The first organized football club in Western Canada was the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club, later the Winnipeg Football Club, a forerunner of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers which was founded in 1879. At the time the sport was generally called rugby or rugby football because its rules were similar to rugby union's, although this would change drastically in the coming decades. The first organized competition in the West was formed in 1888 Winnipeg Football Club, St. John's College and the Royal School of Infantry formed the Manitoba Rugby League, later re-organized as the Manitoba Rugby Football Union. Football was being played in what was to become Alberta and Saskatchewan by 1890, and by 1907 the new provinces had organized their own respective competitions and agreed to adopt the rules of the national governing body, the Canadian Rugby Union. A provincial union was not formed in British Columbia until the 1920s. The four rugby unions in the West were named the Manitoba Rugby Football Union, Saskatchewan Rugby Football Union, Alberta Rugby Football Union and the British Columbia Rugby Football Union

The three provincial unions then in existence soon set out to create a unified Western Canadian competition, with the view that the Western champion should be able to challenge for the Canadian Rugby Union's new championship trophy, the Grey Cup. To this end, the Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta unions formed the Western Canada Rugby Football Union in 1911, with the Calgary Tigers winning the first Western championship later that year. Initially, the Western champions were not allowed to compete for the Grey Cup, because the CRU believed the calibre of the new competition to be inferior to those in the East. It was not until 1921 that a Western team was finally allowed to compete in the Grey Cup game, when the Edmonton Eskimos lost 23–0 to the Toronto Argonauts. Initial challenges for the trophy met with futility, largely because the Western champion invariably had to travel to the East to compete in the championship game. Finally in 1935 a Western team, the Winnipeg Pegs (soon to be known as the Blue Bombers) captured the Grey Cup, after they defeated the Hamilton Tigers 18–12.

WCRFU champions

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