Tributes pour in for ‘larger-than-life’ Maurice Oldroyd who was ‘pivotal figure’ in amateur game

FORMER colleagues of Maurice Oldroyd, the former Chief Executive and Chairman of BARLA, who died last Wednesday, have hailed his contribution to the survival and growth of amateur Rugby League since the formation of BARLA in 1973, the year the amateur game broke away from the RFL.

“We send our condolences to Adam (Maurice’s son) and his family,” said the current BARLA Chair Sue Taylor.

“Maurice will be sadly missed by those he knew in this country and those, from further afield, who knew him from BARLA tours and from his time with what was then the Rugby League International Federation. He was a larger-than-life character and was a continuous attendee at BARLA board meetings until Covid curtailed them. And he always just happened to be one of the last persons to leave the BARLA offices following those meetings.”

BARLA President Spen Allison added: “I am saddened and shocked, although I knew that he was in hospital and hadn’t been well. I had gone to see him a few times, during which he talked about BARLA with pride and the tours that he had been involved with and attended.

“Maurice was only the second person to be given the honour of Patron of BARLA, following the late Tom Mitchell of Cumbria. He was a well-loved stalwart of BARLA and will be missed by the many who knew him.”

The Rugby Football League also paid tribute, stating: “Oldroyd was a key figure in the breakaway which formed BARLA in 1973, becoming its first full-time employee and remaining closely associated with it for four decades – including when community Rugby League came back under the RFL umbrella in 2003.” 

Robert Hicks, the RFL’s Director of Operations and Legal, said: “This has been such a sad week for Rugby League, after the loss of David Oxley CBE, Fred Lindop MBE and now Maurice Oldroyd.

“The sport had been guilty of failing to show sufficient respect to the amateur game, or to recognise its importance, until the formation of BARLA in 1973 – in which Maurice was such a pivotal figure.

“He remained a passionate advocate for the sport in general and BARLA in particular, and he will be fondly remembered by so many people in Rugby League and beyond.

“He took such pride when Queen Elizabeth II opened BARLA’s headquarters in Huddersfield, his home town – deserved recognition after the part he had played in breaking down the discrimination against amateur Rugby League players from rugby union, and also in promoting the development of the sport, particularly in higher education.”

Hicks added: “I have known Maurice for over 30 years and throughout that time his passion for the sport never diminished. He often would provide advice, guidance and views on many subjects but particularly the community game for which he was such an advocate. I am sure many across the entire sport share my sorrow at his passing.” 

Kelly Barrett, the RFL’s Head of Community Game Competitions, said: “I had the pleasure of working with Maurice for many years when he was Chief Executive of BARLA. Maurice worked on many of the working groups which saw the sport unify and made a significant contribution to shaping the sport at grassroots level. Maurice’s love and passion for Rugby League was unquestionable and his dedication to BARLA and what that represented never faded.”