LOROL capped their victory in this year’s RailSport Games five-a-side final with a beautifully lofted goal from behind the halfway line – a high quality finish to what had been a hard-fought day of competition.
Teams representing companies from across the rail industry competed in the 23rd RailSport Games at Blackpool’s Stanley Park on 11 June.
LOROL wrestled the title from defending champions Lucchini Unipart Rail with a 5-3 victory in the penultimate match of the day. Lucchini had won the previous two competitions and now head to Austria to represent Great Britain on the international stage.
Both teams made it to the final with relative ease: Lucchini thumping Faiveley Transport 5-0 in the quarter finals and Northern Rail Dynamo 4-1 in the semis, while LOROL came past Merseyrail 6-3 and ScotRail 5-1.
The depth of Irish Rail’s squad showed in a competitive final for the Over 35s six-a-side competition as they beat Keolis Amey Docklands 2-1 (pictured right). Trophies for the winners and runners up were presented by Rail Media’s managing director Tom O’Connor.
Drizzly conditions in the North West presented a challenge for the cricket competition, but the sun shone through just enough to allow Thales Paddy’s Marauders to take hold of the final against Thales Tornadoes to win by just 13 runs.
Like the cricket, the rounders final was a single company affair, with RVEL’s Smack My Patch Up getting the better of Son’s of Pitchers.
The men’s badminton tournament was also keenly contested. Network Rail’s Craig Harrop won the singles event, beating Mike Koscow from London Underground. Craig was also in action with Duncan Fraser, formerly of East Coast Trains, to take the doubles’ trophy. Duncan Taylor continued the pair’s domination, winning the veterans title against Merseyrail’s Sheen Matthew. Rail Media’s Adam O’Connor and Chris Davies put in an admirable performance to finish third.
On the other side of the sports hall, Dave Fox beat Network Rail’s Darren Morgan 3-2 in the final of the table tennis. Recovering from his loss in the singles final, Darren paired up with Network Rail colleague Matt Coups to win the doubles.
Away from Stanley Park, Northern Rail’s John Pattison scored 611 pins to take the men’s Ten Pin Bowling title. The women’s competition was won by Louise Lamb from TransPennine Express. The Abellio Greater Anglia pairing of Phil Croydon and Jerry Chapter saw gold in the doubles and DB Schenker came first in the team event.
The darts tournament took place in the nearby Talbot Club. Darius Festijo, Network Rail, beat LOROL’s Steve Morris to win the men’s singles. Di Kellow, of Great Western Railway, won the women’s singles against Merseyrail’s Sally Ralston. Darren Bowell from London Midland and Steve Morris teamed up to win the men’s doubles. In the mixed doubles, husband and wife team Derek and Sally Ralston retained the title they won last year.
The individual chess tournament, held over two days, was won by Hassan Mugalu from Abellio Greater Anglia, while the team event went to a joint Abellio Greater Anglia and South West Trains, which included Hassan Mugalu, Peter Eldridge and Trevor Jones. Graham Bolt, Will Taylor and Mike Broad, Network Rail, were runners-up.
A history of sport on the railway
RailSport celebrated its 23rd birthday this year, but the history of sporting competition among railway companies goes back well over 100 years.
Records dating back to the 19th century reference the achievements of railway football teams, and a number of current professional teams can trace their roots back to the railway – even one of the largest, most successful teams in the world.
Explains research fellow at the National Railway Museum Dr Oliver Betts, ‘Although arguably the biggest impact railways had on the development of British Football
was in terms of transport, enabling away fixtures and travelling supporters, there was an active football culture in the railway companies themselves. ‘From the late 19th century onwards many of the larger railway companies encouraged their workers to participate in athletics or simply provided financial support for teams and associations already underway.
‘Some of these clubs morphed, over the years, into household names today. In 1878, for instance, the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway gave permission for men in the Carriage and Wagon Department to form a team that became known as Newton Heath LYR.
In 1902, with few ties left to the railway company, this became Manchester United.’
The arrival of professional footballers and the Football League in the late 19th century led to a decline in participation. Even so, competition among railway companies has endured. The National Railway Museum has a scrapbook compiled by the GWR Drawing Office Staff at Paddington Station from 1901 which includes
a light-hearted report of a works football match. The book also suggests that as well as football, workers competed in swimming, cycling and shooting.
Angling to kegels – Rail sport in the UK and overseas
Since the early 1990s, RailSport has been encouraging railway staff to reignite their long-held hopes of sporting glory and compete to be crowned the industry’s best.
The tournament, which since its opening weekend has welcomed thousands of competitors from around the rail industry, was established by the British Rail Staff Association, in part as a way to curb the drinking culture for which the organisation had become notorious.
BR was becoming more attuned with health and wellbeing issues and set about creating the competition, hiring a full-time RailSport manager to oversee the organisation of the event. David Franks, the current chief executive of Iarnród Éireann (Irish Rail), has been involved in RailSport since the very beginning and became its chairman in the mid-1990s at a time when privatisation cast a shadow over the future of the competition.
‘It was when the full-time resources that existed weren’t there anymore yet we still had a lot of people that were desperately keen to take part in events and particularly the international events,’ said David.
Despite this, RailSport has been held every year since, kept going by a team of loyal volunteers.
24 member countries
It’s not just the UK which hosts annual rail sport competitions. The International Railway Sports Association (USIC) – the sporting equivalent of the International Union of Railways (UIC) – comprises 24 member countries, each with their own national competitions.
USIC events, which are held every four years, bring together the best teams from around the world – although predominantly Europe – to compete internationally. It is taken very seriously: USIC, which was formed in 1947, even has its own anthem and opening ceremony.
Every two years, USIC trophies are presented to the countries that have accrued the most points in the men’s and women’s events. Points are given for participating in sports, so it’s not necessarily the best performing teams but those competing in the most events that come out on top.
David recently stepped down as president of USIC, having served the maximum two terms.
‘It’s clearly competitive and we want people to compete at the highest possible level, but it’s also an opportunity to meet colleagues from other countries and to share some cultural experience.’
As well as helping to organise the events, David has represented Great Britain in the angling. Ahead of his first USIC event in 1988, David was asked to step in and lead the team after the team manager at the time took ill and tragically passed away. Team GB went on to win the championship. The competition offers staff a rare opportunity to represent their country.
The international competitions were a chance to be paid to travel around Europe playing football, one BR veteran explained. The first year he took part, the team over-indulged on the journey and were duly thrashed. Next time around, they were well drilled, trained hard, abstained from alcoholic beverages and… suffered a similar drubbing. The quality of play was, and still is, striking.
That said, the UK has a respectable record internationally, doing particularly well in angling, golf and orienteering. Great Britain has even managed to field a competitor for the Nordic Skiing competition. The event gives rail industry staff the opportunity to compete in a wide, even obscure, variety of sports. ‘There have been things like kegels [the German version of skittles]. I mean I didn’t even know about kegels until I joined USIC,’ said David.
Health and wellbeing
David described the event’s standing in recent years as ‘cyclical’. It relies on its volunteers and support from the industry, which has been impacted by changes in franchise holders and the reclassification of Network Rail.
In other countries, like India and Russia, there is significant, consistent funding for rail sports. In the Netherlands, competitions are being held every week, said David.
But as health and wellbeing topics become more central once again, he’s finding the interest in RailSport is finding new vigour. This was demonstrated during a recent meeting with health and safety representatives. ‘It was the most enthusiastic of all the subjects from everybody that was in the room. I mean it really got the juices flowing, and I was quite impressed, surprised, actually,’ said David. ‘I started it off by saying, traditionally we would have considered safety to be staff and customer accidents and operating incidents and the like… We wouldn’t easily have recognised that actually health and wellbeing of our employees, and occupational health issues, are as important as those other things.
‘And when you get people realising that this is about looking after you not necessarily making sure we’re getting it right for customers and everything else, you suddenly get people really sit up and take notice, and sport plays a massive part in helping keep people fit.’
Information about upcoming USIC competitions can be found at www.usic-sports.org