Recreational and sports amenities in Birmingham
Apart from the well known sports teams that play in the city, there are few cities in Europe that can lay claim to having hosted such a wide variety of European and International sports championships that Birmingham can. From Show Jumping to Table-Tennis and Motor Racing to Badminton, Birmingham has been thehost in recent years.
A major reason for so many championship events being held in Birmingham is the presence of the National Indoor Arena (The NIA) in King Edwards Road, behind the International Convention Centre. It is used to host a wide variety of championship events including; Martial Arts, Athletics, Trampolining and Davies Cup Tennis to name but a few. The NIA is part of the NEC group, the National Exhibition Centre. The NEC is owned by Birmingham City Council, but is actually located in Solihull to the east of the city. The NEC Arena is now the home of the Horse of the Year show.
Birmingham has two football teams playing in the Premiership of the English Football Leagues. The senior of the two clubs is Aston Villa FC, known locally as ‘The Villa’. Their ground ‘Villa Park’ is in the suburb of Aston and was regularly used for FA Cup semi-finals. Formed in 1874 from a cricket club in pursuit of “…. something to do during the winter months”, they are one of the twelve founding members of the Football League in 1888. Villa are one of only three English clubs to have won the European Cup, in 1982, beating Bayern Munich 1-0. Since then, apart from winning the League Cup a couple of times, they have failed to win any major trophies but remain one of the countries best known clubs. Many famous footballers have played for and managed Aston Villa, but the name of Peter Withe is probably the most memorable for scoring the winning goal in the European Cup, along with a prolific 90 goals in total in 232 games. Birmingham City FC, also known as ‘The Blues’, play at St Andrews in Small Heath. Formed in 1875, it was in 1945 that they became Birmingham City FC, having started out playing under the name of Small Heath Alliance. Despite having never won a major trophy The Blues have a consistently large and loyal set of fans. Technically just outside the boundaries of the city is West Bromwich Albion FC. Despite the fact that their ground, The Hawthorns - which is the most elevated in the country at 168 metres above sea level, is actually a few metres inside Sandwell, they still have many followers who are resident in Birmingham.
The Edgbaston Cricket Ground is home to the Warwickshire County Cricket Club, one of the top teams in the country. With historical associations going back to the 1820s, the first Warwickshire Cricket Club as we would now recognise it, was established in 1882. The Bears, as they are known locally, are regular winners of trophies and have had many illustrious players in their team, such as: Eric Hollis, Dennis Amiss and Brian Lara. With one of the best grounds in the country Edgbaston has been used as one of the elite venues for international cricket test matches since 1902. About 1 km away from the cricket ground is the Edgbaston Priory Tennis Club. This is home to the DFS Classic, which is played here annually and is one of the few international ranking tennis events in the UK that is played outside of London.
The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr is the home of the Birchfield Harriers AC. The athletic club has been in existence since 1879 and now enjoys considerable success; current team members include athletes of great quality such as Denise Lewis, Kelly Southerton and Glen Smith. Team alumina include; Ainsley Bennett, Derek Redmond and Geoff Capes. Their home stadium, The Alexander, is one of the premier athletics venues in the country, hosting national and international competitions and championships. The top basketball club in the city is the Birmingham Bullets, who play their games at Chelmsley Wood. They are one of the clubs with a franchise to play in the top flight of British basketball – The British Basketball League. There is an ice hockey club, the Birmingham Eagles, who play in Division One of the British Universities Ice Hockey Association. Bournville Hockey Club was founded in 1902 making it one of the oldest in the country. The men’s first team play in Division One of the English Slazenger League and the women’s first team plays in the Midlands Conference league. As well as having many excellent municipal golf courses, there are nearby two international standard courses. The Belfry, just outside of Sutton Coldfield, has hosted the Ryder Cup and the British Masters on several occasions. It has three courses; The Derby, The PGA National and the world famous Brabazon. Near Hampton-in-Arden is the Forest of Arden course. This is a regular venue on the European Golf Tour; it is also used for the British Masters event as well as the English Open.
The City of Birmingham has some excellent municipal sports and recreational facilities including seventeen municipal swimming pools. The leading swimming club in Birmingham is the City of Birmingham Swimming Club.