Leicester Tigers are widely regarded as the most successful English rugby union team in the professional era of the game. Under the captaincy of Martin Johnson, one of the greatest locks in the history of rugby, the Tigers have dominated the major honours of club rugby union.
They won the Premiership title five times in seven years, including four consecutive titles from 1999 to 2002, and are the only team to win the prestigious Heineken Cup two years in a row. They have won the English Premiership more times than any other club and as current holders, Leicester are truly the benchmark team of modern day rugby union.
Getting started – Three becomes one
It was in the city’s George Hotel that Leicester Football club were formed in August 1880. It was formed from a merger of three smaller teams: Leicester Societies AFC, Leicester Amateur FC and Leicester Alert. They played their first game in October 1880 at the Belgrave Cricket and Cycle Ground against Moseley in a black strip, their original club colours.
Their nickname “Tigers” was given as early as 1885 after the Leicester Daily Post reported that “the Tiger stripes were keeping well together.” Although the origin of the name is uncertain, it could have been a connection to a local regiment who were nicknamed the Tigers after serving in India. The legendary scarlet, green and white jerseys that are now known by rugby fans world-wide were not introduced until 1891. Leicester moved to their present ground, Welford Road, in 1892.
Give us a chance
The Tigers have a rich history of dominating tournaments. In 1897 they won the Midland Counties Cup, the premium competition for Midlands-based rugby clubs. They won the competition eight successive times till 1905- when they dropped out to give other teams a chance!
Chalkie’s the White man
In 1968 Chalkie White arrived at Leicester and was instrumental in the club’s future success. Although rugby union was still an amateur sport, Chalkie frowned upon cheating and installed a professional attitude at Leicester. He was a unique, outspoken coach who demanded high levels of fitness, discipline and progressive rugby. His influence brought success to the club, and this inevitably brought in the crowds.
Towards the end of the 1970’s, Leicester Tigers had started to grow. At the start of the decade, the club had gates of less than 1,000. By 1980 the club had reached their first cup final and were playing in front of a packed stadium. In August 1980 Leicester became the first team to go on tour in the southern hemisphere. To mark the club’s centenary they played six games in Australia and Fiji. Leicester became the first official English champions when they beat Waterloo on the last day of the 1987/88 season.
Leicester’s dominance in the modern era of rugby union is emphatic. They were English champions again in 1995, and in 1997 were the first English team to reach the final of the Heineken Cup, but lost to Brive 28-9.
From December 30 1997 to November 30 2002 the Tigers went an astonishing 57 games unbeaten at home, including 52 successive wins. Under the management of Dean Richards and Martin Johnson, Leicester won four consecutive Premiership titles from 1999 to 2002, equalling Bath’s record of six Premiership wins. They also won the Heineken Cup in 2001, defeating Stade Francais 34-20, and repeated this achievement the following year by beating Munster 15-9. In these four seasons of success Leicester lost only 14 games out of the 92 they played.
Good for England, bad for the Tigers
Leicester had seven representatives in the England squad that went on to win the 2003 Rugby World Cup. But without their key men, Martin Johnson, Neil Back, Martin Corry, Ben Kay, Lewis Moody, Dorian West and Julian White, Leicester’s form inevitably suffered. They went out of the Heineken Cup in the group stages and finished 11th in the league. Dean Richards was promptly sacked. In the 2004/05 season Leicester finished top of the Premiership but lost in the playoff final to London Wasps. The season after, they reached the playoff final again but lost to Sale Sharks.
Barren spell over
This year Leicester ended five years without winning any silverware in emphatic style. On April 15 they won the EDF Energy Cup beating the Ospreys 41-35, which was followed by winning the Guinness Premiership, beating Gloucester 44-16 at Twickenham. This was the first time they had ever won the Premiership via the playoffs and meant they overtook Bath’s record by winning the title seven times. They sadly missed out on the treble, losing to Wasps in the Heineken Cup final.
In June this year the club announced it was working on a redevelopment plan that would raise the capacity of Welford Road from over 16,000 to 25,000 by 2011. This £30m project could start as early as next spring, provided planning permission is granted.
Leicester’s current head coach is Marcelo Loffreda, the Argentine who led his country to third place and a bronze medal in this year’s Rugby World Cup. His Leicester team have had a disappointing season, sitting in fourth place in the Guinness Premiership, meaning it is unlikely they will qualify for the quarter-finals of the Heineken Cup.
Leicester, despite recent glitches in form, are undoubtedly one of the greatest club rugby sides in the world. Their dominant, powerful style of rugby has given their fans huge amounts of success over the years, as well as putting on show some of the English game’s greatest players such as Ben Kay, Lewis Moody and Martin Johnson.
Major Club Honours
- English Premiership- 1988, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007
- Heineken Cup (European Cup) – 2001, 2002
Leicester LE 2 7TR
Phone: 08701 283430
Fax: 0116 2127263
Group tickets- firstname.lastname@example.org
- Adult – Diamond- £34.00. Concession- £34.00. Junior – £22.00
- Adult – Gold- £30.00. Concession- £27.00. Junior – £20.00
- Adult – Silver- £26.00. Concession- £23.00. Junior – £17.00. Family- £69.00
- Adult – Bronze- £23.00. Concession- £21.00. Junior – £12.00. Family- £58.00
- Adult – Standing- £20.00. Concession- £18.00. Junior – £8.00. Family- £48.00
Phone: 08701 28 34 30
Fax: 0116 285 4766
Admin e-mail: email@example.com
From M1 (North and South) and M69 (East):
Exit the motorway at Junction 21 (M1). Follow the signs for the city centre via Narborough Road (A5460). After 3 miles, at the cross-road junction with Upperton Road, turn right. Continue over the River Soar, onto Walnut Street, and follow the signs to the city centre. The stadium is approximately 1/2 mile ahead.
From A6 (South):
Follow the signs for the city centre, coming in via London Road. At the main set of lights opposite the entrance to the railway station (on the right), turn left onto Waterloo Way. Continue over the next set of traffic lights onto Tigers Way. The stadium is immediately in front of you.
From A5199 (South):
Follow the signs for the city centre, coming in via Welford Road.
From A426 (South):
Follow the signs for the city centre, coming in via Aylestone Road. The ground will be on your right.
From A47 (East):
Follow the signs for the city centre, coming in via Uppingham Road. At the St George’s Retail Park roundabout, take the second exit into St George’s Way (A594). Carry on past the Leicester Mercury offices on the right, and then filter off right onto Waterloo Way just before the Railway Station and then onto Tigers Way. The stadium is 1/4 mile further on.
Leicester Station is a ten minute walk away, along Waterloo Way. For more information on the station and train timetables and prices have a look at National Rail and Midland Mainline websites.