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Stuart Pearce explains why “snobbery” has stopped rugby league growing beyond the M62

Former England football international Stuart Pearce is one of the more famous rugby league supporters in the country.

In fact, the Warrington Wolves fan recently described their home ground the Halliwell Jones Stadium as “my home, or second home” on Talksport.

The former footballer then explained how Tony Smith got him hooked on the sport of rugby league.

He said: “When I was working for the FA, so somewhere in the period of 2007 to 2013, working with the under 21s I had done my pro licence. Any time any guest speakers came on and delivered something to the coaches, if I hadn’t seen them then I’d go into the classroom and just listen to anyone who was speaking.

“There was this rugby league coach called Tony Smith speaking one day, Australian, rugby league, I thought he’d be real hard-nosed Herbert.

“I stood at the back of the room for about an hour listening to the fella talk about the process, talking about a multitude of things that I wasn’t expecting from him. He’s a fantastic speaker and I do some speaking work with him now.

“At the end of it I went up to him, and he was Warrington Wolves coach at the time, so I said to him ‘do you mind if I come and watch training?’ This was maybe 14 years ago and he said, ‘no problem at all’.

“Since then I’ve been training, got to know the directors over the years, I’ve been on pre-season tour with them. I was here in the summer doing something for the boxholders with after dinner things.

“I’ve got real connections with it, I really love the sport. it’s so incredible and so refreshing, doing  a game on a Saturday and seeing people diving and rolling around and then this place is a breath of fresh air. Rugby league is a breath of fresh air to come and watch it.

“This is just incredible.

“When I was on pre-season I did a little bit of training with the players coming back from injury, but then you see in the gym and I’m lifting lolly-sticks and they’re lifting the machines. I’m in awe of them.”

Pearce then explained how he thinks that snobbery in the south is the reason the game of rugby league hasn’t expanded beyond the M62:

“I know from the inside of it when I come to games, people are saying ‘thanks for raising the profile of our sport’. They’re so pleased that you put them on a pedestal on occasion. Day’s like today for our show to come and deliver that is brilliant.

“I grew up in the South, in London, and there’s a lot of snobbery I think. I see it like that, it’s very much an M62 belt game. The trouble is that if people actually took the time to come to a game live, or watch on the telly then all of a sudden you’d just get hooked on it. It’s just an incredible game for that.

“I’ve been coming here 14 or 15, home and away. I live just outside of London so it doesn’t matter distance wise whether I come to Warrington or go to Hull, Hull KR, Cas or Wakefield, it’s all the same distance.

“Both sets of supporters have got a nice feel about them, there’s not that angst that football has. After the game the players will go around the stadium taking pictures with the fans, the South Sea Islanders will pray in the centre of the pitch. It’s just an incredible advert for humanity, as well as sport.”

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