well at Primrose Hill with 11 wins, the defeated sides being Alliance, Strollers, Victoria, Will o’the Wisp, Barbican, Bees, Rob Roy, St.George’s and Chelsea Institute.  At the end of the season a meeting was held at St. Mary’s, Bryanston Square, at which the majority of the members of both the Saracens and Crusaders Clubs were present, and an amalgamation of the two Clubs was resolved upon.  The reconstituted Club retained the name and colours of the Saracens and took over the ground of the latter.

This amalgamation proved very successful in every way, as not only was the playing strength increased to allow a second fifteen to be run, but the Club’s affairs were safely in the hands of enthusiasts, who were already experienced in the onerous duties of a club official.  The subscription was 5 shillings, with an entrance fee of 2 shillings.

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Meet Heath Harvey

Published in BizNews

The best in business and sport intersect at Saracens, the English and European rugby champions – a club with deep “Saffer” connections. Half owned by South Africans, captained by a Saffer and with half a dozen top SA players in the squad, it is the club of choice for the UK-based SA diaspora. CEO Heath Harvey inherited a club that was already on the rise and has taken it even further in the two years since replacing Edward Griffiths, best known in SA for his involvement with the 1995 World Cup winning Springboks. Harvey has personal connections with the country – was born in Johannesburg and spent his first 15 years in SA, schooled at The Ridge and Michaelhouse. In our interview in his office at the home of Saracens (Allianz Park in north London) he lifted the veil on what makes the European champion club tick, its ambitions to grow globally and provided insights into the exponential growth of rugby in the northern hemisphere. – Alec Hogg

Read the full article here: Meet Heath Harvey

 

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Allianz Park: moving in

Written on Sunday 17th Feb 2013

For long-term Saracens fans, familiar with the roller coaster experience of the earlier years of Premiership rugby, Saturday 16th Feb 2013 will be a day to remember; one of those ‘I was there…’ days that we can endlessly bore friends, family and colleagues with for years to come.  But almost exactly 4 years ago (18 Feb 2009) there was a Fan’s Forum at Vicarage Road at which a recently appointed Saracens CEO by the name of Edward Griffiths was preparing to face the questions, concerns, doubts as well as the anger of supporters coming to terms with the latest in a number of ‘new starts’ for Saracens Rugby Club.  With rumour and speculation rife about a new coaching team, an extensive cull of the playing staff, threats of a major invasion of South African players, the need to move away from Watford, and (believe it or not) considerable sympathy from our Premiership rivals for the perceived destruction of our club, it was an unsettling and unhappy time.

Move the clock on four years, and we’ve had three top 3 finishes in the Premiership, played in 2 Premiership Finals, lifted the Premiership trophy in 2010-11, won the pre-season 7s tournament in 2010, reached the Heineken Cup Quarter Finals for the second year running, reached the LV= Semi-Finals, and are currently sitting 2nd in this season’s Premiership campaign.  We set a world record club match attendance at Wembley last year, and regularly use Wembley as our second ground.  And yesterday we moved into our very own ground, with 6 of our senior squad unable to play in the match against Exeter Chiefs as they were on international duty.  Saracens’ players in international squads???? You couldn’t make it up, or could you?

It’s been a remarkable four-year journey, and yesterday represented a massive step along the way

Like moving into any new home, it might take a while to get all the fixtures and fittings to our liking, but at least we chose the right carpet!  And now, 24hrs later; there’s time to reflect and add a bit of perspective to a special day, before getting on with the job of settling down and turning Allianz Park into a Fortress!

Mini tournament underway as the Saracens squad arrives

But what an amazing day; arriving at Allianz Park for the very first Premiership game to be staged at the ground, the place was buzzing!  A mini rugby tournament was in full swing on the pitch; all around the ground, the catering facilities were offering good quality food and drink including Saracens Ale, Saracens Pies, a Juice Bar – a juice bar???.  Blue-clad Pioneers were out in force, fielding questions, showing people to their seats and assisting wherever needed.  And with the weather playing its part, it all seemed a million miles from the Vicarage Road experience.  We were treated to a cracking game of rugby with a 4 try bonus point win for Saracens, to be followed by a mass invasion of the pitch, after the players lap of honour, and then it was party time with live music in the 110metre bar.

Party Time

The question of who would be invited to our house warming party was in the hands of the Premiership Fixture Fairy, and as fate had it, the chosen opposition was Exeter Chiefs.

Phillip Briad and Gerry Kurzon exchange commemorative plaques

Few people would argue that they were not fitting visitors, not only because they are engaged in a mighty rugby journey of their own their own, but also for the fact that in the 2 years that they have been in the Premiership they have won numerous friends.  The aficionados, lurkers and trolls of the Saracens Message Board will be well aware that Exeter Chiefs and their supporters are highly regarded amongst Saracens fans, having almost swept the board in the last two End of Season surveys.  So it was with great pleasure that the SSA was able to present Phillip Briard of the Exeter Chiefs Supporters Club with a Commemorative Fez to mark their participation in an amazing day.  The Chiefs were gracious enough to return the gesture with an engraved plaque for the SSA Trophy cabinet.

Leaving the ground shortly before 7pm, and taking the short cut across the pitch (where else can you do that?), Petrus du Plessis was also crossing the pitch at the same time, and he stopped, put his bag down, and gave an impromptu coaching session to a very young lad who was trying some goal kicking at the posts in front of the North Stand.  It was a really special and humble moment with which to wrap up a very special day.  You know, there really does seem to be something special happening at Saracens.

John Trigg

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So Why Saracens? From Watford to Beijing: Malcolm Denton

Living in Oxford we live very centrally to the majority of Premiership Rugby Clubs with none apart from Newcastle, Sale and in those days Leeds being more than a 80 min drive so we had a wide choice. For years we had been following motorsport spending weekends away all over the country following the touring car circuit but we were losing our interest and it was taking up to much time. Our young son Greg had started work and no longer wanted to do every weekend away so we looked for another sport to follow. Our elder son was a keen rugby player and did some part time coaching at Abingdon Rugby Club. He wanted some help with coaching advice and wrote to all the Premiership Clubs in striking distance asking for help and yes you have guessed it Saracens were the only club to respond with an offer of help.

This was all about the time that Saracens were about to take part in the Tetley Final and Jez our elder son and Christine went to Twickenham to see the game. After that win Christine was hooked and we decided to start following Saracens with a fortnightly drive down to Watford in season. We became South Stand season ticket holders and our love affair with Rugby and Saracens started.

Following the club from 1998 meant we have seen many highs and lows and often the drive home to Oxford was in silence as yet another first half performance was eclipsed by a second half of mediocrity. Big Star names were signed and managers came and went but somehow Saracens could not develop the consistency required to challenge for the ultimate prizes of silverware at the end of the season.

The one consistent factor during this period was the friendships we were making and to this day the real gain for us following Saracens is the friendships we have made over the years, We have been invited to weddings, we have seen families grow and through friendship made at Watford we were offered a 10 day visit to Beijing to visit a fellow season ticket holder who was working in China at the time. As in the circle of life we have also lost some dear friends on the journey.

After the night of the long knives Saracens under the guidance of Brendon and Ed started a major shift in culture at the club and we are reaping the rewards with a new home, consistent results and a plan for the future. Joining the SSA seemed a natural thing to do for us as we wanted to identify ourselves as full supporters of everything the club was trying to achieve both on and off the field of play.

Whether at home or away in the UK  or Europe when you are in the SSA you are with like minded people who share knowledge and experience with ticketing, travel and good hostelries to visit for a small libation or two! But more than that included in the membership fee you are also giving something back to the club, with the annual patronage of the Sports Foundation and the player sponsorship scheme. The annual pin badge is also worn with pride. We have been so impressed with the work of the Sports Foundation we became patrons in our own right with a regular monthly donation.

A rough calculation and its 400 + round journeys from Marcham of 75 miles each way since 1998. That’s about 65,000 + miles to watch just the home games and attend events. On top of this we attend most away games including those in Europe so watching Saracens has been a real adventure.

To summarise the rugby is important but above all it’s the friends we have made on the journey that make this club so special. May we all enjoy good health and be able to follow Saracens for many seasons to come.

 

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Steve Cummins

I started going to VR some 20 ish years ago, turning up a few mins before kick off buying a program to see who was playing and leaving after the last bars of paint it black drifted off. I wore the shirt I bought from the sports shop in town, Had little idea of who ran the club, the people who I sat with or what the ‘plan’ was. I had a dream that one day we would win something. Anything. I’d even settle for two games back to back.
Wind the clock on.. I turn up hours before KO, I socialise with my friends (met through the club) I have lunch, I have a drink, I wander around saying Hi to people I know. I bump into staff players and coaches who I engage with. I watch a great team give their best, and then I discuss the game with said friends. My girls have grown up with Saracens and my friends are their friends now. Two thirds of my wedding reception were season ticket holders!

During the week I get tweets, text messages and emails from the club. I can look on various social media to find a daily missive on the actions of the Saracens. I get a monthly newsletter from the SSA I go to away games and sit with my friends in the SSA and attend events run by them. (I live an hour away) as and when I can. I know the academy players watch A games I even know the stadium announcer. I feel like I belong.

I have never had an issue with the T/O. not once. Sure they are busy sometimes but hey aren’t we all? I always get a call back always get my tickets and always have a friendly voice on the other end of the phone. Likewise the shop.

We are now a multi million pound global business. like it or not that’s the commercial reality of sport in 2017. Want to call the shots? replace Sanlam, or Bathstore or one of the other sponsors.

Turning up and sitting back waiting to be ‘reached out to’ is a fairly narrow minded approach. Meet people half way maybe? Ask parents of the kids who attend the skills club if we have improved. I know the ‘plan’ i’ve heard it first hand.

Sorry to rant but this club, our club has moved on EG was someone to kick doors down which he did. We need a steady hand for the next phase. Just because you dont see Heath picking litter or taking photos or answering a question about cider at 4am doesnt mean he is any less effective at his job.

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