From The Vaults

12 February 2024
Is a dog a spectator?

In November 1886 an unusual series of events led to special consideration being given to the question of whether a dog could be considered a spectator at a rugby match. A south coast derby between Victoria of Portsmouth and Trojans of Southampton threw up the odd question, when a stray dog was hit by the ball during a passage of play. Having seen the ball diverted, a Victoria player seized on the opportunity to gather the ball and score a try.

Trojans objected to this on the grounds that, having struck a spectator, the ball was dead and insisted that the try be disallowed. Victoria disagreed and the matter was ultimately referred to the Rugby Football Union committee.

Trojans, however, were to be disappointed. The RFU overruled their objections and the try stood. The dog in question had been reportedly 'straying' about the place and seems to have taken no active interest in the game. Presumably, therefore, it could not be described as a spectator.

Since then, Trojans seem to have recovered from their disappointment. Formed in 1874, in 2024, they will celebrate their sesquicentenary as a club.


A club cap from 1882, the oldest club cap in the World Rugby Museum's collection, will be on display in our Collector's Ephemera showcase for the duration.