A statue immortalising the exploits of five Rugby League legends that will stand the test time was unveiled at Wembley Stadium today to widespread acclaim.
On the day that Rugby League celebrated its 120th birthday, and a few hours before kick-off at the 2015 Ladbrokes Challenge Cup final, Hull Kingston Rovers v Leeds Rhinos, Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP conducted the unveiling ceremony for the sport’s most ambitious and successfully delivered public work of art.
The statue, which was commissioned in association with Rugby League Cares, features five of the game’s immortals, Eric Ashton MBE, Martin Offiah MBE, Alex Murphy OBE, Gus Risman and Billy Boston MBE and stands on the Wembley Stadium concourse within sight of a statue of England football hero Bobby Moore.
The five players were selected by an extensive poll which engaged stakeholders from across the sport, including current players, former players, MPs, administrators, the media and tens of thousands of fans.
Unveiling the statue, Sports Minister Tracey Crouch MP said: “I’m absolutely delighted to be here. I have one of the best jobs in Parliament as the Minister of Sport, and this is the best thing I’ve been asked to do.
“To have a statue dedicated to five of the best and most influential people in Rugby League at Wembley Stadium is absolutely fantastic and it will be here for generations to see.”
RFL Chief Executive Nigel Wood, who has been the driving force behind the statue, said: “There’s been nothing but great support and goodwill from the people at Wembley Stadium in enabling this to happen.
“Wembley is an integral part of the sport’s history with the Challenge Cup final having being hosted here since 1929.
“Sculptor Stephen Winterburn was asked to create an image capturing what is great about Rugby League and he has done just that. The statue is exceptional.
“The statue will become a focal point for generations of fans who will come to Wembley and meet ‘at the Rugby League legends statue’. Everyone in the game should feel extremely proud.”
Melvyn Benn, Chairman of Wembley National Stadium Limited, said: “Rugby League has always been a game of the people and that so many thousands had a say on who should make the final selection is testament to the popularity of the sport, but also of these ambassadors that represented both club and country with such distinction.
“The Challenge Cup is often referred to as the ‘friendly final’ and signals a great pilgrimage from all four corners of the country. Bank Holiday weekend has become synonymous with sunshine and as a Hull KR supporter, it is a very proud day for me personally to be here for the unveiling of this statue.
“Wembley Stadium, both old and new, has been linked with this great game since 1929, and our shared histories, with some amazing encounters down the years makes it very apt to have a lasting tribute at the stadium.”