VfL Bochum is one of the oldest sports organizations in the world claiming an origin date of 26 July 1848 when an article in the Märkischer Sprecher – a local newspaper – called for the creation of a gymnastics club. The Turnverein zu Bochum was then formally established on 18 February 1849. The club was banned on 28 December 1852 for political reasons and then reestablished on 19 June 1860. The club was reorganized in May 1904 as Turnverein zu Bochum, gegründet 1848 and formed a football department on 31 January 1911. On 1 April 1919 the club merged with Spiel und Sport 08 Bochum to form the Turn- und Sportverein Bochum 1848. On 1 February 1924 the two clubs from the earlier merger spilt to into the Bochumer Turnverein 1848 (gymnastics department) and Turn- und Sportverein Bochum 1908 (football, track and field, handball, hockey and tennis departments).
As World War II progressed, play throughout Germany became increasingly difficult due to player shortages, travel problems, and damage to football fields from Allied bombing raids. VfL became part of the wartime side Kriegsspielgemeinschaft VfL 1848/Preußen Bochum alongside Preußen 07 Elberfeld before reemerging as a separate side after the war. Although they fielded competitive sides, they had the misfortune of playing in the same division as Schalke 04 which was the dominant team of the era: VfL's best result was a distant second place in 1938–39, .
Following the war the football section resumed play as the independent VfL Bochum 1848 and played its first season in the second division 2. Oberliga West in 1949, while Preußen Bochum went on to lower tier amateur level play. VfL captured the division title in 1953 to advance to the Oberliga West for a single season. They repeated their divisional win in 1956 and returned to the top-flight until again being relgated after the 1960–61 season.
With the formation of the Bundesliga, Germany's new professional league, in 1963, VfL found itself in the third tier Amateurliga Westfalen. A first place result there in 1965 raised them to the Regionalliga West (II) from where they began a steady climb up the league table to the Bundesliga in 1971. During this rise Bochum also played its way to the final of the 1968 German Cup where they dropped a 1:4 decision to 1. FC Köln.
In spite of being a perennial lower table side, Bochum developed a reputation for tenaciousness on the field in a run of twenty seasons at the top flight. The club made a repeat appearance in the German Cup final in 1988, this time going down 0:1 to Eintracht Frankfurt. Relegated after a 16th place finish in 1993, the team has become a classic "yo-yo club", bouncing up and down between the Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga. The club's best Bundesliga results have come relatively recently as 5th place finishes in 1997 and 2004, which earned them appearances in the UEFA Cup tournament. In 1997, they advanced to the third round where they were put out by Dutch side Ajax Amsterdam, and in 2004, they were eliminated early through away goals (0–0 and 1–1) by Standard CL Liège of Belgium.
Today's sports club has 5,000 members with the football department accounting for over 2,200 of these. Other sections now part of the association include athletics, badminton, basketball, dance, fencing, gymnastics, handball, hockey, swimming, table tennis, tennis, and volleyball.
Ruhrstadion (also known as "rewirpowerSTADION" under a sponsorship deal) was one of the first modern football-only stadiums in Germany. It was built in the 1970s on the traditional ground of TuS Bochum 08 at the Castroper Straße north of the city centre.
The fully roofed venue's capacity is 29,299, including standing room for 13,125.
^ abcdefghij"Player statistics". All time top five most Bundesliga games and most Bundesliga goals. Retrieved 8 January 2009. "Most successful VfL scorers (1. Bundesliga): Jochen Abel (60), Hans Walitza (53), Uwe Wegmann (52), Jupp Kaczor (51), Stefan Kuntz (47); Most matches (1. Bundesliga): Michael Lameck (518), Lothar Woelk (385), Walter Oswald (353), Franz-Josef Tenhagen (306), Ralf Zumdick (282)"