Luton loves sport, and more than just the famed football and cricket, Luton Town Football Club, founded in 1885, became the first team in southern England to turn professional. The Hatters joined the top flight in 1955, reaching the FA Cup final in 1959 and achieving fame in the 1970s when Eric Morecambe was a director. Their most memorable victory was beating Arsenal in the 1988 Football League Littlewoods Cup final.
The club are currently pushing for promotion back to the Football League where they clearly belong – with a stadium capacity of 10,226 and regular support 50% higher than the league above. Luton Cricket Club is the occasional one-day ground for Northants CCC and the main ground of Bedfordshire County Cricket Club, for whom England players Alastair Cook, Graeme Swann and Luton-born Monty Panesar all played. They have twice won the Minor Counties Championship outright. Across Luton there are around 100 local football clubs and 34 cricket teams, as well as clubs for hockey, tennis, bowls, cycling, gymnastics, golf, boxing and Gaelic football. Luton Athletics Club has over 200 members, some of whom have competed for Great Britain. The club helps to organise the Luton Marathon and 10km event through Luton Hoo estate, operating from its international standard track in Stockwood Park.
Luton and Lutonians have a great love of sport. Luton Town Football Club became nationally famous in the 1970s due to celebrity backing from Eric Morecambe, and while the fortunes of the club have ebbed and flowed, local participation in different sports and clubs has never been higher.
Luton Town Football Club was founded in 1885 and was the first team in southern England to turn professional. Nicknamed the Hatters, following Luton’s association with the hat manufacturing industry, the club did not reach the top flight of English football until 1955. FA Cup finalists in 1959, the club’s brightest moment to date was beating Arsenal to win the Football League Littlewoods Cup in 1988. Luton’s most recent silverware was in 2009, winning the Football League Trophy, and as one of the biggest clubs currently playing non-league football.
Luton Town Football Club’s base at Kenilworth Road is in the heart of Luton and has a capacity of 10,226. Average attendances at Luton are over three times the average for the Football Conference League at around 6,250. Indeed, they are 50% higher than in League Two, the league above. LTFC were runners-up in the 2009-10 Football Conference season and currently sit in third position in the table with the aim of re-entering the Football League.
Across Luton itself, there are around 100 local football clubs playing at different levels, from school to pub teams in different locally organised leagues.
Luton Rugby Club play in National League 3 Midlands, the highest regional club Rugby Union league in the centre of England. LRC won the East Midlands Cup in April and are currently mid table in the league. Across Luton, there are three rugby clubs playing at different levels.
Bedfordshire County Cricket Club plays the majority of its games at Wardown Park and plays in the Minor Counties Championship, Eastern Division. Bedfordshire has won the Minor Counties Championship outright twice, and once shared the title, in 2004. Across Luton there are 34 cricket teams playing at different levels.
Luton Athletics Club has just over 200 members who compete in track and field, crosscountry and road racing. LAC competes in the Eastern Young Athletes League, the East Anglian league and is a founder member of the new Southern Athletics League. As well as helping to organise Luton Marathon, LAC run the Luton summer road race series, including a 10km event through the Luton Hoo estate. The club has strong links with local schools, Active Luton and the University of Bedfordshire, and recent success includes two under-20 runners who have competed for Great Britain and stand a chance at competing at the London
Olympics in 2012.
Luton’s other athletics club is Stopsley Striders, which also has over 200 members competing primarily in cross-country and road race events. Established in 1983, Stopsley Striders has members of all abilities from 18 to over 70 years of age.
Active Luton and private clubs
Active Luton is the not-for-profit trust which operates a variety of sporting and leisure facilities across Luton and works closely with all of Luton’s schools and colleges to ensure that they fulfil all national curriculum sports requirements. It administers two gyms, four pools, six recreation centres, Stockwood Park Golf Centre and Stockwood Park Athletics Centre. It also organises classes and events such as badminton classes at Luton Regional Sports Centre and Luton Triathlon, which took place in March with almost 150 competitors.
In addition to Active Luton’s sports facilities and activities, there are around 20 other private gyms in Luton including boxing gyms, three Gaelic football clubs, approximately five private tennis clubs, eight bowls clubs, Luton Town Hockey Club (which plays at Challney High School with men’s and women’s teams playing in national leagues), a cycling club, two gymnastics clubs and South Beds Golf Club.
The town has an enviable reputation for producing and training athletes, and for hosting prestigious athletics events. And, operated through the leisure trust Active Luton, it has a dedicated athletics arena along with six recreation centres, four swimming pools and two health and fitness suites, plus an excellent 18-hole public golf course also featuring a nine-hole par three academy course and a covered 18-bay floodlit driving range.