The story of Cardiff Rugby Football Club is a fascinating one. It all began in the late 19th century when rugby was just starting to be played at a high level in Wales. As the sport grew, so did the passion for it and teams were soon being formed across Wales. One such team, founded in 1876 by James Bevan from Llandaff, was known as The Welsh Wanderers FC. This team started off playing against other teams but eventually they had their own ground on Sophia Gardens (then called Corporation Ground) where they would play against members of the public who wanted to have a game with them!
In 1878, Cardiff FC played its first official game against Newport. But the team that would come to be known as The Blue and Blacks didn’t have an easy ride in those early years! In fact, there were many times when they faced serious financial difficulties or were even disbanded altogether because of lack of funds. It wasn’t until 1888 when a wealthy benefactor emerged from one of Cardiff’s leading families who donated £100 to save the club which allowed them to carry on playing rugby for another decade before folding again.
For the next four decades, it was only after World War I that things started looking up for Cardiff RFC with their league position improving year-on-year culminating in consecutive Welsh Cup wins in 1929/30 & 1930/31. This was followed by the club’s first international player on the wing, James Fuller Davies becoming a British Lion – his selection being made purely due to his performances for Cardiff.
This period of good fortunes would not last however as in 1931/32 things took another turn for the worse with the onset of “The Great Depression”. With money at such a premium many teams across Britain simply folded and this included Cardiff RFC who disbanded again in 1935. As rugby gradually became more popular after World War II it wasn’t until 1948 that there were enough people keen to resurrect Cardiff RFC once more which they did so through an amalgamation with The Glamorgan Wanderers Club who then changed their name to become The Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) Divisional.
Cardiff’s iconic home – The Arms Park has seen many developments over the years and for a period of time it was also home to both Cardiff RFC as well as The Welsh Rugby Union.
This period would be short-lived however due to new ground regulations coming into place which meant that regular rugby matches could not take place at this location anymore, with its use being limited purely for football from then on in 1951. This presented an opportunity though! With such great support right across Wales there were plenty more clubs who wanted their own grounds but they couldn’t afford them so instead they bought shares in what was the arms park.
The first club to take up the offer was Swansea, who bought their shares in 1952. Four years later Pontypool were invited to become shareholders too and they joined Cardiff, Newport and Llanelli as co-owners of this iconic ground which hosted its last international match three years ago (2015) against Australia. The Arms Park also had a restaurant that served food until it ceased trading in 1987 due to lack of funds! It might have been over 50 years since Wales Rugby Union team played at home but there’s still plenty going on here…including concerts from time to time including one that took place less than a month ago with English band Catfish & The Bottle men touring around all four countries for the second year running.
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