The club was formed on Saturday, 20 October 1866 when members of Swinton Cricket Club decided to take up "football" in the winter to keep fit. Other than an annual challenge against the local Lancashire Rifle Volunteers (the first of which was recorded on 2 January 1869), the only games played in those early days were amongst the club's own membership.
In 1871 they joined the Rugby Football Union, under the name Swinton and Pendlebury F.C., playing at their first ground located off Station Road (B5231) in the town. Their first game was against Eccles Standard, within 4 or 5 years the team became virtually unbeatable in the Manchester area and beyond. This rise in stature was surprising because Swinton and Pendlebury, at this time, were nothing more than tiny colliery villages with a few cotton mills. However, it also had a large number of local junior teams from which the club drew its talent.
They moved from playing at a field in the Station Road area in 1873 to a ground known as Stoneacre, and used the nearby White Lion public house as changing rooms. They have been known as "the Lions" ever since.
Having gone three years undefeated in the mid-1870s, the Lions gradually sought a tougher fixture list. In 1878 came the club's first ventures into Yorkshire, and fairly soon the club was travelling throughout England taking on opponents as Oxford University. Such was the Lions' success that by the mid-1880s Swinton had become recognised as a national force and were considered the strongest team in Lancashire. The first rugby match under floodlights took place in Salford, between Broughton and Swinton on 22 October 1878.
In 1886, they moved to Chorley Road, enabling the club to develop further. The new ground could accommodate much larger crowds and the staging of County matches added to Swinton's growing reputation. The Lions produced several England internationals and dozens more who gained representative recognition wearing the red rose of Lancashire.
They were initially reluctant to join the new Northern Union, but did so on 2 June 1896 due to the fact that the majority of other teams in the region had done so, causing financial hardship to the club. The Northern Union was then split into two county leagues, Lancashire and Yorkshire.
In 1900, led by Jim Valentine, they won the Rugby League Challenge Cup defeating Salford at Fallowfield, Manchester.
On Saturday 8 September 1906, Swinton hosted a Pontefract team who arrived with only 12 players. The Lions scored 18 tries in a club record 76–4 victory. This record would stand for ninety years but three months later when the Lions visited Pontefract they lost 5–0.
The period leading up to the Great War was not particularly auspicious for the Lions. Financial crisis followed financial crisis and only the sale of the main stand saved the club from closure during 1917. The war took the lives of 13 Swinton players, but back home the Lions played on throughout in a desperate attempt to stay afloat.
Lions' directors managed to call upon the support of local businessmen. The signings of Hector Halsall, a centre and future captain, and Albert Jenkins, a Welsh half-back, provided the catalyst. Throughout the 1920s the Lions got better and better, they beat the visiting Australasian team of the 1921–22 Kangaroo tour of Great Britain 9–0. At last they won the Lancashire County Cup in 1925 before recapturing the Challenge Cup in 1926.
They then followed this with their first-ever Championship a year later, and in 1928 the team reached its zenith becoming the last team to secure All Four Cups; they were also the only side from Lancashire to achieve this feat (Hunslet and Huddersfield were the two other clubs). In addition to the Championship Trophy, the Challenge Cup, the Lancashire League and the Lancashire Cup; Swinton won a fifth cup, the Salford Royal Hospital Cup, which was competed for by Salford, Broughton Rangers and Swinton. Crowds in excess of 20,000 were commonplace at Chorley Road.
Under captain, Hector Halsall, the Lions were a side with a strong Welsh presence, with players like Billo Rees as well as the Cumbrian goal-kicking second row forward, Martin Hodgson who signed for Swinton in January 1927. Hodgson still holds the long distance penalty goal world record with a kick of 77¾ yards (at the Athletic Grounds, Rochdale Hornets, in April 1940).
The 1927–28 season saw the Lions sweep all before them. They topped both the Championship and the Lancashire League, having already defeated Wigan in the Lancashire Cup. In a tense Challenge Cup Final they squeezed past Warrington 5–3, and three weeks later the Holy Grail was achieved when they comfortably eased past Featherstone Rovers 11–0 to take the Rugby Football League Championship.
A rent dispute in 1928 caused the club to search for pastures new. In 1929, the club then moved to a new stadium back near their original home off Station Road, taking the old stands with them. This new stadium's name was simply named after its nearby location, Station Road (B5231). In March 1929, a 22,000 thousand crowd saw the Lions defeat Wigan in the first match on new turf. This soon became a favoured ground for major fixtures such as Test matches, Challenge Cup semi-finals, Lancashire Cup finals and Championship finals.
Further Championships were won in 1931 and 1935.
Swinton won the Lancashire Cup again in dramatic style against Widnes in 1940, but thereafter the war curtailed the promise of further progress. In 1941–42 Swinton abandoned the Lancashire League due to the Second World War and did not return until the 1945–46 season.
Throughout the late 1940s, and the 1950s the Lions strove unsuccessfully to repeat former glories and often flattered to deceive, but the appointment of Welshman Cliff Evans as coach signalled a renaissance. Concentrating on a youth policy and training methods beyond his era, Evans began to model an exciting, young Swinton team. This new era saw some notable Welshmen in the Lions' ranks such as Rees Thomas, Dai Moses, Ron Morgan and Graham Rees. Also in the 'swinging 1960s' years the Lions fielded real top class performers such as GB internationals Ken Gowers at full-back, Alan Buckley at left-centre plus his wing partner, John Stopford. During this same decade, local talent came to the fore with the likes of Graham Williams (scrum-half), Derek Whitehead (full-back/utility), Barry Simpson (2nd-row) and classy GB loose-forward Dave Robinson. During the second half of the decade other prominent players turned out for the Lions. Of these, perhaps the most worthy were stand-off Billy 'Daz' Davies, scrum-half Peter Kenny and 2nd-rowers Rod Smith (ex-Workington Town) and the highly respected Bill Holliday (ex-Whitehaven, Hull Kingston Rovers, Cumberland and GB). In fact it was the Lions 1960s quartet of Gowers, Buckley, Stopford and Robinson who were selected to play for the GB tourists on the 1966 tour to Australasia. Gowers was even given the honour of being awarded the position of tour vice-captain. However, some critics saw this as an apology for overlooking him when the previous tourists were chosen in 1962, when many believe he was easily the most outstanding player to wear a full-back's jersey in the British game.
A proposal in 1960 to create a Manchester rugby league club at the former White City Stadium on Chester Road, Old Trafford, Stretford, received strong opposition from Salford and Swinton. Their protests were renewed when a match was staged there between a Manchester XIII (Salford and Swinton players) and the New Zealand tourists in September 1961 and the idea was subsequently dropped.
Swinton made it to the final of the Lancashire County Cup in three consecutive seasons 1960–61, 1961–62 and 1962–63 plus 1964–65 but lost to St. Helens on each occasion at Central Park, Wigan. However, by the end of the 1960s they finally lifted the trophy after overcoming a strong Leigh side 11-2 lead by Alex Murphy. Their victorious captain that early November day in 1969 at Central Park, Wigan was long serving dependable right-centre Bob Fleet.
Swinton became Champions of the Rugby Football League Championship in the 1962–63 season. Led by coach Cliff Evans and inspirational skipper Albert Blan, the team recovered from a slow start to complete the final backlogged 18 games (delayed due to the severe winter weather) of a 30-match league calendar undefeated to walk away with the Championship. Swinton's 6th Championship was retained in style 12 months later (1963–64).
As Swinton coach in the late 1960s/early 1970s, Albert Blan guided the team to a fourth and final Lancashire County Cup success in the 1969–70 Final against Leigh by 11–2 at Central Park, Wigan.
When two divisions were reintroduced in 1973, Swinton were out of the top flight, and have struggled to regain their former glories ever since. By the end of the 1970s the club had hit rock-bottom, even though Station Road continued to host semi-finals and finals.
Initially under Frank Myler, and then under Jim Crellin, the Lions briefly threatened a revival during the 1980s. Players such as Les Holliday (son of Bill) and Danny Wilson offered great hope for the future, but despite a Second Division Premiership success in 1987, three separate promotions simply brought about three immediate relegations.
Swinton offered Leigh the option of a ground share at Station Road in June 1991 but they turned it down. In 1992, financial mis-management necessitated the sale of Station Road for property development. The club moved to Gigg Lane, Bury, the home of Bury F.C. In the Lions' last season at Station Road they were drawing crowds of 3,000 but this sudden move caused the club to lose many supporters.
Swinton were saved from liquidation by a consortium headed by former chairman Malcolm White in January 1993.
In 1996, the first tier of British rugby league clubs played the inaugural Super League season and changed from a winter to a summer season. The rest of the professional game in Britain would follow this move to summer.
In 1996, Swinton officially added Lions to their name. Peter Roe led Swinton to promotion from Division Two in 1996. The former Great Britain captain, Mike Gregory was the head coach of the club between 1998 and 2001.
The financial failure of major creditor and de facto owner Hugh Eaves in 2002 put the future of the club in jeopardy, the chairman and benefactor Malcolm White resigned. The Swinton Supporters' Trust began life on 14 February 2002 in the White Lion public house and set about raising funds for the club. Shortly afterwards, Swinton were forced out of Gigg Lane by the financial problems of their landlords, Bury F.C.
In August 2002, the club were brought the club back to within one mile of the Swinton and Pendlebury border when they played their first match at Moor Lane in Kersal as tenants of Salford City F.C., after travelling to Leigh and Chorley to play 'home' matches. Unfortunately the football club would not grant Swinton a ten-year lease which would be required to enable much needed funding to bring the ground up to standard.
In 2004, the Lions moved to Park Lane, Whitefield, home of Sedgley Park R.U.F.C.
Peter Roe quit as coach of Swinton Lions in September 2003, after less than a year in charge. He rejected a two-year contract to continue as the coach and general manager and left the National League Two club.
In 2006, the return to Swinton and Pendlebury was taken one step further when club chairman, John Kidd, announced on 9 August that the club had acquired a site to build a 6,000 capacity stadium with training facilities and community use in Agecroft, Pendlebury.
In May 2007, Swinton Lions went into administration for about 48 hours to restructure the club from top to bottom. A new company, Swinton Lions Rugby Club, was set up to remove problems with shareholdings from the previous administration. The club came under the stewardship of chairman, John Kidd and fellow directors Paul Kidd (chairman's son), Dave Roberts and Ben Jones.
In May 2009, John Kidd announced that he hoped to be in a position to apply for planning permission from the local council by the autumn. Once given approval by Salford Council it was envisaged that construction could be completed quickly.
During the autumn of 2009 director Paul Kidd stood down as head coach and moved to his new role as director of rugby. It was also announced that the new player/coach for season 2010 would be Paul Smith with Ian Watson as his assistant player/coach. During the season, on 25 May 2010, Paul Smith announced his resignation from his head coach role and left to play for Leigh. He was replaced by Paul Kidd and Ian Watson.
On 26 September 2010, former Barrow coach Steve McCormack was confirmed as the head coach for the 2011 season with Ian Watson and Marlon Billy continuing in their roles as assistant coaches. Swinton played their home games for the 2011 season at the Willows, Weaste, Salford. Swinton went on to win promotion to the Co-operative Championship as Champions of Championship 1.
As of 7 June 2011 when the club hosted a fans' meeting at Moorside Social Club, Swinton, Mr Kidd stated that he expected that the building of the stadium should commence no later than New Year's Day, 2012 with completion set for the end of April (2012). However, the predicted return date of spring 2012 proved to be a somewhat optimistic and premature forecast. Ultimately the funding did not materialise and the club later relinquished its lease on the Agecroft site.
With Salford moving to a new stadium in Barton, Eccles, Swinton set up a ground-share with Leigh in the Co-operative Championship for the 2012 season and onwards whilst they await permission to build their own ground at Agecroft.
On 18 March 2013 the club announced the appointment of Gary Chambers as head coach. Gary, a teacher at Harrop Fold School in Walkden. By late 2013 the club was found to be in severe financial difficulties. Chairman John Kidd announced his resignation and hopes of saving the club were left in the hands of director David Jones and the Supporters' Trust. Alan Marshall and Stephen Wild were nominated by the Supporters' Trust to fill two positions on the new Board of Directors. They were later joined by John Roddy, the former CEO of Leigh Centurions RLFC, who arrived in the summer of 2014 as an investor and Commercial Director. Ian Watson took over as player-coach.
In January 2014, Salford City Reds owner Marwan Koukash announced his intention to revolutionise Swinton town centre via the development of St Ambrose Barlow RC High School. His plans were to include a 3,000 capacity stadium for the Lions on the site of the old school playing field, alongside new housing, restaurants and a hotel.
In June 2014, Ian Watson left to join Salford and John Duffy replaced him as head coach in July. A difficult season combined with drastic restructuring of the league structure left the Lions in the third tier of rugby league, League 1, in 2015. In October 2014 the club announced its intention to return to Park Lane, home of Sedgley Park RUFC as its home base for season 2015.
Following their promotion from League 1 to the Championship in 2015, Swinton were forced to play their home league games in nearby Salford and Widnes as Park Lane (Sedgley Park RUFC) did not meet the minimum requirements for the Championship, before moving to Heywood Road, Sale. As of March 2016 the club has re-engaged with the project to establish a community stadium in the Agecroft district of Pendlebury.Sam Jones 1945
Albert Jenkins 1945–1951
Griff Jenkins 1951–1954
Cliff Evans 1954–1967
Dai Moses 1967–1968
Albert Blan 1968–1971
David Mortimer 1971–1972
Rees Thomas 1972–1974
Austin Rhodes 1974–1975
Bobby Fleet 1975–1976
Johnny Stopford 1976–1977
Bobby Fleet 1977
Terry Gorman 1977–1978
Ken Halliwell 1978–1979
Bobby Fleet 1979
Stan Gittins 1979–1980
Frank Myler 1980–1981
Tom Grainey 1981–1983
Jim Crellin 1983–1986
Bill Holliday & Mike Peers 1986–1987
Peter Smethurst 1987–1988
Frank Barrow 1988–1989
Jim Crellin 1989–1991
Chris O'Sullivan 1991
Tony Barrow 1992–1996
Peter Roe 1996–1997
Les Holliday 1997–1999
Mike Gregory 1999–2001
Tony Humphries 2001–2002
Tony Barrow 2002
Phil Veivers 2002
Peter Roe 2003
Paul Kidd 2004–2009
Paul Smith 2010
Paul Kidd 2010
Steve McCormack 2011–2012
Gary Chambers 2013
Ian Watson 2014
John Duffy 2014-
LossesRugby Football League Championship: 6
1926-27, 1927–28, 1930–31, 1934–35, 1962–63, 1963–64
Challenge Cup: 3
1899-1900, 1925–26, 1927–28
Lancashire County Cup: 4
1925-26, 1927–28, 1939–40, 1969-70
Lancashire League: 5
1924-25, 1927–28, 1928–29, 1930–31, 1960–61
Most tries in a match: 6 by Mark Riley vs Prescot Panthers, 11 August 1996
Most goals in a match: 12 by Ken Gowers vs Liverpool City, 3 October 1957
Most points in a match: 30 by:
Greg Pearce vs Prescot Panthers, 11 August 1996
Mick Nanyn vs York Wasps, 25 March 2001
Gavin Dodd vs Gateshead, 22 August 2010
Ian Mort vs South Wales Scorpions, 17 April 2011
Most tries in a season: 48 by Jim Valentine, 1888–89, (2nd most tries in a season, John Stopford, 42, season 1963–64)
Most goals in a season: 128 by Albert Blan, 1960–61
Most points in a season: 338 by Ian Mort, 2011
Most career tries: 298 by Jim Valentine, 1884–1901
Most career goals: 970 by Ken Gowers
Most career points: 2,105 by Ken Gowers
Most career appearances: 602 (including 8 as substitute) by Ken Gowers, 1954–1973.
World record distance for a penalty goal, 77¾ yards by Martin Hodgson, Rochdale Hornets v Swinton, at the Athletic Grounds, Rochdale, 13 April 1940
Rugby League Cup, Wigan v Swinton, Golden Moment, Rob Russell touches down after only four minutes against the mighty Wigan.
Biggest victory: 94–0 vs Gateshead, 22 August 2010
Heaviest defeat: 0–112 vs Warrington Wolves, 20 May 2011
Club: 26,891 vs Wigan, RL Challenge Cup 1st round replay, Wednesday, 12 February 1964 ( at Station Road – score Swinton 13 Wigan 8 )
Station Road: 44,621 for Challenge Cup semi-final Warrington vs Wigan, 7 April 1951
Player of the Season: Darren Hawkyard
Leading Try Scorer: Martin Ainscough (16 Tries)