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Sporting Heroes

Between 1780 and 1901 Wales’s population soared from just 400,000 to over 2,000,000. The rapid industrialisation of the South Wales Valleys was at the centre of this population explosion. An example of this incredible growth the wooded valley of Ystradyfodwg (the Rhondda), which had just 950 inhabitants recorded in the 1851 census yet just sixty years later the 1911 census described how the Rhondda had over 153,000 souls packed into its two valleys. How then did these disparate migrants define themselves? How did they create the communities we live in today? There is of course not one single answer to these questions however I would suggest that the sporting identities they created in the teams they formed are rooted in time, place, and space. Sport helped these men and women come to an understanding of who and what they were and, in their teams, changing rooms, and the individuals who represented them offer us clear and tangible links to the communities of history and heritage.

Rhondda Cynon Taf County Borough Council’s celebrates local sporting heroes. ‘Sporting Heroes Past and Present’ commemorates historic and contemporary local sporting heroes throughout the authorities’ changing rooms. But what makes a person or group a Sporting heroes? Is the British Lion or Welsh international any more of a hero than the community champion, the longstanding committee person, the person who runs the line on a wet Saturday afternoon, or those who perform the other thankless tasks?

Funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund the project is a collaboration between Sport RCT, the History Department at USW, The Heritage Department of RCTCBC, and local communities. The project’s wider aim is centered on broadening the base of interest in the history of Welsh cultural and sporting identity in both education and with the public. Researching historic and contemporary local sporting figures connected to local authority-sporting facilities across the RCT and seeking to reconnect our sporting past with the present.

The sporting heroes were chosen public nomination and researched by students from the University of South Wales. The nominations were made in two categories: Historic sporting heroes from 1800-1999 and contemporary heroes from 2000 to the present day and they reflect individuals or groups that their communities believe best represent sport in their area.