The town's leading football club, Oxford United, are currently in League Two, the fourth tier of league football, though they enjoyed some success in the past in the upper reaches of the league. They were elected to the Football League in 1962, reached the Third Division after three years and the Second Division after six, and most notably reached the First Division in 1985 – a mere 23 years after joining the Football League. They spent three seasons in the top flight, winning the Football League Cup a year after promotion. The 18 years that followed relegation in 1988 saw their fortunes decline gradually, though a brief respite in 1996 saw them win promotion to the new (post Premier League) Division One in 1996 and stay there for three years. They were relegated to the Football Conference in 2006, staying there for four seasons before returning to the Football League in 2010. They play at the Kassam Stadium (named after former chairman Firoz Kassam), which is situated near the Blackbird Leys housing estate and has been their home since relocation from the Manor Ground in 2001. The club's notable former managers include Ian Greaves, Jim Smith, Maurice Evans, Brian Horton and Denis Smith. Notable former players include John Aldridge, Ray Houghton, Tommy Caton, Matt Elliott, Nigel Jemson and Dean Whitehead.
Oxford City F.C. is a semi-professional football club, separate from Oxford United. It plays in the Conference North, the sixth tier, and two levels on the pyramid below the Football League. Oxford City Nomads F.C. are another semi-professional football club, who ground share with Oxford City F.C. and play in the Hellenic league. A.F.C. Hinksey also play in Oxford.
From next season, Oxford RLFC will play in Rugby League's semi-professional Championship 1, the third tier of British Rugby League. Oxford Harlequins RFC is the city's main Rugby Union team and currently plays in the National League 3 South West.
Oxford Cheetahs motorcycle speedway team has raced at Cowley Stadium on and off since 1939. The Cheetahs competed in the Speedway Elite League and then the Speedway Conference League until 2007, when stadium landlords Greyhound Racing Association apparently doubled the rent. Speedway is not currently running in Oxford.
There are several field hockey clubs based in Oxford. The Oxford Hockey Club (formed after a merger of City of Oxford HC and Rover Oxford HC in 2011) plays most of its home games on the pitch at Oxford Brookes University, Headington Campus, and also uses the pitches at Headington Girls' School and Iffley Road. Oxford Hawks has two astroturf pitches at Banbury Road North, by Cutteslowe Park to the north of the city.
Oxford City Stars is the local Ice Hockey Team which plays at Oxford Ice Rink. There is a senior/adults’ team and a junior/children’s team.
Oxford is also home to the Oxford City Rowing Club which is situated near Donnington Bridge.
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“Sweet Auburn, loveliest village of the plain,
Where health and plenty cheered the labouring swain,
Where smiling spring its earliest visit paid,
And parting summers lingering blooms delayed,
Dear lovely bowers of innocence and ease,
Seats of my youth, when every sport could please,
How often have I loitered oer the green,
Where humble happiness endeared each scene.”
—Oliver Goldsmith (1730?1774)
“I wish glib and indiscriminate critics of industrialists had some conception of the problems that have to be met by factory management.... General condemnation of employers is a favorite indoor sport of the uninformed intelligentsia who assume the role of lance- bearers for labor.”
—Mary Barnett Gilson (1877?)