EMOTIONAL TRIBUTES have been paid to Leeds Rhinos president Harry Jepson OBE who died yesterday, aged 96.
Jepson had a lifelong involvement in the sport, beginning as a supporter of his local club, Hunslet, in the 1920s. He went on to become one of the code’s most respected administrators, serving as secretary at Hunslet, Leeds’ football director and an inaugural member of the Rugby Football League’s board.
Equally well known as a teacher in Leeds, Jepson was last month awarded an honorary doctorate of education from Leeds Beckett University.
He attended Leeds’ most recent home game, against Hull KR earlier this month and will be remembered at Headingley on Friday when Rhinos face Salford Red Devils in the First Utility Qualifiers.
Former Leeds and Great Britain star Garry Schofield was a pupil at Clapgate School, where Jepson was deputy-head. Schofield said: “He was a great man and a great friend. If everyone in rugby league was like Mr Jepson the sport would be in a much better place. He was all about two things, discipline and respect and he will be missed world-wide. He had the respect of people in France and Australia and that tells you what he was all about.”
Remembering his school days, Schofield added: “At our school the round ball was not allowed – it was the oval ball and netball for girls. Mr Jepson had a love of rugby league and we had a special bond. He set us on the right path and his passing is very sad.”
Rhinos chief executive Gary Hetherington described Jepson as “a legend of rugby league, despite never playing the game”. He said: “Harry had a wonderful life and touched the lives of so many others. He knew people who had been involved in the game since 1895. His passing is so sad.”
Phil Caplan, acting-chairman of the Leeds Rhinos Foundation, said: “Everyone in the sport of rugby league has lost one of its finest-ever advocates and gentlemen in Harry Jepson and it is especially felt by the Leeds Rugby Foundation. Harry’s selfless work for the game was absolutely at one with our motto of aiming to ‘change lives through sport’. Few people had more influence in that respect than Harry, especially in engaging and encouraging youngsters and we hope our work reflects his outlook, disposition and a small measure of his immense contribution. He was a true friend of the foundation who was always available for advice, guidance and support and will be massively missed.”
RFL chief executive, Nigel Wood said: “Harry Jepson was one of rugby league’s national treasures.
“He had a lifelong passion for the sport and wonderful and vivid recollection of the great players and deeds of the past. He was a friend to everyone.
“Harry was warmly welcomed wherever in rugby league circles, both here and overseas, representing the very best values that this sport possesses; honesty, integrity, modesty and humility.
“In addition to a long administrative career with Hunslet and subsequently Leeds, Harry also served on the very first RFL board of directors, conducting the business of sport with distinction and impartiality.
“A school teacher by profession, he launched the careers of many players, some of whom went on to be all time greats.
“He will be remembered fondly by all those he touched.”
Man of Steel Zak Hardaker – currently on loan at Penrith Panthers – described Jepson’s death as a “massive loss”.
Rhinos captain Danny McGuire added: “He was a lovely man.
“He will be missed by everyone at the club.”
Former Rhinos captain Kevin Sinfield said: “It is sad, sad news. Harry was a true gentleman, very intelligent and with an unbelievable memory. He was a stalwart of the club and will be greatly missed.”