Coventry Bears are a Rugby League Club, formed in 1998. They have a proud history pioneering Rugby League in the Midlands, their major honours include winning the National League 3 title in 2004 (now called Rugby League Conference National Division) and the Rugby League Conference in 2002. The clubs A team play in the Midlands Premier division of the Rugby League Conference. With the clubs First team competing in the National Conference League which they entered in 2013.
The club, having moved from Coundon Road to the Butts Park Arena at Coventry RFC, also has a new home at the Xcel Leisure centre and runs two open-age sides as well as a ladies’ team and a selection of youth teams from U11-U18s.
Coventry Bears were formed in 1998 by a group of University students led by Alan Robinson, Great Britain Student Rugby League captain and full Irish international. They made an approach to Keith Fairbrother, the Coventry rugby union club’s Chairman and one time rugby league player, with a plan to form a team to play from Coundon Road Stadium.
Coventry Bears were admitted into the Rugby League Conference for the 2000 season and were unbeaten by any club within their division. The Bears then won their quarter-final against Manchester before being narrowly defeated by only one point in the semi-finals at Superleague club Warrington Wolves’ Wilderspool Stadium.
Further success followed in 2001 with the Bears reaching the Grand Final at Webb Ellis Road, Rugby, only to lose out by a very narrow margin in a match against the now defunct Teesside.
This was topped when the team won the TotalRL.com Conference Grand Final in September 2002 when they beat Hemel Stags at Cheltenham.
Following on from this success the club applied for, and won, elevation to the newly-formed National League Three. This proved a trying time, but also proved that it was possible to run two sides, even though a good number of the successful 2002 side had left the club.
The Bears went from strength to strength in 2004; not only reaching the National League Three Grand Final but winning comfortably in what proved to be a memorable match.
Sadly, 2005 was equally as memorable – but for the wrong reasons. After a spell of very mixed fortunes, Coventry Bears RLFC made the difficult decision to resign from the National League to take time to rebuild and regroup. Since dropping out of the National Leagues the club has concentrated on building the club up from the bottom and 2006 saw the return of the Bears as a TotalRL Conference premiership side.
Coventry Bears first team claimed second place in their Division, despite having to play a strong South London Storm team in their cross-conference fixtures. They went on to beat Leicester Phoenix in the qualifying semi-final to set up a Midlands Grand Final with Nottingham Outlaws, which ended in defeat.
2007 was a good season for the Bears defeating old rivals Nottingham Outlaws to win the Midlands Premier and also winning the Kilkenny 9s, The Bears went on to finish as runners-up to St Albans Centurions losing 28-20 in the final of the Harry Jephson Trophy.
In 2008, the Bears finished as runners up in the Midlands Premier to old rivals Nottingham – who comprehensively beat Coventry. The Bears had an up and down season.
2009 saw a few changes at the Bears with the departure of Ty Watson to Leicester and a return to the old school with the introduction of key player and Ireland international Alan Robinson as head coach, The Bears made it all the way to the National Final of the RLC Premier losing out to West London sharks.
2010 was another successful year with the club making it all the way through the regional and national stages of the RLC Premier once more, and winning the Midlands and Northern RLC Premier championships only to be defeated in the National final by St. Albains Centurions.
In 2010, Coventry also linked up with Super League side Wigan Warriors.
2011 saw a rebirth in some ways with the First team returning to the home of Coventry Rugby League the Butts Park Arena Stadium also home to Coventry Rugby Union club. The development of the club has also grown with the Junior sides being based from the Xcel leisure centre in Canley, the state of the art leisure centre hosting the Bears Junior Academy and training ground. The year was mixed in fortune but hailed a success the Bears starting well but having some key injuries later in the season saw them finish 7 from 10. In 2012 the Bears First team had a very successful year finishing 3rd in Conference League 3. The First team then applied and was accepted into the top tier of the Amateur game the National Conference League in 2013 and now competes in the newly formed Division 3.