Rugby World Cup Fever

The origin of the rules

GRM Law’s involvement with Sports Law, and particularly with Rugby Union, began as long ago as 1871 when the practice of Carleton Holmes & Son was involved in drawing up the original laws of the English Rugby Football Union. 

Research has revealed that the Rugby Football Union delegated the task of creating one agreed body of laws to three Old Rugbeians, A.E. Rutter who was then the newly elected President, E.C. Holmes and L.G. Maton.  Maton subsequently broke his leg playing rugby and so Rutter and Holmes promised to keep him supplied with tobacco and liquor while he was laid up, provided he attempted the first draft.  This he did at 12 Bedford Row in the offices of Carleton Holmes & Son of which E.C. Holmes was a partner and the son of a founder of the firm.  Carleton Holmes & Son later merged with the firm which became Simmonds Church Smiles and which remained in 12 and 13 Bedford Row until the merger with Gregory Rowcliffe Milners in 1999 and the move then to No.1. 

The basis for the laws was the game as it was originally played at Rugby School, although there were some differences, and most notably hacking and tripping were abolished.  The structure of the modern converted try was established, but the control of the game was to be entrusted to the teams’ captains who were to be the sole arbiters of all discipline – a responsibility which could produce interesting results today and a long way from TMO! 

Edward Carleton Holmes was also one of the founding members of Richmond Rugby Club.  On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, it is reported that he was strolling through the streets of London and saw a Belgian band playing.  He thought that the Belgian colours would be ideal for a rugby jersey and the Richmond colours still reflect those of the Belgian flag. 

This story was confirmed to the Partners by Harry Carleton Holmes who was Edward’s son.  He had been articled to his father but found life outside the law more interesting and was eventually sent by the family to Australia.  He returned to England and died in the 1950’s.  His Will was administered by the firm and after Harry’s death, we passed on to Richmond RFC an original club jersey, stockings and a cap which he had left amongst his possessions. 

The firm is pleased to display at its offices at 1 Bedford Row, WC1, a print of the original draft of the laws, reproduced by kind permission of the Museum of Rugby at Twickenham.