X
Follow It's Round and It's White on Facebook

As West Ham say goodbye to 112 years at Upton Park, here are the stories behind 5 other clubs who re-located from their original homes

Wednesday 18th May 2016
My own club Norwich, for example, re-located to Carrow Road in 1935 after 30 years at the Nest, a wholly inadequate ground that was built into the sides of an old quarry

Leicester City



Old Ground: Filbert Street, record attendance (47,298)

Last Game: May 11th 2002 Leicester 2 Tottenham 1 (21,716) – Premiership

Last Scorer: Matty Piper (Leicester)

New Ground; King Power Stadium, record attendance (32,500)

First Game: (competitive) August 10th 2002 Leicester 2 Watford 0 (31,022) – Championship

First Scorer: Brian Deane (Leicester)

Where better place to start than the current Premier League champions Leicester City.

After the emotional scenes before, during and after the 4-0 win against Everton, it was hard to remember Leicester calling anywhere else home, but for over 100 years the club plied its trade at Filbert Street. There is just 0.3 miles between the two venues, but as it was surrounded by houses, developing Filbert Street would be difficult and a new stadium was crucial for Leicester to develop as a club, providing increased capacity and the opportunity for commercial expansion.

Leicester's final season at Filbert Street was an anti-climax, winning only three home games as they finished bottom of the Premiership. Though one of those victories was in the last ever game at Filbert Street where a Matty Piper goal sealed a 2.1 victory over Tottenham.

Burdened by debt and playing in the 2nd tier was not the best start to life in what was originally called the Walkers Stadium. However buoyed by an average gate of 29,230 (compared to 20,252 the season before and at a higher level) and 16 home wins Leicester made an immediate return to the big time while Filbert Street, gone but not forgotten, was now home to student housing.
A classic modern stadium with its bowl design and corporate name, the King Power has certainly seen some ups and downs over its short 14-year existence, arguably many more than the 111 previous years at Filbert Street. The low point was undoubtedly one season in the 3rd tier where the King Power played host to the likes of Hereford and Stockport and the high - well nothing can beat the noise and colour experienced when Wes Morgan held aloft the Premier League trophy.

So next season the King Power will host Europe's finest and with plans to increase the capacity to 42,000, this has been one move with a very happy conclusion.  

Arsenal



Old Ground: Highbury, record attendance (73,295)

Last Game: May 7th 2006 Arsenal 4 Wigan 2 (38,359) – Premiership

Last Scorer: Thierry Henry (Arsenal)

New Ground; The Emirates, record attendance (60,161)

First Game: (competitive) August 19th 2006 Arsenal 1 Aston Villa 1 (60,023) – Premiership

First Scorer: Olaf Mellberg (Aston Villa)

Perhaps of all the clubs that have relocated, Arsenal's is the most iconic. So famous was their old Highbury stadium that there was even a film named after it.
Highbury, Arsenals home since 1913, and host to 12 FA cup semi-finals, 4 world cup games, and even a heavyweight boxing title , was an institution with its famous north bank terrace and its clock, marble halls and bust of Herbert Chapman, manager of 3 titles in a row back in the 1930's. Chapman's championships were just 3 of 13 in total that Arsenal won at Highbury, a stadium associated with success.

Despite its character and history, Highbury's capacity after it became all-seater  (who can forget the ‘fans' mural during its redevelopment) was limited to 38,419. For Arsenal to consistently compete with Europe's top clubs a larger venue was required and having already played ‘home' games in the Champions League at Wembley the desire for a new modern complex now outweighed the tradition and character of Highbury.  The Emirates Stadium was completed in 2006 (2 years after construction started) and at a cost touching £400m, while in its shadow Highbury was converted into top end executive housing.

Fittingly the last game at Highbury saw a hat-trick from club record goalscorer, Thierry Henry, as Arsenal pipped rivals Tottenham   for the final Champions League place. Meanwhile, the opener at The Emirates was less inspiring as Arsenal  were held to a 1-1 draw by Aston Villa. That season Arsenal finished 4th again, losing just once as they looked to turn The Emirates into a fortress.

Despite The Emirates being one of Europe's top stadiums both in style, facilities and its ability to generate cash, on the pitch Arsenal have never quite kicked on with a 3rd place finish their best at The Emirates. The fans also have failed to completely take The Emirates to their hearts where disappointment on the pitch coupled with some of the highest ticket prices in Europe have started to see some voting with their feet, as the empty seats at the recent WBA home game showed. So while nobody can doubt that Arsenal had to move it has not been a completely happy transition.

Manchester City



Old Ground: Maine Road, record attendance (84,569)

Last Game: May 11th 2003 Man City 0 Southampton 1 (34,957) – Premiership

Last Scorer: Michael Svensson (Southampton)

New Ground; The Etihad, record attendance (54,963)

First Game: (competitive) August 15th 2003 Man City 5 The New Saints 0 (30,000) – UEFA Cup

First Scorer: Trevor Sinclair (Man City)

West Ham's move to the Olympic stadium is modelled on Manchester City's relocation 13 years earlier, as an example of a club that made use of an existing stadium within its community which had been built to host a major sporting event in the UK. The Etihad or as it was known then The City of Manchester stadium was constructed for the 2002 Commonwealth games with the opening ceremony, complete with a speech by Queen Elizabeth II, the first event at the stadium.

As Manchester played host to the largest multi-sport event since the 1948 Olympics, 2.6 miles away Manchester City was celebrating the Division 1 (now Championship) title in their 80th season at Maine Road. Built in 1923, deep within the inner city suburb of Moss Side, Maine Road was at the time the largest league stadium and its record attendance of 84,569 set in 1934 is still to this day an English club record. Maine Road also provided a temporary home for City rivals Manchester United after Old Trafford suffered bomb damage during the WW2.
Over the years, Maine Road had seen it all from the heights of  league champions in 1936 and 1967 to the lows of playing in the 3rd tier in 1998-99 season. By the final game at the historic but dated old ground City were back in the Premiership but with a gleaming, modern 48,000 capacity stadium on the club's doorstep, the opportunity to move was a no-brainer.

City's opening (competitive) game at the City of Manchester stadium was a distinctly uninspired UEFA cup clash versus the minnows from the Welsh Premier League, which set the tone for a disappointing debut season as City finishing 16th winning just five home games. Since that opening season and backed by wealthy owners the now rebranded Etihad Stadium has played host to Europe's elite while also witnessing one of the most dramatic games in the history of English football when Sergio Aguero's injury-time winner saw City claim a first Premier League title.

Success on the pitch has been matched by continued investment in the stadium as capacity continues to grow to cater for increasing demand while City's training facilities and academy are amongst the best in the Premier League. This in addition to City's continual focus on their community means that despite the perception that City got a stadium ‘on the cheap', City's move has been an all-around success.

Sunderland



Old Ground: Roker Park, record attendance (75,118)

Last Game: May 3rd 1997 Sunderland 3 Everton 0 (22,108) – Premiership

Last Scorer: Allan Johnston (Sunderland)

New Ground; The Stadium of Light, record attendance (48,335)

First Game: (competitive) August 15th 1997 Sunderland 3 Manchester City 1 (35,568) – Division 1

First Scorer: Niall Quinn (Sunderland)

Sunderland was one of the England's first and biggest clubs to put sentiment aside and leave their historic and famous home for a  new start in a new ground. Named after the close-knit neighbourhood that it resided in, Roker Park first saw action in 1898 at a time when Sunderland was one of the most successful sides in the country.

With the cold winds blowing in from the North Sea and spurred on by the famous Roker roar, Roker Park soon became the bedrock for further successes with championships in 1901-02, 1912-13 and 1935-36. Even when the club hit a barren patch Roker Park remained in the limelight hosting 4 games in 1966 world cup including one of the quarter-finals.

Despite gradual improvements, the Taylor report and its recommendation for all-seater stadiums proved to be the ending of Roker Park. Still mostly terraced, hemmed in by the housing and beginning to  look its age it proved more cost effective to relocate nearby rather than redevelop. Not quite making its century, the final season at Roker proved an anti-climax cumulating in Sunderland's relegation from the Premiership.
A new season brought new optimism as Sunderland kicked off with a win in the first game at the Stadium of Light, a game which club legend Kevin Phillips was to make a scoring debut. Ultimately though the season was to end in disappointment with a defeat to Charlton in that classic playoff final.

Named as a tribute to local coal miners and not after Benfica's Stadium of Light. The stadium of Light has largely witnessed Premier League football with a capacity that was twice that of Roker Park when it was closed. The latest chapter in the stadiums history has just been written as Sunderland achieved Premiers League survival in the final home game of the 2015-16 season. The score 3-0 and the opponents Everton, just like that last day at Roker Park.

Brighton and Hove Albion



Old Ground: Goldstone Ground, record attendance (36,747)

Last Game: April 26th 1997 Brighton 1 Doncaster 0 (11,314) – Division 3

Last Scorer: Stuart Storer (Brighton)

New Ground; The Amex, record attendance (30,278)

First Game: (competitive) August 6th 2011 Brighton 2 Doncaster 1 (20,219) – Championship

First Scorer: Billy Sharp (Doncaster)

Brighton and Hove Albion's story brings a whole new perspective on changing grounds and how a new stadium can really boost not just a club but a whole city.

The Goldstone was Brighton's much-loved home for 95 largely uneventful years  hosting top-flight football for the first time in 1979-80 during the club's golden period that included the 1984 FA Cup final. Sadly those days did not last and the club was in a sorry state by the 1996-97 season.  A poor season on the pitch was matched by protests against the owner, falling attendances and a crumbling ground with two of the terraces shut as unsafe. The fans did return   in numbers to bid farewell to the Goldstone but it was only a draw on the final day of the season that kept Brighton in the football league.

With Brighton cash-strapped and the Goldstone now  controversially sold, the Seagulls now found themselves homeless and fighting for their very existence. What followed was a period of isolation as tenants at Gillingham's Priestfield stadium before a return to Brighton to the completely inadequate Withdean stadium.

Not designed for league football the move was originally arranged as a temporary solution, however, Brighton was to spend the next 12 seasons, in what was effectively an athletics complex with just one permanent stand and a capacity of 8,000. Then, after a number of false dawns, legal wrangling  and even intervention from high profile politicians, permission was finally granted to build a brand new ground on the outskirts of town.

The Falmer stadium as it was first known, was completed ready for the 2011-12 campaign and never has a new ground been greeted with so much enthusiasm without the tinge of nostalgic sadness that other supporters experienced when their club moved. The fact that the first game was against Doncaster a repeat of the Goldstone's final game made the occasion even more special.

Maybe it was the supporter's passion or the fact it had been such a long time since leaving the Goldstone but playing at the Amex, as it is now known, was to have a strong tangible impact on the team. In the 6 seasons at the Amex Brighton have competed in the championship including 3 playoffs compared to the 6 seasons before the Amex where Brighton was a mid-table league 1 side.
Defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in the latest of those three Championship play-offs means that Brighton again fall at the last hurdle, but the spirit of their performance and the continual development of the club means that it should only be a matter of time before the Amex hosts Premier League football.
Allan Kemp

Born in Suffolk but a Norwich City supporter who is currently exiled in Dallas, US. I am an FA level 2 coach and also a published author, my book of Hall of fame - Norwich City's - All-Time Greats is available from all good bookshops. I am now working on my second book, with Pitch Publishing - Newcastle United Hall of Fame. I'm also a keen reader of football-related books.


Total articles: 50

Latest Grounds Articles