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London Rugby League
The London Broncos are a professional Rugby League team based in the capital city of London. The club currently play in the Championship although they have spent much of their existence in the top flight.
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The Broncos have had to go it alone in the South of England for much of their existence and whilst over the years more and more clubs in and around London have formed the club have tended to work alongside them so no true rivalry has developed.
As the nearest teams the London Skolars and Hemel Stags could be thought of as their rivals but in many ways, it is the Catalans Dragons who are the biggest rivals as these have been the 2 sides located outside of the sports heartlands to play the most in the top flight.
The Broncos colours have changed even more often than the club have changed identities. Originally as Fulham the club wore a mostly black kit with white chevron on the front.
The club continued this colour scheme as the London Crusaders but when they initially became the London Broncos the club took on what is now arguably their most iconic colour scheme of Red, Yellow and Blue.
The club then became known as Harlequins RL after an ill-fated partnership with the Rugby Union side and during this era they wore colours of Quins RU.
When the club returned back to their London Broncos name they returned back to a predominately black colour scheme with cylan blue as the secondary colour.
Alongside changing names and changing colours, London have also changed grounds with regularity and that nomadic lifestyle has made it hard to develop their crowds.
The clubs original stadium was Craven Cottage as the club were formed by Fulham FC. The club moved to Crystal Palace National Sports Centre as the football club stopped funding them.
In 1985 the club moved to Chiswick Polytechnic Sports Ground although they did play bigger matches at a number of football stadiums including Wealdstone, Hendon, Brentford and Chelsea’s Stamford Bridge before returning back to Crystal Palace in 1990.
As the London Crusaders, the club left Palace and moved to Barnet Copthall.
In 1994 the club were bought by the owners of Australian giants the Brisbane Broncos and changed their name to the London Broncos.
They started life as the Broncos at Hendon FC’s Clairmont Road ground but with their fortunes improving on the field the club moved to The Valley, home of the association football team Charlton Athletic.
Following a takeover by David Hughes, the club moved in with future partners Harlequins and played their matches at the Twickenham Stoop. The club bought by the Virgin group and enjoyed their most successful years but when Virgin moved on, David Hughes rebought the club and moved them to The Brentford FC’s Griffin Park.
London soon moved back to The Stoop as they became known as Harlequins RL. In 2012 the club reverted back to London Broncos and since then have moved to both The Hive in Barnet and to their current ground in Ealing known as the Trailfinders Sports Ground.
The club have yet to win a major trophy since been formed but they did make it to the Challenge Cup Final in 1999 and finished second in the 1997 Super League. They did win the RFL Championship Second Division in 1982-83.
Professional Rugby League has a long history in London with representatives of the city including London Highfield, Acton and Willesden and Streatham and Mitcham back in the 1930 but due to lack of interest these clubs struggled and it wasn’t until Fulham FC started up the now London Broncos that Rugby League got any sort of a footing in the nation’s capital.
The club have often struggled for finances and in August 1986 the club actually withdrew from the RFL but thanks to a group of dedicated fans, the club survived and were reinstated just 11 days later.
The Broncos are the only representatives to have participated in the Super League from the capital and although they have had a few names and ground changes over the years, they have a history full of quality players and developing talent from the South East.
Since been formed as Fulham RLFC in 1980, the Broncos have failed to settle down to one area of London and this constant moving has made it hard to build a large fan base but the fans that they do have are amongst the most passionate in the country and often the friendliest.
Due to their isolation in the capital, many ‘Northern’ fans who move to the South have taken the Broncos on board as their team and with many young quality players from the South now breaking through into the Broncos first team, it looks as though the future for the London Broncos could be an exciting one.
The club’s nomadic existence looks set to continue for some time as the club have established themselves as a top Championship side / bottom Super League club and the need for the club to find a home for themselves takes a back seat the clubs trying to gain and keep their place at the top table.
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