Sport in Birmingham

Sport in Birmingham

Sports have always been important in Birmingham, England, from the hundreds of diverse grass-roots sports clubs to internationally famous teams, associations and venues.

The city was the first city to have been awarded the title National City of Sport by the Sports Council. [ [ BBC Birmingham Sport: Birmingham - 'The National City of Sport'] ]

Major teams


The city is home to two of the UK's oldest professional football teams in the world: Aston Villa (1874) [ [ BBC Sport: Aston Villa club information] ] and Birmingham City (1875) [,,10412,00.html BCFC: History] ] . Nearby West Bromwich Albion's ground "The Hawthorns" used to be divided by the Birmingham/ Smethwick border, but was moved completely into the latter by a minor rationalisation of local government borders in the 1960s and is now in Sandwell. There are also many lower league teams.

Aston in Birmingham is notable for being the location for the first football league, which was invented by William McGregor on March 22 1885 [ [ Aston Villa Football Club] ] . Aston Villa Football Club were among the founding clubs of the Premier League in 1992.


The Birmingham Athletic Club opened a Gymnasium in King Alfred's Place, in Aug 1865/6, and held their annual display and assault-at-arms in the Town Hall. The first festival of the Birmingham Athletic Club was held in 1868. On March 1, 1880, an association was organised of many of the bicycle clubs, cricket clubs, football clubs, and similar athletic bodies in the town and neighbourhood, under the name of "The Midland Counties Amateurs' Athletic Union." [ Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham, Thomas T. Harman and Walter Showell] ] The sport was so popular that in January, 1879 the "Midland Athlete" newspaper was first published."Catalogue of Printed Books in the Library of the British Museum", A. W. K. Miller (British Museum Dept. of Printed Books) and Richard Garnett (British Museum), 1905, W. Clowes and Sons]

Today Athletics takes place at the open-air Alexander Stadium on a national and international level [ Alexander Stadium] ] . Recent development has seen addition of a High Performance Centre [ [ Birmingham City Council: Birmingham High Performance Centre] ] for indoor intense specialist training. The Stadium is also home to Birchfield Harriers [ [ Birchfield Harriers website] ] , who have contributed towards Britain's National and International Athletics for many years and has produced international athletes such as Denise Lewis, Mark Lewis-Francis and Kelly Sotherton [ BBC News: Golden future for city athletes?] ] . The National Indoor Arena is Britain's Premier Indoor Athletics stadium and in 2003 successfully hosted the 9th IAAF World Indoor Championships in Athletics [ [ BBC Sport: The World's best athletes will compete in Birmingham] ] . The city hosted the European Athletic Association's 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships. [ [ Birmingham Athletics 2007] ]


There has been a Cricket Club in existence in Birmingham since 1745, and it has been chronicled that a match was being played on the same day on which the Battle of Culloden was foughtFact|date=June 2007.

In legion, The Birmingham Cricket Club, started in 1819, the members including the young elite of the town at LadywoodFact|date=June 2007. The Birchfield Cricket Club was established in 1840Fact|date=June 2007.

Among the noteworthy matches of late years are those of the All England Eleven against a local twenty-two, at the Lower Grounds on June 5, 1871, with the visitors winning. More recently, County Cricket is played at the Edgbaston Cricket Ground, home to Warwickshire County Cricket Club. International test matches are also held there.

In 1882, Bournville Cricket Club was founded in Froggarts Farm on the corner of Bournville Lane and Linden Road, which is now The Old Farm Hotel. The Ground held its first county game when Worcestershire played Essex in June 1910, and in 1982 held an ICC champions trophy 3rd Place Play off when Papua New Guinea played Bangladesh. [ [ Bournville Cricket Club History] ]

Birmingham was the host for the first ever Cricket World Cup of either gender, a Women's Cricket World Cup in 1973. England beat Australia in the finals.

Other team sports

Rugby Union

Rugby Union is played in Birmingham by Moseley Rugby Football Club promoted as Champions to National League 1 in April 2006. The club was founded in 1873 and reached three cup finals, playing for most of their history at The Reddings [ [ Moseley Rugby Club: History] ] . However, in 2000 it relocated to a temporary ground at the University of Birmingham and now have a new permanent home at Billesley Common. [ [ Moseley Rugby Club - All Weather Pitch, Billesley Common] ]

The Solihull-based Birmingham & Solihull Pertemps Bees was established in 1989 [ [ Pertemps Bees: History] ] and Coventry RFC in 1874. [ [ Coventry RFC: Club history] ]


Basketball was first introduced to Birmingham in 1911 when a YMCA instructor brought basketball to Birmingham YMCA, and a team was produced. The American Rules had been introduced, but the teams in Birmingham found them to be too complicated, and when forming a Local Basketball Association, they compiled a more practical set of rules for their own use. The first basketball tournament for the Senior Championship Cup was held in Birmingham on June 6, 1936. On April 9, 1938, the first Junior Championship Final was held in Birmingham. [ England Basketball: The History Until Now] ]

For England's first international basketball competition, Birmingham provided three players; F. Cole, C. Hunt and A. J. Lee. A Championship Final was held in April 1940 with the Birmingham Athletic Institute (BAI) beating London Central YMCA in the match. Due to World War II, there was no championship for the next six years, resulting in Birmingham retaining the trophy for that period.

More recently, basketball was played by the Birmingham Bullets, who competed in the top United Kingdom basketball league. The Bullets went on a season-long break from competitive action, however, went into liquidation and ceased to exist. The Birmingham Bullets were then replaced by the Birmingham Panthers. [cite web| author = Collin Tattum | title = Basketball team to replace Bullets | url = | year = 2007 | accessdate = 2007-03-24 | publisher = Birmingham Mail ]


The first ever speedway meeting in Birmingham was held on July 12, 1928 at The Alexander Sports Stadium (now the Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium). The last speedway meeting of that season was held on September 1, 1928. The first meeting after World War II was held on May 4, 1946 against Norwich. It was used up until 1957 and again in 1960. The Birchfield Harriers then refused for the stadium to be used for speedway again. [ Birmingham Brummies Speedway: History of the stadia] ]

The team then moved to the former Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium which was renamed the Ladbroke Stadium. It staged speedway from 1929 to 1931, and then from 1971 to 1983. It was demolished the following year. The team broke up in 1986 after their final meeting at Bordesley Green. [ [ BBC Birmingham Sport: Brummie Speedway returns] ]

In March 2007, Speedway racing returned to Birmingham after 20 years. A new team was created to compete at the Perry Barr Greyhound Stadium under the name the "Birmingham Brummies". [ [ Birmingham Speedway] ]


Hockey is a very popular sport with Harborne [ Harborne Hockey Club] ] and Bournville competing at professional level.

Bournville Hockey Club were founded in 1902 as a section of the Bournville Athletic Club. Their first game was against Small Heath on November 15, 1902, in which they lost. Bournville has produced international hockey players including David Griffith-Jones, who was selected to play for Wales in 1955 becoming Bournville's first international player. Bournville have moved venues in their history as a result of Cadbury's closure of the sports facilities at the factory. They are currently based at the University of Birmingham and King Edward VI High School for Girls. They are also reaching an agreement with Tally Ho Bowls Club for a club base there [ [ Bournville Hockey Club] ] .

The Bournville Hockey Club Men's First team are in the Division One of the English Hockey League whilst Harborne Hockey Club compete in the Midlands Premier League.


Dozens of junior and senior Netball clubs exist in Birmingham such as the Birmingham City Netball Club (founded in the 1970s [ [ Birmingham City Netball Club: Club history] ] ) which coordinates junior and intermediate netball teams (under-18s).

The Birmingham (adult) Netball League plays from September to March (approximately) and has roughly 100 teams which are arranged in 13 divisions. The 1st division includes some of England's top clubs like for instance Linden who are based at Nechells Community Centre and are currently the National Clubs League Division 1 leaders. There are several other Netball leagues in the UK of which Birmingham teams contribute considerably [ [ Birmingham Netball] ]

A "Netball Little League" was established in 2003 for the areas of Bournville and Selly Oak. [ [ Birmingham Little League] ]


Volleyball takes place on a small scale across various venues in the city, several amateur teams exist such as "Selly Baskets Volleyball Team", " [ Persian Phoenix Volleyball Club] "and "Birmingham University Volleyball Club" [] who are currently in third division of the national league for both men and women.

Water polo

There are many ground root Water Polo teams in existence across the Greater Birmingham area such as Warley Wasps who were established in 1888, the team runs both male and female water polo teams [ Warley Wasps] ] . Also "Sutton Coldfield Water Polo Club" and "Solihull Water Polo Club" offers water polo training for children and Adults with qualified Water Polo coaches. [ [ Birmingham Sport: Local swimming schemes] ]

The City of Birmingham Swimming Club draws from the local water polo clubs and competes at a national level. [ [ City of Birmingham Swimming Club] ]


Lacrosse, a popular Canadian game, was introduced to Birmingham on June 23, 1883, by a team of Canadian Amateurs and Iroquois Indians, who exhibited their prowess at the Lower Grounds. The game never quite took off in the city, however the University of Birmingham has a lacrosse team. [ [ University of Birmingham - Lacrosse] ]

Racket sports


The first ever game of lawn tennis was played in Edgbaston in 1859 by Major Harry Gem and Augurio Perera, both residents of the city."Lords and Landlords: The Aristocracy and the Towns, 1774-1967", David Cannadine, 1980, Leicester University Press]

Tennis is not nowadays regularly associated with inner city urban areas, however several schemes nationwide are working to rectify this under achievement including "Tennis For Free" [ [*32 Birmingham Sport: Tennis For Free in Birmingham] ] ["Tennis for everyone in Brum", Birmingham Post, June 25, 2004] . Many local tennis clubs and teams still exist in Greater Birmingham such as the 'Birmingham City Tennis Club' and international tennis is still played at Edgbaston's Priory Club. [ [ Edgbaston Priory] ]


The National Indoor Arena has hosted international badminton events such as the World Indoor Badminton Championships. The All England Open Badminton Championships are now held at the NIA [ Badminton England: The Yonex All England Open 2007] ] as a result of the tournament outgrowing all previous venues.

Other individual sports


Golf is a popular sport in the city with many clubs. Boldmere, Cocks Moors Woods, Harborne Church Farm, Hatchford Brook, Hilltop, Lickey Hills and Pype Hayes are all large high quality golf courses within Birmingham city. [ [ Birmingham Leisure: Birmingham Golf Courses] ]

Professional Golf is played at the Belfry (4km outside Birmingham) which sometimes hosts The Ryder Cup. [ [ The Ryder Cup: The De Vere Belfry] ]


Boxing is popular in the city with many clubs and famous professional boxers such as Patrick Cowdell and Robert McKracken who have continued to support boxing in the UK by turning their skills to coaching new up- and- coming boxers.

Famous Birmingham/Shropshire boxer Richie Woodhall works and trains with Birmingham Boxing Academy (BBA) and the city's premier boxing team Team Ringside [] . The BBA is a charitable organisation that works alongside lesser privileged children of central Birmingham. Richie also commentates for ITV, BBC and Sky.

Prize-fighting was long the popular sport of high and low life blackguards, and Birmingham added many a redoubtable name to the long list of famous prize-fighters, whose deeds are recorded in "Fistiana" and other chronicles of the ring. The earliest account of a local prize-fight is of that which took place in October 1782, for 100 guineas a side, between Jemmy Sargent, a professional, and Isaac Perrins, one of the Soho workmen. Jemmy knuckled under after being knocked down thirteen times, in as many rounds, by the knock-kneed hammer man from Soho, whose friends, it is said, won £1,500 in bets through his prowess. [ Showell's Dictionary of Birmingham, Thomas T. Harman and Walter Showell] ]

During the late 18th century William Futrell (a well known Birmingham pugilist) becomes publisher of the first boxing paper.

There are twelve boxing clubs in Birmingham. [ ABAE: Boxing Clubs] ]


Birmingham's first swimming club formed in 1862 under the title of the "Birmingham Amateur Swimming Club". The "Birmingham Leander Swimming Club", based at Northwood Street Baths, commenced their aquatic activities in June, 1877. The two clubs merged to form the "Birmingham and Leander Swimming Club" and moved to Woodcock Street Baths.

The celebrated swimmer, Captain Webb, visited Birmingham several times, and the Athletic Club presented him with a gold medal and purse on December 4, 1875. In 1949, the Birmingham Association of Swimming Clubs partnered with Warwickshire Amateur Swimming Association to successfully win a bid to stage the "International Speed Swimming Contest for the Bologna Trophy", which was staged at Woodcock Street Baths. The Birmingham Baths Committee organised a visit as part of a tour by the "Het Y" Swimming Club of Amsterdam in 1950"The City of Birmingham Baths Department 1851 - 1951", J. Moth, 1951] .

More recently The University of Birmingham trains some of the most promising professional swimmers in Britain [ [ University of Birmingham Sport: Swimming] ] . The team has won bronze medal consecutively in the BUSA team championships 2003-04 and 2004-05.

The "City of Birmingham Swimming Club" also trains swimmers of all ages and competes professionally at local and national level as does "Perry Beeches Sutton Swimming Squad", "Boldmere Swimming Club", "Orion Swimming Club" (located at King Edward VI High School for Girls) and "Solihull Swimming Club" (located at Tudor Grange Sports Centre, Solihull).

School swimming was introduced in the city in April 1875 following a campaign by Joseph Chamberlain, which commenced at a Meeting of the Council on November 10, 1874. Following co-operation between the City of Birmingham Baths Department and the Birmingham School Board, schools were able to buy books of tickets to allow pupils to swim under the guidance of teachers at pools.

Other sports and pastimes

Greyhound racing

Greyhound racing is a popular event in the city with two large stadiums at Hall Green and Perry Barr. A trust has been established in Perry Barr for retired greyhounds. [ [ Perry Barr RGT] ]


Bowling has long been a popular tradition in Birmingham with bowling greens and quoit grounds often attached to public houses.

In 1778 there was one at the "Salutation" inn, at the bottom of Snow Hill; in 1741 there was also one at the "Hen and Chickens" in the High Street. A new green was opened at the "Union Tavern" on Cherry Street on March 26, 1792. There was also a green at Aston Hall and Cannon Hill Park during the Victorian era.

In 1825 a bowling green was laid out at the corner of Highfield Road and Harborne Road, for "a very select party" of Edgbastonians. Bowls is still played in the city today with the existence of The Northfield & District Bowling Association and The Yardley Wood & District Mid-Week Bowling Association. [cite web |work =This is Worcestershire |title = CommuniGate: Grasshopper Crown Green Bowling Club associated clubs|url =| acccessdate=2008-09-21]

Ice skating

Ice Skating Rinks were opened at the Lower Grounds May 1, 1875; at Bingley Hall, October 2, 1875; at Moseley, December 6, 1876; and at Handsworth, October 8, 1877; and, for a time, the amusement was exceedingly popular, more than one fortune accruing from the manufacture of patent and other roller skates. One of the most noteworthy feats on the slippery rinks was the skating of 200 miles in 24 hours by a Mr. F. Betteridge at Bingley Hall, August 20, 1878.

Birmingham's last ice rink closed in 2003 and a project began campaigning for a new rink. [ [ The Birmingham Ice Skating project - Campaigning for a new ice rink in the UK's second city] ]

In the winter of 2005 one of the largest temporary outdoor ice skate rinks in Britain was erected on Centenary Square. Another rink was constructed in the square in the following year. [ BBC Birmingham: Get your skates on!] ] [ BBC Birmingham: Street Ice] ]

Roller derby

Birmingham boasts two female amateur roller derby leagues, the Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames, formed in October 2006, and the Central City Rollergirls, formed in November 2007. [ [ - Central City Rollergirls - 22 - Fille - Birmingham, UK - ] ]

Roller derby is an aggressive quad skating sport where blockers try to stop jammers from scoring points by lapping the blockers. This fast & furious contact sport has already captured the imagination of West Midlands crowds during Birmingham's first public bout in October 2007. [ [ Birmingham Blitz Derby Dames] ]

Motor racing

The city is home to Birmingham Wheels, a short-track oval circuit based in Saltley. The circuit stages a number of high profile stock car and banger race meetings, along with a charity race event every winter for Children in Need. The future of the circuit is uncertain however, with plans for the City of Birmingham Stadium.

The city also staged the Birmingham Superprix on a number of occasions during the 1980s, a Formula 3000 event which took place on a street circuit in the city centre. Many of the competitors later went on to compete in Formula One, including former Ferrari driver Jean Alesi. Nigel Mansell also lived in Birmingham as a child and into his early adult years.


Skateboarding is popular in the city. Many small skate parks exist as well as the Epic Skate Park based in Moseley, the park opened in 2003 within a former bus and tram garage. The park is one of the largest of its kind in Europe and now hosts international skate competitions as well as music videos and film.

The skate board wheel was pioneered in Birmingham during the 19th century.


Croquet was introduced in 1867; the first code of laws being published in October, 1869. There is a croquet club at Edgbaston, which has been in existence since 1900 [ [ Edgbaston Croquet Club: History] ] . The club now play at Richmond Hill Road. [ [ Edgbaston Cricket Club location] ]

A horse racing course was located at Bromford Bridge in Bromford, Erdington during the late 19th and early 20th centuries ["The Story of Erdington - From Sleepy Hamlet to Thriving Suburb", Douglas V. Jones, 1989, Westwood Press (ISBN 0-948025-05-0)] . A smaller course was located on the former site of Four Oaks Hall in Sutton Coldfield, however its existence was short and it was removed before Sutton Coldfield became part of Birmingham in 1974. ["The Royal Town of Sutton Coldfield - A Commemorative History", Douglas V. Jones, 1994, Westwood Press (ISBN 0-9502636-7-2)]

The 1972 World Snooker Championship was held in Selly Oak. It was won by Alex Higgins.


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