|Full name||London Broncos Rugby League Football Club|
|Short name||London Broncos|
|Colours||Black, White and Red|
The London Broncos are a professional rugby league club in Ealing, London, who compete in the Championship, the second tier of professional rugby league football. They competed in the Super League from its introduction in 1996 until the end of the 2014 season. The current head coach is Danny Ward who took over from Andrew Henderson who left in October 2017 to join Warrington,[clarification needed] assisted by England and Great Britain international Jamie Langley.
The club was originally formed as Fulham in 1981, entering the Rugby Football League Championship's second division for the 1980-81 Rugby Football League season. The club has also been known as London Crusaders (1991-1994), London Broncos (1994-2005 and since 2012) and Harlequins Rugby League (2006-2011).
Whilst the club has never won a major trophy, they were finalists in the 1999 Challenge Cup and finished the 1997 Super League season in second place. The only trophy the club has won since its formation in 1980 is the Rugby Football League Championship Second Division in 1982-83.
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Professional rugby league was briefly represented in London in the 1930s by London Highfield (1933), Acton and Willesden (1935-36) and Streatham and Mitcham (1935-36). All were speculative clubs set up by local businessmen purely as money making exercises, and were ultimately driven out of business through poor finances. Thereafter, the sport of rugby league in England remained exclusively a Northern game for over forty years until the formation of new club in London, Fulham.
In 1980, Fulham Football Club chairman Ernie Clay, set up a rugby league team at Craven Cottage, with the intention of creating another income stream for the football club. Warrington director Harold Genders, who had helped to persuade Clay of the benefits of starting a rugby league club in the capital, resigned from the Warrington board to become managing director of Fulham R.L.F.C. The Rugby Football League (RFL), keen to encourage the expansion of the sport beyond its traditional Northern heartland, accepted the new club at once. One of the game's leading players, Reg Bowden, was recruited by Genders to act as player-coach and the club's first signing was Roy Lester on a free transfer from Warrington. Within nine weeks, Genders and Bowden had assembled a team of experienced players approaching retirement, together with a few promising youngsters.
Nearly 10,000 Londoners turned up for the opening game at Craven Cottage to see the newly formed side convincingly beat highly regarded Wigan 24-5. The new Fulham RL team quickly proved to be very competitive and went on to win promotion at the end of their inaugural season. After their initial season, immediate relegation from the first division in 1981-82 was something of a reality check.
Fulham played two "home" games against Swinton and Huddersfield at Widnes in 1983 as the pitch at the Cottage had disintegrated in the wet winter following the collapse of the main drain to the River Thames under the Miller Stand.
Despite winning the Division Two Championship in 1982-83, a second immediate relegation in 1983-84 coupled with continuing financial losses saw Clay, under pressure from the Fulham board, pull the plug at the end of their fourth season. However, with the backing of supporters Roy and Barbara Close and with a new coach, former player Roy Lester, Fulham RL still had a future. Most of the players had moved on as free agents and a new team began life at the Crystal Palace National Sports Centre.
The club moved to Chiswick Polytechnic Sports Ground in 1985. They also played several one-off games at football grounds around London such as Wealdstone, Hendon, Brentford and Chelsea's ground Stamford Bridge in 1983.
Bill Goodwin replaced Lester as coach between 1986 and 1987. In August 1986, Fulham hit a cash crisis and withdrew from RFL 11 days before the start of the season but re-launched in September.Bev Risman was asked to be coach at Fulham in 1987. The team was in the bottom half of the second division. The team struggled for success and Risman left after a couple of seasons and Bill Goodwin returned. Phil Sullivan was coach for just two months between January and February 1989, Goodwin came in for his third spell and held the reins until May 1989 when Ross Strudwick was appointed.
The club returned to Crystal Palace in 1990.
A 1991 name change to London Crusaders coincided with a slightly more successful period on the pitch.
Ross Strudwick was replaced as coach by Darryl van der Velde in 1992 but continued as manager until 1993. The Crusaders moved from Crystal Palace National Sports Centre to Barnet Copthall arena in June 1993. In November 1993, London Crusaders imposed 20% pay cut to ease financial problems. The RFL briefly owned the Crusaders in 1993-94 as the Bartrams departed but Crusaders' new owners were Britannic Shipping; Strudwick stepped down as manager to give the club's new owners a clean slate.
The climax of the Crusaders era was a 1994 appearance in the Divisional Premiership Final under coach Tony Gordon. They lost 22-30 to Workington Town with Mark Johnson scoring a hat-trick and Logan Campbell also bagging a try.
In the spring of 1994 it was announced that the Australian NRL club the Brisbane Broncos, who had just won back-to-back premierships, was buying the London team, which would be renamed London Broncos. Gordon was replaced by a Brisbane coach, Gary Grienke. The first home game under the Broncos moniker was against Keighley at Hendon F.C.'s ground on Clairmont Road. During a period of improving fortunes they made the 1994 Divisional Premiership Final at Old Trafford.
Despite not playing in the top flight, London Broncos were selected by the RFL to be part of the new Super League competition in 1996 on the basis that it was essential for the sport to have a high profile representative in the capital. In their first year in the top flight, the 1995-96 Rugby Football League season, the Broncos came second last. Former Brisbane Bronco Tony Currie took up the role of head coach.
Broncos moved to southeast London to play at the Valley, home of Charlton Athletic, which is when David Hughes became involved with the club. But after one season they were on their way back to west London to play at the Stoop Memorial Ground.
The 1996 season brought the best London attendances since the inaugural season at Craven Cottage. Tony Rea retired from playing at the end of the season to take up the Chief Executive role at the club.
After two years they moved once again, to the Harlequin rugby union club's Stoop Memorial Ground. Richard Branson's Virgin Group became majority shareholders, and the immediate future looked very bright. In 1997, after a remarkably good season they finished second in Super League. Highlights that year included victories at the Stoop over Canberra in the World Club Challenge and Bradford and Wigan in Super League II.
In 1998, as part of rugby league's "on the road" scheme London Broncos played Bradford Bulls at Tynecastle in Edinburgh in front of over 7,000 fans. Success continued in 1998 with a first appearance in the Challenge Cup semi-finals, losing to Wigan. Head coach Tony Currie left the club at the end of the 1998 Super League season and was replaced by Dan Stains.
In 1999, the club went one better, having its best cup run to date. Following a famous semi-final victory over Castleford, the Broncos reached the Challenge Cup Final at Wembley Stadium for the first time, but were defeated 52-16 by Leeds. The club sacked Stains after the Broncos endured a long losing streak during the Super League campaign. Tony Rea was appointed temporary joint head coach with Stains' assistant Les Kiss. Rea and Kiss managed to steer Broncos out of the slump.
The Virgin Group then became the majority shareholder and in 1999, they reached the Challenge Cup Final, losing to Leeds Rhinos in what proved to be the last rugby league game ever to be played at the old Wembley Stadium.
In 2000, John Monie was appointed head coach. Monie only stayed in the job until the last month of the 2000 Super League season with the club endured a mediocre season during his tenure. Rea took over caretaker coach until the end of the season and Broncos sailed to mid-table security. Rea resigned his Chief Executive role at the end of the 2000 season to become head coach on a full-time basis.
In 2002, fervent supporter David Hughes purchased the majority shareholding from Virgin in a major restructuring of the club. the Broncos moved back across London to play at Griffin Park as tenants of Brentford FC. 2003 marked the club's first Super League play off appearance, losing in the first round to St. Helens 24-6 at Knowsley Road.
The 2005 season was marked by significant activity off the pitch as the club welcomed new chairman and majority shareholder Ian Lenagan who had bought up 65% of the shares. This was followed by the announcement of a partnership with Harlequins Rugby Union Club that saw the side return to Twickenham Stoop, this time renamed as Harlequins RL for the 2006 season.
Ian Lenagan became the majority shareholder in the London Broncos in July 2005.
Within a week of his arrival, the team was renamed "Harlequins" and the press releases of the time suggested that this would make the combined club "a powerhouse in both codes" according to Mark Evans of the Union club and provide a "very, very strong future for rugby league in the capital" according to Lenagan in the article http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/super_league/london/4712141.stm
The arrangement between the clubs was described as a "long-term partnership".
At the time of the announcement there were lots of projected benefits of the clubs sharing and pooling.
Both clubs played at the same ground and had access to the Richardson Evans Playing Fields, Roehampton Vale, though as a home venue for the Harlequin Amateurs it was not fit for a professional club of either code.
There was no integration, no player development and the administrative and commercial resources sharing was largely allowing the RL club to have shared office space.
The integration appeared to be a combined lottery - which folded long before the Rugby League side permanently left the Twickenham Stoop - and the two "double headers". The first was in 2006 in which the Union side played first, then the League side, but the two hour gap between fixtures was off-putting to the Union supporters and the majority had long since exited the ground before the kick-off of the League fixtures. Plymouth Albion and Leeds Carnegie were the Union opponents for the Union whilst the Rugby League team played Huddersfield and St Helens.
On field, The Harlequins RL new franchise started with 8,213 watching the home game against St Helens on February 11th 2006 but this heavy loss at home was followed by consecutive home losses against Wakefield and Castleford before a 0-60 home defeat to Leeds. It was not until the fifth home game in the league that the team won at the Twickenham Stoop against Catalan Dragons in round 9.
Whilst the new franchise started with a goal of 5,500 average home ground attendance by mid 2007. the actual attendances tended to be around the 3,500 level.
A 38-18 loss against bottom of the table Catalan, who were in their first year in Super League in late June was followed by a close home defeat to a Wigan team after both teams scored four tries each. Harlequins were still at this point 9th out of 12.
On 8 July 2006, Ian Lenagan removed Tony Rea as head coach and appointed one of the Leeds Rhinos' assistant coaches Brian McDermott and appointed Tony Rea to a position on the club's board of directors.
Results at home improved taking Harlequins RL to 7th place in Super League XI.
The 2007 season saw the team pull off an incredible opening win against St Helens and by July 7th the team was 5th in the table but a second half of the season collapse - a recurring them of the McDermott reign - saw the team win only once from eight to finish 9th.
At the end of the season, Ian Lenagan was bizarrely allowed to take over a team in the same competiton Wigan Warriors and given two whole years to sell his Harlequins shares. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_league/7059459.stm
Not surprisingly investment was limited in the London club.
In 2008, Harlequins RL got off to a good start, winning six from the first ten games but as was customary a second half of the season collapse saw the club won only five from the last seventeen games to finish in 9th again.
In 2009, the club was playing very well in the early part of the season, which extended up until June 12th with ten wins from sixteen but the rest of the season was miserable with one win from 12 seeing the club slide from an established 5th position to 11th.
Home supporters were particularly displeased with the 0-48 home loss to Castleford and the 0-36 half time score v Bradford.
By round 12 in 2010, the club has won only one game from the first eleven and were bottom of the table, meaning that McDermott has seen the team win just twice in twenty three games and at half-time away at Wigan the team were losing 24-6 before pulling off the finest comeback as Harlequins RL to win 38-26. That seemed to spur the team into life with three more wins from the next four, but after that there was an end-of-season collapse to join the start-of-season collapse.
The round 25 game at Catalan saw the Quins bottom of the table with Catalan on a similar points tally and the game looked likely to decide who would finish bottom. The Quins were winning 16-12 with just a couple of minutes to go when Catalan were over the line with ball in hand, but Will Sharp stripped the ball from the Dragons player and Quins held out for the win.
The last ever game under McDermott saw Harlequins lose to Warrington at home; 7 wins from his last 38 games - and positions which worsened by the table - seeing no contract renewal on the table.
It was a shock to Harlequins RL supporters to see McDermott's assistant take over and this bizarre decision seemed to be warranted as Rob Powell oversaw three wins from their first three matches placing them at the top of the ladder.
Away wins at Leeds Rhinos and St Helens seemed to herald a new dawn, however, the club's run of success was ended with a club record 82-6 defeat to Warrington Wolves on 20 March 2011 and the team were within a try of losing by the all-time Super League record margin of -80 held by Salford City Reds.
After that the Harlequins only won two more games in the next six months and the circle of life was completed when Harlequins RL played St Helens in their final game as the franchise on September 10th 2011.
The club announced on 1 November 2011 that it would be reverting to London Broncos name from 2012. In addition, the team unveiled a new logo as well as new colours of black, light blue and silver. On 4 February, London Broncos played their first competitive match against St. Helens since reverting to that name. The game was won by St. Helens 34-24 in front of a 4,924 crowd, which was higher than all of their attendances in the year before. In the match, seven players made their debuts for the club.
In the 2012 season, the Broncos played two home games "on the road" away from the Twickenham Stoop, on 6 June vs Bradford at Leyton Orient FC's Brisbane Road, where they were narrowly beaten 22-29 in front of 2,844 fans, and on 20 June vs Hull F.C. at Gillingham FC's Priestfield Stadium, as thanks for the work Medway Dragons had done in growing rugby league in Kent. The game proved to be popular with nearly 4,000 (3,930) turning up to watch London narrowly beaten 12-14 by Hull.
Tony Rea was appointed as the club's head coach for a second time in August 2012 taking over from Rob Powell. In 2013, London Broncos used four venues for their home games with the majority being played at the Twickenham Stoop. On 8 June 2013, London once again played a home game at Priestfield Stadium, this time being heavily beaten 82-10 by Warrington in front of 3,041 fans. On 28 March, London had to play a home game at Molesey Road due to a waterlogged pitch at the Stoop. For the next home game on 6 April, Harlequins didn't allow London to use the Stoop due to a Heineken Cup game, forcing them to play Bradford at Adams Park.
London Broncos had a successful Challenge Cup campaign in 2013, reaching the semi-finals for the first time since their Wembley appearance in 1999. In round 4, London beat part-timers Featherstone Rovers 24-12 and in round 5, defeated Bradford 25-16. In the quarter-finals, London Broncos beat part-timers Sheffield Eagles 29-10 to book a place in the semi-finals. On 27 July, London Broncos' dream of reaching the final for the second time came emphatically to an end with a televised 0-70 defeat by Wigan, a record score in a Challenge Cup semi-final.
On 29 June 2013, London Broncos announced the loan signing of Australian Jamie Soward until the end of the season. Soward quickly became a fans favourite with a man of the match performance on his debut v Salford (scoring a try and kicking five goals) and received a standing ovation from the crowd despite being defeated 30-44. Soward put in impressive performances in his short venture in England and in 9 games scored 67 points (5 tries, 23 goals, 1 drop goal).
The club's financial struggles were made evident when, on 20 November 2013, the club announced that it would have to enter administration in ten working days if a new owner was not found. On 3 December 2013, London Broncos announced, "The club will be instructing lawyers to file a further notice of intention to appoint administrators at court, which shall be effective for 10 business days". The club's saviour David Hughes later decided to carry on putting millions into the club.
On 13 December 2013, London Broncos announced a move to the Hive Stadium in Edgware, the new home of Barnet F.C. After London lost 21 players from their 2013 squad, they faced a huge task to build up their squad again with minimal finances. The Broncos managed to retain twelve players from 2013 and in the off season signed 16 players (five on loan) including Tongan international fullback Nesiasi Mataitonga and former England international hooker Scott Moore. Tony Rea quit as coach following Broncos' 11-game winless start to the Super League season. Assistant coach Joey Grima became head coach, having been asked to take charge for the rest of the season and next.. Despite several closely contested games in 2014, the team struggled throughout the season against teams with more strength in depth and greater financial resources and finished the season bottom of the table, with only one win.
A supporters club (the LBSA) was founded in 2014 in order for fans to have a voice regarding their team. In July, at a pre-match lunch hosted by former Broncos Martin Offiah and Shaun Edwards, the LBSA announced its Hall of Fame, with six inaugural inductees: Reg Bowden, Peter Gill, Mark Johnson, Hussain M'Barki, Rob Purdham, Steele Retchless and Scott Roskell.
The capital club has competed in all 19 Super League seasons and this was the club's first relegation since 1984 as Fulham RL and the first time the club competed in the second division since 1995.
Relegation bought another mass exodus of players, with the club losing key homegrown and non-homegrown players.
In the 2015 season, London Broncos had a poor season. Head Coach Joey Grima had issues with senior players like Foran, Cordoba, Mathers, Adamson and Lovegrove which meant that by about a third of the way into the season none were selectable. The club trained players went into the double digits that season but of them only Alex Walker and Matt Davis would be successful in the long run. As pressure built, Grima resigned leaving Andrew Henderson in charge. Henderson had too much to do and Broncos were a long way short of making the Super 8 play-offs that would have given them a chance of promotion back to Super League. However a surprise away win in the qualifiers at Dewsbury Rams saw the club make it to the Championship Shield Grand Final in Widnes but the club were heavily beaten 36-4 by Featherstone Rovers.
In 2016, London Broncos moved to Ealing having signed a three-year deal to play at the Trailfinders Sports Ground, home of rugby union side Ealing Trailfinders. On the 3rd of July, the Broncos beat Dewsbury 36-6 to secure a place in the Qualifiers against the bottom 4 Super League teams for promotion. Henderson signed Penrith Panthers playmaker Jamie Soward, who played for the Broncos in 2013, until the end of the season. London Broncos finished 2nd in the Championship heading into the Qualifiers for a place in Super League. The Broncos started the Qualifiers with a narrow 34-30 away loss to Leigh. London then won their first game in the competition setting a record club scoring victory over Batley 76-16 at the Trailfinders Sports Ground. The following week, Henderson's team put in a gutsy, strong performance going down 28-42 to Leeds in front of a record rugby league crowd at the ground of 1,845 in front of the Sky Sports cameras.
In 2017 the Broncos again finished second and reached the qualifiers for a second consecutive year. The team put in several impressive performances including a close 38-40 loss against Warrington Wolves; lost by just two points against Catalans Dragons away and came within six points of beating Hull KR. However the last two games were both hammerings whilst Broncos also blew the lead against Featherstone to draw on the hooter and only actually beat Halifax. Owner David Hughes would have been displeased with only one win and shortly after the season Andrew Henderson finished with the club.
In 2018 the Broncos got off to a flying start with seven wins in a row to go first in the championship table with five straight wins, breaking their previous record for the best start to a season with a 68-12 home victory over Batley Bulldogs. A midseason slump saw the club needing an improbable sequence of results to make the play-offs but six wins and a draw from the last seven saw the club achieve exactly that and make the play-offs.
The original Fulham team wore an all black kit with a broad white chevron, bordered with red, on the shirt. As London Crusaders, the kit used the same colours again, but in a variety of designs over the seasons. London Broncos wore red, yellow and blue also in a variety of styles, with red being the predominant colour for the last 5 years of their existence. When the club became known as Harlequins they adopted the colours of sister rugby union side Harlequin F.C.. When the club returned to being known as the London Broncos, the colours were black and cyan blue with the home kit being black with a light blue trim and the reverse for the away kit In 2015, the London Broncos reverted to their Fulham colours with their home kit being predominantly black with a white chevron and a red strip around the chevron and on the bottom of sleeves. The home shirt is a replica of the original Fulham RL kit in celebration of the 35th anniversary of the club.
The first Broncos badge was a red and white crest with a horse on the front with London in scripted on the top. This was worn between the 1990s, and 2006 when they became known as Harlequins.
The Harlequins club crest was the same as the rugby union team as they had also adopted the club's colours as well. This was used up until 2011.
In 2012, the club reverted to the name London Broncos and created a new crest that is silver and blue.
London Broncos Supporters Association (LBSA)
The London Broncos Supporters Association (LBSA) was formed in 2014 and has almost 300 members (as of August 2018). They run heritage days, organise player of the year awards and sponsor the club's academy side.
Supporter's Player of the Year Awards
Player of the Year
2014 - Matt Cook (1)
2015 - Wes Naiqama (1)
2016 - Rhys Williams (1)
2017 - Jarrod Sammut (1)
Young Player of the Year
2014 - Joe Keyes (1)
2015 - Matt Davis (1)
2016 - James Cunningham (1)
2017 - Alex Walker (1)
Hall of Fame
In 2014, the LBSA launched the club's Hall of Fame, and announced seven inaugural inductees.
Individual player records