The History of Sport Played in China's Treaty Ports

The Durham Light Infantry beat the Welch Fusiliers in January 1938 at the Racecourse ground. One of hundreds of games in the 1930s glory years.

  With more and more troops arriving in Shanghai to defend its international borders from Nationalistic Chinese or assertive Japanese, rugby in Shanghai in the 1930s flourished. In some years more than 100 games of rugby were played each season. In the 1940s as people left China fewer games were played. The game stopped completely when the Japanese invaded the International Settlements in December 1941. Rugby players in Shanghai at that time were eventually imprisoned in the internment camps around Shanghai.

  After the War, rugby resumed in 1946 but never regained its 1930s glory years. Following the Communist takeover of Shanghai in May 1949, rugby struggled on until Shanghai's last match on 18 March 1950. It would be forty-five years before foreigners played rugby in Shanghai again.

The logo of the Shanghai Rugby Football Club established in 1904. 

  The first dedicated rugby club in Shanghai was founded in 1904 when a group of players broke away from the fourth Shanghai Football Club because there was a lack of rugby games being organised. 

  Football was played in Shanghai as far back as 1867. These early games would not be recognised by modern spectators as either rugby or association football. The Football Association's recently agreed rules were widely ignored in England and the Rugby Football Union's rules were still several years away from being codified. 

  Up to the the beginning of the First World War most rugby games played were intra club games or played against visiting Navy boats. The first rugby interport fixture was played in 1907 against Tientsin. In accordance with instructions from the RFU, no club rugby was played in Shanghai during the War. 

  In the 1920s rugby really took off in Shanghai. French teams based in Shanghai became a regular fixture as did the a fine US Fourth Marines team. Interport fixtures remained the big games of the season. Inaugural matches against Hankow and Hong Kong took place in the 1920s and the first visits of teams from Japan comprising Japanese players also started in that decade.

Rugby in Shanghai