Picking the headlines of London’s sporting year is no easy task, it turns out. This mixed bag of a year was dominated by the summer’s World Cup in which London played no more than a minor role, though a quartet of Germans based here did eventually lift the trophy. We have had champions in other sports but you have to scout about pretty hard to find them.
So that’s exactly what we’ve done for you. Here's a round-up of 2014 London activity in the realm of bats, balls and such-like. Please note, if we’ve not included a sport here it’s because we’ve not been able to find much London cheer in that sport, but feel free to set the record straight in the comments at the bottom.
Sorry, but we have to begin with the national obsession. Arsenal lifted the FA Cup but Chelsea missed out on the Premier League title. There was upward mobility for QPR and Brentford but misery for Barnet as their constant flirtation with relegation was finally consummated. The new season saw the launch of the Londonist Football League, in which Chelsea currently romp.
Elsewhere there was joy for Wealdstone FC, who won the Isthmian Premier League and headed for the soaring altitudes of the Conference South, and for VCD Athletic (that would be Vickers, Crayford and Dartford), who won the Isthmian League Division One North, taking Wealdstone’s place among the bigger boys.
Following a single season in club rugby’s second division, Ealing Trailfinders (caution: potentially NSFW, if your boss doesn't like bare male backsides) were sent back down to the third tier at the end of the 2013-14 season. Much like Barnet in the football, however, the Trailfinders are spanking that division at present with 15 wins and just one defeat so far this season.
In women’s rugby, Saracens and Richmond fight a constant battle for honours. Richmond won last year's title by a point, but Saracens sit top of this season’s competition as it stands. It may be decided when the two teams meet in January - Richmond won their last encounter in November, but if Saracens can get revenge perhaps this will be their year.
Surbiton appears to be a bastion of hockey — the men’s team are currently second in the sport’s Premier Division, just a point behind East Grinstead. But it’s the women who are really at the top of their game, and indeed top of the league. Not only that but Surbiton are the current champions of the Investec Women's Hockey League, and did the double in the summer by beating relative minnows Hampstead & Westminster 7-1 in the final of the Investec Women’s Cup. You can see highlights of Surbiton's cup triumph below.
Success in this sport appears to come in the form of how many games Wembley can ‘win’ (i.e. be allowed to host), and this year it was up to three. Teams from Dallas, Detroit, Atlanta, Miami, Oakland and Jacksonville headed to these shores for the ‘International Series’, and Jacksonville is a name you may have to get used to as not only are they back next year but they seem the most likely to be the team relocated to London permanently if the sport’s seven-year plan comes off.
While we’re on American sports that don’t always translate over here, London’s representatives in the British Basketball League have been having a fairly average time of it of late. The London Lions made it into the playoffs at the end of the 2013-14 season, although considering the top eight teams out of 13 make the playoffs that’s not a massive achievement, and they went out in the first round.
This season the Lions are currently sitting fifth in the table. Given the team has only existed since 2012, when they relocated from Milton Keynes to the Copper Box at the Olympic Park, not immediately winning title after title can perhaps be forgiven.
One Londoner to be genuinely proud of is Alison Waters, who took top honours at the British National Squash Championships in February. You can watch the full final against Northern Ireland’s Madeline Perry below, and if you can explain to us how the hell squash isn’t an Olympic sport yet when this nonsense is, we’d be very grateful.
London’s two teams in the County Championship did little to write home from ‘Worcestershire’ about: Middlesex just avoided relegation from Division One, while Surrey (they play at the Oval, they count) couldn’t escape mid-table obscurity in Division Two. Surrey made the T20 finals day but lost in the semis to either Birmingham or Warwickshire, depending on your naming preference.
Teddington meanwhile took the fiercely competitive Middlesex County Cricket League title against teams from all over the capital.
Aside from some tournament in south London in June, which hasn’t been won by a Londoner since Kitty McKane Godfree in 1926, London’s tennis interest is mostly in the career of James Ward, the current British number two in the men’s game. James had an up-and-down year, not managing to win any ranking tournaments but becoming the first Brit to progress through the qualifying rounds of the French Open since John Lloyd in 1973, making his first appearance at the tournament.
The highest-ranking Londoner in the women’s game is... anyone’s guess. Come on ladies, step it up, that Question of Sport hosting spot won’t stay open forever.
Talking of the Olympics, one of the stand-out sports at London 2012 was handball, an unexpectedly exciting and frequently terrifying sport of charging about and hurling a ball at fearless goalkeepers looking to use their face to block it as often as possible. And London is pretty good at the game, it seems — London GD (Great Dane, the name under which they were founded in 1976) Handball Club is one of the UK’s oldest and most successful clubs and 2014 saw them clinch both the men’s and women’s national titles.
This year they face a challenge from the Ruislip Eagles, who lead the current league table in the men’s game, and for the women the London Angels of Barking, who for some reason have a Wikipedia page entirely in Hungarian. Perhaps it makes perfect sense for a sport as mad as this one — check out a game between London GD and the Ruislip Eagles below.
Barrels are for scraping, all right? This year saw the launch of the World Kabbadi League, the first attempt to pull together the best players in the sport into a global competition and a league of which the London entrants immediately took charge. Khalsa Warriors are currently 10 points clear at the top of the league with five more wins from their 21 games than Birmingham’s second-placed United Singhs, which is admittedly a better name.
Precisely what connection the Khalsa Warriors have with London is unclear — all the matches in this league seem to take place in India, so perhaps they’re from London in the same way that Chelsea are from Russia, but we’re never ones to turn down the chance to claim a team of league leaders.
It is our duty to educate, so we’ll end with a sport nobody’s heard of. Korfball is a limited-contact sport played on a court with a ball about the size of a football, with similarities to netball and basketball. It was invented by a bored Dutchman over a century ago (korf is Dutch for ‘basket’) and is unusual in that men and women play the game together, which scandalised society in the 1920s when the game became briefly popular.
London is a korfball stronghold and thus the sport deserves a mention; two of London’s teams regularly fight it out for top national honours. Trojans, a team based in Croydon, won their 7th league championship in April with a finals win over rivals Bec, unsurprisingly from Tooting. Bec were 9-4 up at half time and ended up beaten 18-17 thanks to an extra-time Golden Goal from Trojans captain David Brooks. You can watch the epic final below.
But Bec have come out fighting this season and have begun their new campaign unbeaten, with a 24-21 win over Trojans providing some relief from last season’s heartbreak. The rest of the world looks on in envy at London’s astounding korfball ability, showing other sports how it should be done.
Got any London sport highlights from 2014 that deserve a mention? Let us know in the comments below.