Birmingham - Sport

Sport

Birmingham has played an important part in the history of sport. The Football League – the world's first league football competition – was founded by Birmingham resident and Aston Villa director William McGregor, who wrote to fellow club directors in 1888 proposing "that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season". The modern game of tennis was developed between 1859 and 1865 by Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera at Perera's house in Edgbaston, with the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society remaining the oldest tennis club in the world. The Birmingham and District Cricket League is the oldest cricket league in the world, and Birmingham was the host for the first ever Cricket World Cup, a Women's Cricket World Cup in 1973. Birmingham was the first city to be named National City of Sport by the Sports Council. Birmingham was selected ahead of London and Manchester to bid for the 1992 Summer Olympics, but was unsuccessful in the final selection process, which was won by Barcelona.

Today the city is home of two of the country's oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa F.C., who were founded in 1874 and play at Villa Park; and Birmingham City F.C., who were founded in 1875 and play at St Andrew's. Rivalry between the clubs is fierce and the fixture between the two is called the Second City derby. Villa currently play in the Premier League and have been League champions on seven occasions and European Champions in 1982. Blues (Birmingham City) currently play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Another Premier League club, West Bromwich Albion F.C., play just outside the city boundaries at The Hawthorns.

Seven times and current County Championship winners Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which also hosts test cricket and one day internationals and is the largest cricket ground in the United Kingdom after Lord's. Edgbaston was the scene of the highest ever score by a batsman in first-class cricket, when Brian Lara scored 501 not out for Warwickshire in 1994. Birmingham has a professional Rugby Union club, Moseley R.F.C., who play at Billesley Common; with a second professional club, Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C., playing at Damson Park in the neighbouring borough of Solihull. The city also has a rugby league club, the Birmingham Bulldogs, who compete in the Co-operative RLC Midlands Premier League (RLC).

Two major championship golf courses lie on the city's outskirts. The Belfry near Sutton Coldfield is the headquarters of the Professional Golfers' Association and has hosted the Ryder Cup more times than any other venue. The Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club near Birmingham Airport is also a regular host of tournaments on the PGA European Tour, including the British Masters and the English Open.

The AEGON Classic is, alongside Wimbledon and Eastbourne, one of only three UK tennis tournaments on the WTA Tour. It is played annually at the Edgbaston Priory Club, which in 2010 announced plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment, including a new showcase centre court and a museum celebrating the game's Birmingham origins.

The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr is the headquarters of UK Athletics, and one of only two British venues to host fixtures in the elite international IAAF Diamond League. It is also the home of Birchfield Harriers, which has many international athletes amongst its members. The National Indoor Arena hosted the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships, as well as hosting the annual Aviva Indoor Grand Prix – the only British indoor athletics fixture to qualify as a IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting – and a wide variety of other sporting events. Professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway also takes place within the city.

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