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Swinton Lions

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Swinton R.L.F.C.
Club information
Full nameSwinton Rugby League Football Club
Founded1866; 158 years ago (1866)
Current details
CoachAlan Kilshaw
CaptainRhodri Lloyd
CompetitionRFL Championship
Current season
Home colours
Away colours
Premierships6 (1926–27, 1927–28, 1930–31, 1934–35, 1962–63, 1963–64)
Challenge Cups3 (1899–1900, 1925–26, 1927–28)
Lancashire County Cup4 (1925–26, 1927–28, 1939–40, 1969–70)
Lancashire League6 (1924–25, 1927–28, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1939–40, 1960–61)
Second Division1 (1984–85)
Most capped14Martin Hodgson
Highest points scorer2,095Ken Gowers

Swinton Lions are a professional rugby league club based in Sale, Cheshire, England, which competes in the Championship.[1] The club has won the Championship six times and three Challenge Cups. Before 1996, the club was known simply as Swinton RLFC.


Early years[edit]

The club was formed in 1866 when members of Swinton Cricket Club decided to take up Rugby football in the winter to keep fit. Other than an annual challenge against the local Lancashire Rifle Volunteers from 1869, the only games played were amongst the club's own membership.

In 1871, they joined the Rugby Football Union as Swinton and Pendlebury F.C., playing their first game at Burying Lane against Eccles Standard. The team quickly became virtually unbeatable in the Manchester area and beyond. This rise in stature was surprising because Swinton and Pendlebury was a tiny colliery village with a few cotton mills, but it had a large number of local junior teams from which the club drew its talent.

In 1873, they moved from Burying Lane (Station Road from circa 1889) to a ground known as Stoneacre, and used the nearby White Lion public house as changing rooms. They have been known as the Lions ever since.

Having gone three years undefeated in the mid-1870s, the Lions gradually sought a tougher fixture list. In 1878, the club ventured into Yorkshire, and was soon travelling throughout England taking on opponents including Oxford University. Such was the Lions' success that by the mid-1880s Swinton had become recognised as a national force and were considered the strongest team in Lancashire. The first rugby match under floodlights took place in Salford, between Broughton and Swinton on 22 October 1878.

Swinton team of 1881

In 1886, they moved to Chorley Road. The new ground could accommodate much larger crowds and the staging of County matches added to Swinton's growing reputation. The Lions produced several England internationals and dozens more who gained representative recognition wearing the red rose of Lancashire.

They were initially reluctant to join the new Northern Union, but did so on 2 June 1896 due to the fact that the majority of other teams in the area had done so, causing financial hardship to the club. The Northern Union was then split into two county leagues, Lancashire and Yorkshire.

In 1900, led by Jim Valentine, they won the Rugby League Challenge Cup defeating Salford at Fallowfield, Manchester.

On Saturday 8 September 1906, Swinton hosted a Pontefract team who arrived with only 12 players. The Lions scored 18 tries in a club record 76–4 victory. This record would stand for ninety years but three months later when the Lions visited Pontefract they lost 5–0.

The period leading up to World War I was not particularly auspicious for the Lions. Financial crisis followed financial crisis and only the sale of the main stand saved the club from closure during 1917. The war took the lives of 13 Swinton players, but back home the Lions played on throughout in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.

Inter-war period[edit]

Lions' directors managed to call upon the support of local businessmen. The signings of Hector Halsall, a centre and future captain, and Albert Jenkins, a Welsh half-back, provided the catalyst. Throughout the 1920s the Lions got better and better, they beat the visiting Australasian team of the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain 9–0. At last they won the Lancashire County Cup in 1925 before recapturing the Challenge Cup in 1926.

They then followed this with their first-ever Championship a year later, and in 1928 the team reached its zenith becoming the last team to secure All Four Cups; they were also the only side from Lancashire to achieve this feat (Hunslet and Huddersfield were the two other clubs). In addition to the Championship Trophy, the Challenge Cup, the Lancashire League and the Lancashire Cup; Swinton won a fifth cup, the Salford Royal Hospital Cup, which was competed for by Salford, Broughton Rangers and Swinton. Crowds in excess of 20,000 were commonplace at Chorley Road.

A traditional Swinton jersey design

Under captain, Hector Halsall, the Lions were a side with a strong Welsh presence, with players like Billo Rees as well as the Cumbrian goal-kicking second row forward, Martin Hodgson who signed for Swinton in January 1927. Hodgson still holds the long distance penalty goal world record with a kick of 77¾ yards (at the Athletic Grounds, Rochdale Hornets, in April 1940).

The 1927–28 season saw the Lions sweep all before them. They topped both the Championship and the Lancashire League, having already defeated Wigan in the Lancashire Cup. In a tense Challenge Cup Final they squeezed past Warrington 5–3, and three weeks later the Holy Grail was achieved when they comfortably eased past Featherstone Rovers 11–0 to take the Rugby Football League Championship.

A rent dispute in 1928 caused the club to search for pastures new. In 1929, the club then moved to a new stadium back near their original home off Station Road, taking the old stands with them. This new stadium's name was named after its location, Station Road. In March 1929, a 22,000 thousand crowd saw the Lions defeat Wigan in the first match on new turf. This soon became a favoured ground for major fixtures such as Test matches, Challenge Cup semi-finals, Lancashire Cup finals and Championship finals.

Further Championships were won in 1931 and 1935.

Swinton won the Lancashire Cup against Widnes in 1940, but thereafter the war curtailed the promise of further progress. In 1941–42, Swinton abandoned the Lancashire League due to the Second World War and did not return until the 1945–46 season.


Throughout the late 1940s, and the 1950s the Lions strove unsuccessfully to repeat former glories and often flattered to deceive, but the appointment of Welshman Cliff Evans as coach signalled a renaissance. Concentrating on a youth policy and training methods beyond his era, Evans began to model an exciting, young Swinton team. This new era saw some notable Welshmen in the Lions' ranks such as Rees Thomas, Ralph Morgan, Frank Osmond, Dai Moses, Ron Morgan and Graham Rees. Also in the 'swinging 1960s' years the Lions fielded real top class performers such as GB internationals Ken Gowers at full-back, Alan Buckley at left-centre plus his wing partner, John Stopford. During this same decade, local talent came to the fore with the likes of Graham Williams (scrum-half), Derek Whitehead (full-back/utility), Barry Simpson (2nd-row) and classy GB loose-forward Dave Robinson. During the second half of the decade other prominent players turned out for the Lions. Of these, perhaps the most worthy were stand-off Billy 'Daz' Davies, scrum-half Peter Kenny and 2nd-rowers Rod Smith (ex-Workington Town) and the highly respected Bill Holliday (ex-Whitehaven, Hull Kingston Rovers, Cumberland and GB). In fact it was the Lions 1960s quartet of Gowers, Buckley, Stopford and Robinson who were selected to play for the GB tourists on the 1966 tour to Australasia. Gowers was even given the honour of being awarded the position of tour vice-captain. However, some critics saw this as an apology for overlooking him when the previous tourists were chosen in 1962, when many believe he was easily the most outstanding player to wear a full-back's jersey in the British game.

A proposal in 1960 to create a Manchester rugby league club at the former White City Stadium on Chester Road, Old Trafford, Stretford, received strong opposition from Salford and Swinton. Their protests were renewed when a match was staged there between a Manchester XIII (Salford and Swinton players) and the New Zealand tourists in September 1961 and the idea was subsequently dropped.

Swinton made it to the final of the Lancashire County Cup in three consecutive seasons 1960–61, 1961–62 and 1962–63 plus 1964–65 but lost to St. Helens on each occasion at Central Park, Wigan. However, by the end of the 1960s they finally lifted the trophy after overcoming a strong Leigh side 11-2 led by Alex Murphy. Their victorious captain that early November day in 1969 at Central Park, Wigan was long serving dependable right-centre Bob Fleet.

Swinton became Champions of the Rugby Football League Championship in the 1962–63 season. Led by coach Cliff Evans and inspirational skipper Albert Blan, the team recovered from a slow start to complete the final backlogged 18 games (delayed due to the severe winter weather) of a 30-match league calendar undefeated to walk away with the Championship. Swinton's 6th Championship was retained in style 12 months later (1963–64).

As Swinton coach in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Albert Blan guided the team to a fourth and final Lancashire County Cup success in the 1969–70 Final against Leigh by 11–2 at Central Park, Wigan.

When two divisions were reintroduced in 1973, Swinton were out of the top flight, and have struggled to regain their former glories ever since. By the end of the 1970s the club had hit rock-bottom, even though Station Road continued to host semi-finals and finals.

Initially under Frank Myler, and then under Jim Crellin, the Lions briefly threatened a revival during the 1980s. Players such as Les Holliday (son of Bill) and Danny Wilson offered great hope for the future, but despite a Second Division Premiership success in 1987, three separate promotions simply brought about three immediate relegations.

Swinton offered Leigh the option of a ground share at Station Road in June 1991 but they turned it down. In 1992, financial mis-management necessitated the sale of Station Road for property development. The club moved to Gigg Lane, Bury, the home of Bury F.C. In the Lions' last season at Station Road they were drawing crowds of 3,000 but this sudden move caused the club to lose many supporters.[2]

Swinton were saved from liquidation by a consortium headed by former chairman Malcolm White in January 1993.

1996–2020: Summer era[edit]

In 1996, the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season.[3] The rest of the professional game in Britain would follow this move to summer.

In 1996, Swinton officially added Lions to their name. Peter Roe led Swinton to promotion from Division Two in 1996. The former Great Britain captain, Mike Gregory was the head coach of the club between 1998 and 2001. The popular but ultimately disastrous reign of Tony Humphreys followed in the early period of 2002. Humphreys was sacked in late May 2002 and replaced by former player Phil Veivers. Under the guidance of Veivers performances and result improved significantly and the Lions finished in a promotional playoff position. Only a loss to Sheffield Eagles denied the Lions the opportunity of promotion to National League One.

The financial failure of major creditor and de facto owner Hugh Eaves in 2002 put the future of the club in jeopardy, the chairman and benefactor Malcolm White resigned. The Swinton Supporters' Trust began life on 14 February 2002 in the White Lion public house and set about raising funds for the club. Shortly afterwards, Swinton were forced out of Gigg Lane by the financial problems of their landlords, Bury F.C.[4]

In August 2002, the club were brought the club back to within one mile of the Swinton and Pendlebury border when they played their first match at Moor Lane in Kersal as tenants of Salford City F.C., after travelling to Leigh and Chorley to play 'home' matches. Unfortunately the football club would not grant Swinton a ten-year lease which would be required to enable much needed funding to bring the ground up to standard.

In 2004, the Lions moved to Park Lane, Whitefield, home of Sedgley Park R.U.F.C.

Peter Roe quit as coach of Swinton Lions in September 2003, after less than a year in charge. He rejected a two-year contract to continue as the coach and general manager and left the National League Two club.[5]

In 2006, the return to Swinton and Pendlebury was taken one step further when club chairman, John Kidd, announced on 9 August that the club had acquired a site to build a 6,000 capacity stadium with training facilities and community use in Agecroft, Pendlebury.

In May 2007, Swinton Lions went into administration for about 48 hours to restructure the club from top to bottom. A new company, Swinton Lions Rugby Club, was set up to remove problems with shareholdings from the previous administration. The club came under the stewardship of chairman, John Kidd and fellow directors Paul Kidd (chairman's son), Dave Roberts and Ben Jones.

In May 2009, John Kidd announced that he hoped to be in a position to apply for planning permission from the local council by the autumn. Once given approval by Salford Council it was envisaged that construction could be completed quickly.

During the autumn of 2009 director Paul Kidd stood down as head coach and moved to his new role as director of rugby. It was also announced that the new player/coach for season 2010 would be Paul Smith with Ian Watson as his assistant player/coach. During the season, on 25 May 2010, Paul Smith announced his resignation from his head coach role and left to play for Leigh. He was replaced by Paul Kidd and Ian Watson.

On 26 September 2010, former Barrow coach Steve McCormack was confirmed as the head coach for the 2011 season with Ian Watson and Marlon Billy continuing in their roles as assistant coaches. Swinton played their home games for the 2011 season at the Willows, Weaste, Salford. Swinton went on to win promotion to the Co-operative Championship as Champions of Championship 1.

As of 7 June 2011 when the club hosted a fans' meeting at Moorside Social Club, Swinton, Mr Kidd stated that he expected that the building of the stadium should commence no later than New Year's Day, 2012 with completion set for the end of April (2012). However, the predicted return date of spring 2012 proved to be a somewhat optimistic and premature forecast. Ultimately the funding did not materialise and the club later relinquished its lease on the Agecroft site.

With Salford moving to a new stadium in Barton, Eccles, Swinton set up a ground-share with Leigh in the Co-operative Championship for the 2012 season and onwards whilst they await permission to build their own ground at Agecroft.[6]

On 18 March 2013 the club announced the appointment of Gary Chambers as head coach. Gary, a teacher at Harrop Fold School in Walkden.[7] By late 2013 the club was found to be in severe financial difficulties. Chairman John Kidd announced his resignation and hopes of saving the club were left in the hands of director David Jones and the Supporters' Trust. Alan Marshall and Stephen Wild were nominated by the Supporters' Trust to fill two positions on the new board of directors. Ian Watson took over as player-coach.

In January 2014, Salford City Reds owner Marwan Koukash announced his intention to revolutionise Swinton town centre via the development of St Ambrose Barlow RC High School. His plans were to include a 3,000 capacity stadium for the Lions on the site of the old school playing field, alongside new housing, restaurants and a hotel.

In June 2014, Ian Watson left to join Salford and John Duffy replaced him as head coach in July. A difficult season combined with drastic restructuring of the league structure left the Lions in the third tier of rugby league, League 1, in 2015. In October 2014 the club announced its intention to return to Park Lane, home of Sedgley Park RUFC as its home base for season 2015.

Following their promotion from League 1 to the Championship in 2015, Swinton were forced to play their home league games in nearby Salford and Widnes as Park Lane (Sedgley Park RUFC) did not meet the minimum requirements for the Championship, before moving to Heywood Road, Sale. As of March 2016 the club has re-engaged with the project to establish a community stadium in the Agecroft district of Pendlebury.

In July 2017 after a very poor season on the field and serious financial problems off it, coach John Duffy departed and took a new coaching post with Featherstone Rovers after their man in charge, Jon Sharp left his post. He was immediately replaced by former player and assistant coach Stuart Littler.

On 5 September 2017 the club announced that former Leigh Director Andy Mazey owner of Greater Manchester-based S. R. Waite Group would step in as the new club chairman. Since Mazey's arrival the board now includes former Manchester United Brand Manager Tony Sheridan, former Wigan Athletic footballer John Coyne, and Tecmark Managing Director Richard Heyes.[8]

In September 2019 the club announced that they were seeking permission from the Rugby Football League to rebrand the club as Manchester Lions from the 2020 season onwards. The official name of the club would remain Swinton Lions but the branding and presentation would all become Manchester.[9] The plan was met with considerable opposition including local councillors and the Mayor of Salford.[10] As a result of the opposition the re-brand plans were shelved and almost the entire board resigned on 12 September 2019, leaving sole remaining director Steve Wild in charge to re-structure the club. Since then a new board of directors has been assembled, which has subsequently taken ownership of the company.[11]

In the 2021 Championship season, Swinton finished bottom of the table and were relegated after winning only two matches for the entire year.[12] On 2 October 2022, Swinton achieved promotion from League 1 back to the championship after beating Doncaster 16-10 in the playoff final. In the 2023 RFL Championship season, Swinton finished 10th on the table.[13]

2024 squad[edit]

2022 Swinton Lions Squad
First team squad Coaching staff

Head coach

  • (c) Captain(s)
  • (vc) Vice-captain(s)

Updated: 13 December 2021
Source(s): 2022 Squad Numbers

2022 transfers[edit]


Player Club Contract length Date
Reece Hamlett Bradford Bulls 1 Year September 2021
Max Roberts Oldham RLFC 1 Year September 2021
Matty Wilkinson Oldham RLFC 1 Year September 2021
Dan Abram Oldham RLFC 1 Year October 2021
Jack Spencer Oldham RLFC 2 Years October 2021
Lewis Else Widnes Vikings 1 Year October 2021
Jordan Case Widnes Vikings 1 Year November 2021
Lewis Charnock Oldham RLFC 2 Years November 2021
Harry Darby Leigh Miners Rangers 1 Year November 2021


Player Club Contract length Date
Taylor Brown Retirement N/A September 2021
Luis Roberts Leigh Centurions 1 Year September 2021
Geronimo Doyle Whitehaven RLFC 1 Year September 2021
Sam Brooks Barrow Raiders 1 Year October 2021
Martyn Ridyard Oldham RLFC 2 Years October 2021
Paul Nash North Wales Crusaders 1 Year October 2021
Cobi Green Rochdale Hornets 1 Year October 2021
Dan Clare Released October 2021


Players earning international caps while at Swinton[edit]

Other notable players[edit]



Summer era[edit]

Season League Play-offs Challenge Cup Other competitions Name Tries Name Points
Division P W D L F A Pts Pos Top try scorer Top point scorer
1996 Division Two 22 18 0 4 785 295 36 2nd R4
1997 Division One 20 7 0 13 355 488 14 9th R4
1998 Division One 30 17 1 12 702 544 35 5th Lost in Elimination Playoffs R5
1999 Northern Ford Premiership 28 10 0 18 645 641 20 13th R4
2000 Northern Ford Premiership 28 13 2 13 726 733 28 9th R4
2001 Northern Ford Premiership 28 10 0 18 538 711 20 15th R4
2002 Northern Ford Premiership 27 6 1 20 473 918 13 15th R4
2003 National League Two 18 8 1 9 445 426 17 7th QF
2004 National League Two 18 12 0 6 547 460 24 4th Lost in Elimination Final R3
2005 National League Two 18 11 0 7 623 434 22 4th Lost in semi-final R4
2006 National League Two 22 13 1 8 641 475 27 7th Lost in preliminary final R4
2007 National League Two 22 11 0 11 605 649 33 7th Lost in Elimination Playoffs R4
2008 National League Two 22 6 0 16 482 777 22 10th R4
2009 Championship 1 18 8 0 10 513 516 27 7th Lost in Elimination Playoffs R4
2010 Championship 1 20 9 1 10 570 581 33 8th R5
2011 Championship 1 20 14 1 5 720 479 47 1st Promoted as Champions R5
2012 Championship 18 4 1 13 366 632 19 8th R5
2013 Championship 26 9 0 17 516 738 7 10th R3
2014 Championship 26 5 0 21 570 865 24 13th R5
2015 Championship 1 22 16 5 1 899 402 33 3rd Won in Promotion Final R5 League 1 Cup RU
2016 Championship 23 7 1 15 449 813 15 9th R4
Championship Shield 30 10 1 19 596 1001 21 5th
2017 Championship 23 6 0 17 477 648 12 10th R6
Championship Shield 30 8 0 22 629 862 16 6th
2018 Championship 23 3 2 18 402 866 8 11th Won in Relegation Playoff R4
Championship Shield 30 4 2 24 502 1112 10 8th
2019 Championship 27 10 1 16 619 803 21 9th R4 1895 Cup R2
2020 Championship[a] 3 2 0 2 48 55 2 10th R5
2021 Championship 21 2 1 18 308 748 5 13th R6[b] 1895 Cup SF
2022 League 1 20 16 0 4 834 317 32 2nd Won in Promotion Final R3
2023 Championship 27 9 0 18 426 739 18 10th R3



Player records[edit]

Team records[edit]

2012 Player Awards[edit]

  • Player of the Season: Darren Hawkyard
  • Leading Try Scorer: Martin Ainscough (16 Tries)


  1. ^ The 2020 Championship was abandoned due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom. Statistics shown are those at time of abandonment and are not official.
  2. ^ Officially round 3 due to the competitions temporary restructure in 2021.


  1. ^ "Operational Rules". RFL. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  2. ^ Swinton return from the wilderness[dead link]
  3. ^ Dave Hadfield (20 December 1995). "Rugby's pounds 87m deal gives Murdoch transfer veto". The Independent. Archived from the original on 26 May 2022. Retrieved 6 May 2009.
  4. ^ Reborn Lions happy to walk into Wigan's den
  5. ^ Ward set to retire after passion fades[dead link]
  6. ^ "Swinton Lions to share Leigh Sports Village next season". BBC Sport. BBC Sport. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  7. ^ "Swinton Lions appoint Gary Chambers as head coach". BBC Sport. Retrieved 11 September 2015.
  8. ^ "Officials — Swinton Lions". Swinton Lions. Retrieved 26 September 2018.
  9. ^ "Swinton confirm Manchester Lions name change". Love Rugby League. 5 September 2019. Retrieved 5 September 2019.
  10. ^ "Swinton Lions: Board resign over objection to Manchester name change". BBC News. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  11. ^ "Swinton Lions board wanted to become Manchester Lions - now they've all resigned". Manchester Evening News. 13 September 2019. Retrieved 17 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Championship side announces they are going full-time". www.seriousaboutrl.com. 3 October 2021.
  13. ^ "Swinton Lions secure promotion back to the Championship". www.loverugbyleague.com. 2 October 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Swinton's record attendance". Rugby Leaguer & League Express. No. 3,108. 12 February 2018. p. 34.

Further reading[edit]

Wild, Stephen (1999). The Lions of Swinton - A Complete History.

External links[edit]