Lacrosse in Britain

British lacrosse generally provides European Championship winners, but can't quite manage to lift the World trophies. The men's game is currently fairly localised, with one epicentre in Manchester and a second in London. There are therefore two men's leagues in England, one for the North and one for the South (including South Wales). The women's game is more broadly based, with more players and a much stronger school tradition. Both men's and women's leagues are managed and represented by the England Lacrosse.

If you're interested in getting started in the sport in Britain, have a look at this BBC article including contact details and a basic lowdown.

In terms of European success, British teams took both titles in the 2004 European Championships. The English men's team took back the title they lost in 2001, with Scotland third and Wales sixth. Meanwhile in the women's competition, the Welsh women's team beat the Scots to take their trophy, with the English team in third place.

On the world stage, in the 2023 World Championships England men's team took 6th place (overtaken by Japan), Scotland 17th (down from 11th the previous time) and Wales 19th (down from 14th).

The England women's team finished 3rd in the 2022 World Cup, Wales finished 9th and Scotland 10th.

The next men's world championships will be held sometime in 2027, location still unknown.

Spread of Lacrosse

map of UK clubs

This picture shows the spread of men's lacrosse clubs throughout England and Wales. The main concentration of clubs is around Manchester, between Rochdale in the north and Wilmslow in the south; a second cluster is around London between Buckhurst Hill and Walcountian Blues.

The popularity of the sport seems to be increasing in recent years, with more teams and more divisions being introduced. Many schools are now able to offer lacrosse thanks to help and support from local clubs.

Men's Northern League

The men's Northern league, run by the NE(M)LA, has 5 Divisions, reflecting the concentrated popularity of the sport around the Manchester area. Many clubs have two or more teams competing in different divisions, as well as numerous juniors programmes in various age groups.

The annual knockout competitions for each of the divisions are known as the "Flags", culminating with a finals weekend at the end of the season.

Men's Southern League

The Southern league, run by SEMLA, now apparently has 6 Divisions, split into western and eastern divisions to reduce travel times. The SEMLA website has full results and tables, and an interactive map of the southern clubs.

Varsity Matches

The Varsity Matches are annual competitions between Oxford and Cambridge Universities for numerous different sports. In the case of lacrosse, the men's competitions have been running almost unbroken (apart from the two World Wars (and maybe Coronavirus)) since 1903. The Annual Varsity Boat Race, with its sponsorship, televised coverage and international recognition, is one example of a Varsity Match. The annual tiddlywinks match is another.

The men's lacrosse varsity match has been held every year since 1903, taking just two breaks for the two world wars. Cambridge won the first four, but as of 2024, Oxford is in the lead overall and has been since 1987. In fact, you have to go back to the 1970s to find a year in which Cambridge had more varsity wins than Oxford.

Over the past century, there have been three major swings in domination of the men's lacrosse Varsity matches. Between 1907 and 1933, Oxford pulled back from a 0-4 deficit to a commanding 17-7-1 lead. Then Cambridge took control for the following three decades to lead 28-21-2 in 1967. From 1968, however, Oxford enjoyed another dominant period, losing only 11 of 43 matches and winning 12 in a row up to 2004 (the longest winning run so far).

Unfortunately it's not clear whether the Varsity Match took place in 2021 or not — until I hear otherwise I have to assume it was cancelled.

With this assumption, the current match tally for the men (after the 2024 match) is as follows: Oxford 61, Cambridge 40, Drawn 6. Oxford therefore currently have 21 more wins than Cambridge, which is the biggest lead of the series so far. After 107 games Oxford now have a win ratio of 1.53 (61 wins to 40), which is also the biggest win ratio either side has had since the 1940s. Currently Oxford have won 10 out of the last 12 matches, with the other two in 2017 and 2023 being both 6-6 draws.

For 2021, I have to assume that the Coronavirus has either cancelled or postponed the regular season and therefore also the Varsity Match. SEMLA states that Oxford and Cambridge were scheduled to clash twice in the regular season but doesn't list a Varsity date, and neither Oxford's nor Cambridge's sites have any information at all. For 2022, gives the result as an Oxford win by 13-11.

At the time of writing, the latest battle was in February 2024, and despite the lack of published information we can deduce that Oxford won 17 - 3, bringing them their 61st win of the series.

Other tournaments

Before the start of each season, there's the Bath 8s and the Cheshire 6s, and at the end the Stockport Easter 8s, the Southern 6-a-sides, and the British National Championships. Plus there are other tournaments such as the "London tournament", touring sides, North/South challenges, warm-up games for the international sides, juniors' tournaments and a host of other events, including more recently also some box.

More Information

The headquarters of British lacrosse is which has blog-type news and a now-working club finder. For the south of england, see SEMLA's list. Sky Sports has also made a video introducing the English game showing men's and women's versions of the game.

Basics // Championships // World Cup 1998 // European Cup 99 // European Cup 00 // European Cup 01 // World Cup 2002 // World Indoor 03 // European Cup 04 // World Cup 2006 // World Indoor 07 // World Cup 2010 // European Cup 12 // World Cup 2014 // World Cup 2018 // World Cup 2023 // Britain