Great Britain Water Polo

Revival of oldest water polo rivalry

Scotland under pressure against England.
(Photo: Trevor Hyde)

The oldest international fixture in water polo history – England v Scotland – has been revived in the UK. And it attracted a large crowd when staged by the British League at Ponds Forge, Sheffield (11 February). England won 9-4 after rapidly building a 5-0 lead by the middle of the second period.

The first meeting of the countries was at Kensington Baths, London, on 28 July 1890, some years after a very crude version of the sport had been introduced in Great Britain in the 1870s with no printed rules.

Scotland won 4-0, which was quite an achievement because the fixture was played under English rules, which allowed the controversial practice of “ducking” an opponent. Scotland had their own rules, one of the key differences being that keepers guarded the goal by standing on the side of the pool!

​According to a contemporary report of the inaugural international, the Scots were “far smarter in playing the ball . . . in the shallow end, the Englishmen repeatedly infringed the rule prohibiting standing when playing. It is of course hard to avoid standing in the shallow end of a bath, but the leaping from the bottom at the ball was so palpable an infringement that the onlookers quickly acknowledged that the Scotch game was better than that in vogue in England.”

​Scotland also won the return fixture, played under Scottish rules in Glasgow in October 1891. It was that occasion which brought the two countries together to create an accepted set of rules, establishing that teams would comprise seven players and games would be played over two halves each of seven minutes. How the sport has changed!

The Ponds Forge fixture was part of both teams’ preparations for the Commonwealth championships in Malta in September. England scorers: Jordan Elliot (3), Rob Parker (2), Dan Paddon, Tom Curwen, Jake Vincent, Ryan Padbury. Scotland: Callum Bailey, Josh Brown, Chris Campbell, Finlay Nesbitt. For all the latest news and results from the UK, go to

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