L. Roy Francis (c. 1919 – April 1989) was a Welsh former professional rugby league footballer and coach of the mid 20th century. He was the first Black British professional coach in any sport. Francis was also a highly accomplished player, scoring 229 tries in his 356 career games, chiefly as a winger. A Great Britain and Wales national representative three-quarter back, he played for English clubs Wigan, Barrow, Dewsbury (World War II guest), Warrington and Hull F.C. Francis then became a coach with Hull F.C. Renowned for his innovative coaching methods, he was regarded as a visionary, leading Hull to title success before going on to win the Challenge Cup with Leeds. He then broke further ground by moving on to coach in Australia with the North Sydney Bears before another brief stint at Leeds, and then Bradford Northern.
Francis came from Tiger Bay, Wales. He played rugby union for Brynmawr RFC before joining English rugby league club Wigan as a seventeen-year-old on 14 November 1936. He made his début for Wigan on Friday 26 March 1937. He moved to Barrow in January 1939 but then served in the Army during the Second World War. He played rugby union in the Army and also made guest appearances for Dewsbury. Francis became a Sergeant in the British Army during World War II. He played at centre for Northern Command XIII against a Rugby League XIII at Thrum Hall, Halifax on Saturday 21 March 1942. Francis played at centre, i.e. number 4 in Dewsbury's 14-25 aggregate defeat by Wigan in the Championship Final during the 1943–44 season; the 9-13 first-leg defeat at Central Park, Wigan on Saturday 13 May 1944, and scored a try in the 5-12 second-leg defeat at Crown Flatt, Dewsbury on Saturday 20 May 1944.
Returning to Barrow after the war, Francis represented Great Britain but was controversially overlooked for one Ashes tour to Australia for political reasons, the organisers fearing the ructions that could be caused by travelling to a country with an infamous bar on non-white people. He joined Warrington for £800 in July 1948. Roy Francis played in Warrington's 13-12 defeat by Huddersfield the Championship Final during the 1948–49 season at Maine Road, Manchester on Saturday 14 May 1949.
He moved to Hull in November 1949 for a fee of £1,250. Francis played his last game on Boxing Day 1955 before switching to coaching, a field in which he was to make an even greater impact.
Francis' man-management, coaching methods and use of psychological techniques were considered years ahead of their time. He was the first coach to embrace players' families and offer them transport to games.
Roy Francis was the coach in Hull's 13-30 defeat by Wigan in the 1959 Challenge Cup Final during the 1958–59 season at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 9 May 1959, in front of a crowd of 79,811, and was the coach in the 5-38 defeat by Wakefield Trinity in the 1960 Challenge Cup Final during the 1959–60 season at Wembley Stadium, London on Saturday 14 May 1960, in front of a crowd of 79,773.
Francis left Hull F.C. for Leeds in 1963 and oversaw their victory in the 1968 Challenge Cup 'Watersplash' Final during the 1967–68 season at Wembley.
Francis moved to Sydney to coach the North Sydney Bears for the 1969 NSWRFL season and stayed until 1970.
From 1971 to 1973 Francis was Hull's team manager. He won a Premiership title back at Leeds during the 1974–75 season, and then coached Bradford Northern from 1975.
He died in April 1989, aged 70.