Sport in Bristol

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Fun runners taking part in the 2006 Bristol Half Marathon.

Bristol has a number of notable professional sports teams and a large number of active amateur sports clubs. There are also large numbers of participants in individual sports. The city has two Football League clubs, Bristol City F.C. who play in the second tier and Bristol Rovers F.C. who play in the third tier. Gloucestershire County Cricket Club has its headquarters in the city. Bristol Bears are currently in Premiership Rugby.

Bristol City Council operates a number of sports centres and swimming pools. The city has hosted the 2001 IAAF World Half Marathon Championships and stage finishes and starts of the Tour of Britain cycle race. Facilities in Bristol were used as training camps for the 2012 London Olympics.

Team sports[edit]

American Football[edit]

American Football team Bristol Aztecs are in the premier division of BAFA National Leagues.[1] There are also two University American Football sides: The Bristol Barracuda from the University of Bristol[2] and the UWE Bullets from UWE[3] which both play in the BUAFL.

Australian Rules Football[edit]

A BARFL Australian Rules Football side, the Bristol Dockers, launched in 1990[4] used to compete in the Southern England region, but now compete in the London Social Division and are still going strong. The Dockers have strong links with Western Gaels Gaelic Football Club who are based in Bristol with a lot of players togging out for both sides.[5]


Bristol Badgers and Bristol Bats both play in the South West Baseball League.[6] The clubs were founded in 2008 [7] and both clubs are based at Failand, Bristol.


The city is home to professional basketball team Bristol Flyers, a member of the British Basketball League, which they joined in 2014 following an incorporation into Stephen Lansdown's 'Bristol Sport' group.[8]

There is a growing and now thriving basketball community in Bristol with a host of men's and women's local league sides playing in the West of England League. In addition to these the city is home to the English Basketball League clubs Bristol Storm Basketball Club based at the City Academy in the centre of Bristol, and in South Gloucestershire the Bristol Academy Basketball Club[9] based at the South Gloucestershire and Stroud College WISE campus.


Bristol hosts first-class cricket side, Gloucestershire C.C.C. for which W.G. Grace famously played. Bristol was host to the 2007 Indoor Cricket World Cup, the first time the event has been held in England.[10] The club's Country Cricket Ground has also hosted twelve One Day International matches, up until May 2009.[11] Somerset County Cricket Club played some of their games at the Imperial Tobacco Ground in South Bristol until 1966.[12]


Bristol has two professional football teams Bristol City, who play in the Football League Championship, the second tier of English football and Bristol Rovers, who play in League One, the third tier. City were founded in 1897, when Bristol South End turned professional and changed its name to Bristol City. In 1900 the club merged with local rivals Bedminster, who had been founded as Southville in 1887. They joined the Football League in 1901. Rovers were founded in 1883, originally named Black Arabs before being renamed Eastville Rovers followed by Bristol Eastville Rovers before adopting its current title in 1899. Rovers joined the Football League in 1920 and remained there until 2014 when they were relegated to the Football Conference before regaining promotion back to the Football League the following year.

There are a number of non-League teams in Bristol including Bristol Manor Farm F.C., Hengrove Athletic F.C., Brislington F.C., Roman Glass St George F.C. and Bristol Telephones F.C. There are also a large number of teams in the Bristol and Suburban Association Football League, Bristol Premier Combination, Bristol and District League, and the Bristol Downs Football League.

Bristol Academy Women's Football Club, based at South Gloucestershire and Stroud College.[13] Bristol City Women's F.C. Bristol City Women's Football Club was founded in 1990, but dissolved in 2008, with many of the players joining AFC TeamBath Ladies.[14]

Gaelic Football[edit]

Gaelic football and Hurling used to be well represented in Bristol during the mid century, currently two football teams have survived; St.Nicks GAA Bristol & Western Gaels, who play in the Gloucestershire league. St.Nicks GAA Bristol train and play at their home pitch situated in St.Mary's Old Boys Rugby Club, Almondsbury and are the current Gloucestershire County Champions (2017)[15]. There are also surrounding teams in Cardiff, Plymouth and Gloucester. Western Gaels, who train and play their games at the St.Nicks GAA pitch in Avonmouth, have very close ties with the local Australian rules team; the Bristol Dockers. Due to the similarity of both games players find it easier to adapt to the others code.[16]


Bristol has only one Handball club due to the sports low popularity in the country. Handball is mainly played in European and Scandinavian countries and has yet to gain a larger fanbase in the UK. Bristol Handball Club are the sole club and are based at The City Academy Bristol, though they play their "home" games at the Princess Royal Sports Complex in Wellington, Somerset due to lack of facilities in Bristol.

Ice Hockey[edit]

The Bristol Pitbulls are an ice hockey team founded in 2009, playing in the English National Ice Hockey League, South Division 2. After the closure of Bristol Ice Rink in 2012, the team play their home games in Oxford Ice Rink, although intend to return to the city as soon as a replacement facility is built.


Korfball is a fast paced mixed gender team sport, with similarities to netball and basketball. A team consists of eight players; four females and four males. Bristol City Korfball Club, a friendly and welcoming club were founded in 1990 and are the oldest club in the South West area. Bristol City are founding members of the South West Korfball League and enter two teams into this league every year (SWKA Div1 & SWKA Div 2). As well as one team into the Oxford, Wales and West Regional League 1.

Bristol Thunder were founded in 2011 and currently have 4 active teams playing in the local and regional leagues and with over 30 players on the books they are the largest club in Bristol. In the 2014/2015 season they won the Western Regional League as well as SWKA Div 1. They have played in the Champions Trophy, in Croydon, for promotion to the National League the last 2 seasons, but both times just falling short.

Rugby Union[edit]

Bristol is home to professional rugby union club Bristol Bears, who play in the top level of the English rugby union system (Premiership) after being promoted in the 2017/18 season. Clifton RFC and Dings Crusaders both compete at the fourth level in National League 2 South, while Old Redcliffians compete in National Division Three South, which is a fifth level league.

Rugby League[edit]

Bristol also has a Rugby League Conference side, the Bristol Sonics.


Speedway racing was staged, with breaks, at the Knowle Stadium from 1928 to 1960, when it was closed and the site redeveloped. The sport briefly returned to the city in the 1970s when the Bristol Bulldogs raced at Eastville Stadium.[17]

Individual sports[edit]


There is an annual half marathon held around the city centre, and in 2001 the city hosted the 10th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships. There are many active clubs, the largest being Bristol & West,[18] along with Westbury Harriers[19] and Great Western Runners.[20]


Since 1993, the city council has also organised an annual charity bicycling event, Bristol's Biggest Bike Ride, which attracts around 4,000 participants.[21][22] Stages of the Tour of Britain, under its previous names of the Milk Race and the PruTour have finished and started in Bristol.

A mountain biking area is around Ashton Court, with the Timberland trails the main route. Other routes are in the Plantation, the 50-acre wood and Leigh Woods.[23]


Local leagues include the Courage Darts League, North Avon Darts League and Bristol Brunel Darts League. Professional Mark Dudbridge is from Bristol[24] as is Chris Mason.[25]


There are several golfclubs: The Bristol Golf Club (2000), Bristol and Clifton Golf Club (1891), Filton Golf Club. Golf (1909), Long Ashton Golf Club (1893), Shirehampton Park Golf Club (1904), Stockwood Vale Golf Club.

Motor Sport[edit]

There are several well established motor sport clubs in Bristol

Bristol Motor Club was formed in 1911 and was responsible for the inception of racing at nearby Castle Combe Circuit in 1950 as well as being involved in creating the discipline of AutoSolo, which is one of the fastest growing motorsport discipline in the country.

Pegasus Motor Club was formed in 1945 originally as a motorsport club for employees of the Bristol Aeroplane Company at Filton. Post war the club was involved in the creation of the 500cc Formula. Today the club offers a variety of low cost motorsport and social activities. They organise both a Track Day and Sprint at Castle Combe Circuit.

Motor racing has deep roots in Bristol, and Joe Fry has set a number of records in the Freikaiserwagen and events in the city. Oval track racing was held at Knowle Stadium from 1928 to 1960, when it closed for redevelopment. The sport briefly returned to the city during the 1970s, when the Bulldogs raced at Eastville Stadium.[26] Speed trials have been held in Clapton-in-Gordano, Shipham, Backwell, Naish, Dyrham Park, Filton Airfield and in Whitchurch (when it was Bristol's airport), and a 1983 RAC Rally stage was held at Ashton Court west of the city. A sporting trial is held in woodland on the city's outskirts, and a classic trial is held in the hills around the city.

Bristol also has two rally orientated Motor Clubs - Tavern Motor Club and White Horse Motor Club.

Bristol clubs run a variety of events; sprints, hillclimbs, trials, autotests, autosolos, rallies and navigational events.


City of Bristol Rowing Club,[27] UWE Boat Club,[28] and University of Bristol Boat Club.[29]


Bristol has six municipal swimming pools[30] (Easton, Henbury, Horfield, Jubilee, Bristol South and Hengrove. Hengrove is a 50-metre pool), as well as the Bristol University students union pool. There is also the Filton Dolphin swimming pool, and just outside Bristol are swimming pools at Kingswood, Longwell Green, Keynsham and Backwell. Most of the pools offer a 'learn to swim' programme. Advanced swimmers from these programmes are encouraged to join one of Bristol's competitive swimming clubs, usually the club most closely associated with the swimming pool.

Bristol also has five competitive swimming clubs,[31] City of Bristol, Bristol Henleaze, Bristol North, Bristol Penguins, and Bristol Masters. Bristol Masters only accepts swimmers over the age of twenty-one; the other clubs start around age 5 – 6. Bristol Henleaze, Bristol North, and Bristol Penguins have small but successful 'learn to swim' programmes, aimed at developing young swimmers for competitive swimming, and also offer masters swimming. All five clubs do competitive swimming; the four non-masters clubs also take part in team-based competitions in various swimming leagues around Bristol and the South West. The City of Bristol swimming club is an ASA-supported network club, with links to other clubs in the region (Bristol Penguins, Clevedon, Calne, Soundwell, Keynsham, Backwell and Bath) to also promote performance swimming.

City of Bristol also has sections for water polo and synchronised swimming. It was chosen as an ASA Beacon club in these two disciplines to provide a regional centre of excellence[32] There is a fin swimming club, Neptune Finswimming Club.

Finally, with Henleaze Swimming Club,[33] there is an open-water club based at Henleaze Lake. Henleaze Swimming Club also has an angling section for its lake users.

Tennis and Squash[edit]

Bristol Lawn Tennis and Squash Club,[34] Bristol Central Tennis Club,[35] and Westbury Park Tennis Club.[36] Former world Top 5 professional tennis player Jo Durie is a Bristolian.

Sports Venues[edit]

Ashton Gate stadium[edit]

Home of Bristol City F.C. and has hosted Rugby World Cup games and major Bristol Rugby fixtures. Bristol City are upgrading the stadium at Ashton Gate.

Memorial Stadium[edit]

The Memorial Stadium, also commonly known by its previous name of The Memorial Ground, is dedicated to the memory of the rugby union players of the city killed during World War I. It is currently the home ground of Bristol Rovers. Bristol Rovers are not developing a brand new purpose built stadium at UWE in Bristol.

County Ground[edit]

The County Cricket Ground, (also known as Nevil Road), is home to the Gloucestershire County Cricket Club and has also hosted one day Internationals.

Bristol Harbour[edit]

Hosts several rowing races, including the Varsity Match (UWE, Bristol v Bristol University) and Combined Bristol Rowing Clubs Regatta. A number of local sailing club regattas are also held throughout the season.

Bristol City Council sports centres[edit]

City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre is a lottery funded facility in Hartcliffe.[37] Whitchurch Sports Centre has a running track,[38] badminton, bowls, squash – often hosts professional boxing.[39] St. Paul's Community Sports Academy is a Sports Centre in St Pauls.[40] South Bristol Sports Centre, a sports centre in Knowle in the south of the city.[41]

Multi-sport and international events[edit]

10th IAAF World Half Marathon championships[edit]

The 10th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships were hosted by the city in 2001 on a course through the city centre and alongside the Floating Harbour and the Portway, Bristol.[42] Paula Radcliffe retained her World Half Marathon title in a time of 1hr 06mins 47secs, 4 seconds outside the world record.[43] Haile Gebrselassie won the men's race in a time of 60min 03sec.[44]

London 2012 Olympics[edit]

The University of the West of England's (UWE) Centre for Sport and Bristol University have been chosen as training venues for the Kenyan Olympic team for the 2012 London Olympics.[45] UWE will also host a training camp for the 2012 Summer Paralympics.[46]

England 2018 Football World Cup bid[edit]

In July 2009, Bristol launched a bid be a host city of England is successful for its bid for the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The bid would centre on the new stadium to be built by Bristol City F.C. at Ashton Vale.[47] In December 2009, the Football Association announced that Bristol would be one of the host cities in the bid which was ultimately unsuccessful.

Bristol sportsmen and women[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Bristol Aztecs". British American Football National League. Archived from the original on 12 July 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  2. ^ "Bristol Barracuda". British Universities American Football League. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  3. ^ "Bristol Bullets". British Universities American Football League. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  4. ^ "Dockers Relaunched in New League" (fee required). Bristol Evening Post, archived at Nexis. Bristol News and Media. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  5. ^ "Bristol Dockers". Archived from the original on 19 October 2007. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  6. ^ "Bristol Badgers". British Baseball Federation. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  7. ^ "History". Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  8. ^ BBC Sport (17 June 2013). "Bristol Flyers secure BBL place from 2014-15 campaign".
  9. ^ "Bristol Academy of Sport: Basketball Academy". Archived from the original on 1 August 2008. Retrieved 28 March 2009.
  10. ^ "Gloucestershire County Cricket Club". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  11. ^ "County Ground, Bristol: One-Day Internationals". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  12. ^ "Somerset County Cricket Club: Imperial Athletic Ground, Bristol – Records". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  13. ^ "Bristol Academy Women's Football Club". Archived from the original on 8 September 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  14. ^ "Bristol City Ladies to get new lease of life at TeamBath". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  15. ^ St.Nicks GAA. "St.Nicks GAA Bristol". St.Nicks GAA. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Western Gaels GAC Bristol". Western Gaels. Retrieved 18 September 2010.
  17. ^ Bamford, Roger (30 September 2003). Bristol Bulldogs Speedway: Bristol Bulldogs Speedway. NPI Media Group. p. 128. ISBN 978-0-7524-2865-9.
  18. ^ "Bristol and West AC". Bristol and West AC. Retrieved 3 November 2016.
  19. ^ "Running in Bristol". Westbury Harriers. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  20. ^ "Great Western Runners – Bristol". Great Western Runners. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  21. ^ "Bristol's Biggest Bike Ride". Bristol City Council. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  22. ^ "Get biking in Bristol". BBC Bristol. BBC. Retrieved 22 July 2009.
  23. ^ "North Bristol Mountain Bike Club". Bristol Mountain Bike Club. Retrieved 6 May 2014.
  24. ^ "Mark Dudbridge Player Profile". Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  25. ^ "Chris Mason Player Profile". Retrieved 16 October 2010.
  26. ^ Bamford 2003, p. 128.
  27. ^ "Welcome to the City of Bristol Rowing Club Website". City of Bristol Rowing Club. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  28. ^ "UWE Boat Club". UWESU. Archived from the original on 20 April 2005. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  29. ^ "University of Bristol Boat Club". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  30. ^ Swimming Pools, Bristol. "Bristol council owned". Bristol council website. Bristol council. Retrieved 21 January 2013.
  31. ^
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^ "Bristol Lawn Tennis and Squash". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  35. ^ "Bristol Central Tennis Club". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  36. ^ "Welcome to Westbury Park Tennis Club". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  37. ^ "City of Bristol Gymnastics Centre". Bristol City Council. Archived from the original on 27 May 2008. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  38. ^ "Whitchurch Athletics Track". Bristol City Council. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  39. ^ "Indoor cricket, football, netball and beach volleyball". Action Indoor Sports. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  40. ^ "Bristol City Council: Sports facilities: St. Paul's Community Sports Academy". Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  41. ^ "South Bristol Sports Centre". South Bristol Sports Centre. Retrieved 17 July 2009.
  42. ^ "10th IAAF World Half Marathon Championships – Bristol 2001 the Official Web Site". IAAF. Archived from the original on 18 April 2011. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  43. ^ Davies, Nick (7 October 2001). "Radcliffe retains title and goes close to world best". IAAF. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  44. ^ Downes, Steven (7 October 2001). "Haile Gebrselassie lives up to Half Marathon Challenge". IAAF. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  45. ^ "Durban backs Bristol World Cup bid" (fee required). Bristol Evening Post, archived at Nexis. Bristol United Press. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  46. ^ "Olympic camp" (fee required). Western Daily Press, archived at Nexis. Bristol United Press. 29 May 2008. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  47. ^ "The official site for Bristol's World Cup 2018 host city bid". Retrieved 17 July 2009.