Recreational and sports amenities in Liverpool
Two sports most readily associated with Liverpool are, of course, horse racing and football. However, Liverpool has much more to offer the sports enthusiast. Apart from being an occasional venue for county cricket matches, Liverpool also has athletics, swimming, karate, rugby league, baseball and golf clubs of national and international repute.
First run in 1839 The Grand National is the most famous steeple-chase race for horses in the world. The race is run annually in April at the equally famous Aintree race course in Liverpool, over 4.5 miles, about 7.25km, and has 16 gruelling fences for the horses and their riders to conquer as they do two circuits of the course. In recent times the horse Red Rum is probably the name most readily associated with this great race. There is a statue of the three times winner at the race course. Aintree also has a history in motor racing, having hosted the British Grand Prix in the 1950s and early 1960s.
The sporting passion in Liverpool has to be football. The city has two Premiership football clubs, the top flight of English Association Football. Liverpool FC are one of the most consistently high performing clubs in the country, and are a name known in football circles across Europe and around the world. Their highest achievement is having won the European Cup five times, most recently in 2005, a feat only exceeded by Real Madrid and AC Milan. The list of other honours won by Liverpool FC is immense and their trophy cabinet must be the largest in the country. The club’s ground, Anfield, was originally used by Everton FC. They left the ground in 1892 and subsequently Liverpool FC was formed to continue the use of the ground as a football venue. By 1901 the club had won the first of its eighteen Championship titles, finishing top of the English football leagues. Many legendary names are associated with this football club, none more so than Bill Shankly their manager across three decades who built the foundations for the club’s later success in Europe. The list of great and well known players that have been at the club includes names like; Emlyn Hughes, Kenny Dalglish and more recently Michael Owen. The club is due to move to a new ground at Stanley Park in 2008. With a ground at Goodison Park Everton FC have in recent times been somewhat under the shadow of their illustrious neighbour. Still one of the great clubs of English football, Everton last won a trophy, the FA Cup, in 1995. Formed from what had been a school football team the club was established in 1878 and moved to Goodison Park in 1892. Dixie Dean, Tommy Lawton and Alan Ball are famous names associated with this club, which still retains a committed and fervent fan base.
The ground for Liverpool Cricket Club is off the Aigburth Road, the A581 at Grassendale. This first class ground is also used by Lancashire County Cricket Club for some of their matches. 2007 is the Bi-Centennial year for Liverpool CC, who play in the first division of the Liverpool and District Cricket Competition, which is one of the ECB Premier Leagues. The cricket club also has facilities for running Bowls, Hockey, Lacrosse, squash, Tennis and Rugby Union teams. Since 2002 there has been an annual Liverpool International Tennis Tournament, held at Calderstones Park. The tournament attracts ATP and WTA ranked players. Liverpool Harriers are the senior athletics club in the city; they use the Wavertree Stadium on Wellington Road. The City of Liverpool Swimming Club have been champions of the Speedo National League for eight out of the last 11 years. The club regularly produces swimmers that are selected to represent the country at European, Commonwealth, World and Olympic championships.
Both codes of rugby are played in Liverpool but neither is as popular as football. Formed in 1907 the Sefton RUFC have a ground off Thorn Head Lane and play in the Lancashire & Cheshire Division II. Liverpool St Helens RUFC claim to be the oldest rugby club in the world. Established in 1857 when they simply called themselves the Liverpool Football Club, at a time when rugby was also referred to as football, they merged with the St Helens RUFC in 1986 and now play at the Moss Lane ground. The Liverpool Buccaneers are the Rugby League club that represents the city. They share the ground in West Derby with Sefton RUFC. The Buccaneers were formed in 2002 and play in the TotalRL.com Summer Conference league, which they won in 2006. Within 20km of the city centre there are several premier Rugby League clubs including; Widnes, St Helens and Warrington.
The Royal Liverpool Golf Club is on the A565 between Hoylake and West Kirkby. Built in 1869 on what was then a race course, it is the second oldest and undoubtedly one of the best links courses in the country. It has hosted the British Open, one of the top three golfing events in the world, most recently in 2006 and on eleven occasions in total.