British Workers' Sports Association was formed as a result of a split within an earlier organisation called the British Workers' Sport Federation. The BWSF had been established in 1923 under the auspices of Clarion Cyclists, Labour Party sympathisers and trade union officials. Its goal was international unity and peace through sport. The Communist Party increasingly dominated the organisation and there was a conflict between those who were committed to Marxist ideologies and those who believed in social democratic labour structures. Unable to tolerate the new militant stance Labour Party members and trade unionists left the organisation and regrouped in 1930 without the Communists.
The National Workers' Sports Association later British Workers' Sports Association, was founded at a meeting at Transport House (head quarters of the Labour Party) on 26 July 1930. Herbert Elvin, representing the Trade Union Congress General Council, chaired the meeting supported by F. O. Roberts, representing the Labour Party National Executive Committee.
In 1931 the BWSA sent a small team to the second Workers' Olympiad in Vienna and came fourth out of 21 teams. During the Second World War, the BWSA became the focal point for the re-establishment of an international workers' sports association. It was hoped that both the USSR and the USA would take part. This led to the formation of the Comite Sportif International du Travail (CSIT) in 1947. However, the refusal to exclude Communists caused problems with the BWSA (under pressure from the Labour Party) and the TUC withdrew from the CSIT. The splits within the CSIT meant that there were no further Olympiads. In the early 1950s the BWSA and the French Socialists tried to form a non-communist organisation but this failed.
In 1954 the BWSA gained a new secretary, Dave Curtis, who re-affiliated to the CSIT but failed to win financial support from the Labour Party or the TUC. In 1958 a decision was reached to wind up the BWSA, which closed in 1960. Dave Curtis went on to organise the sporting events at the successful Labour Party's 'Festival of Labour'.
The BWSA was affiliated to the Socialist Workers' Sports International (SWSI), the Amateur Athletics Association, the English Table Tennis Association, the National Cycling Union, the Lawn Tennis Association and the London Football Association.