Extreme examples of lower league teams in huge stadiums and vice versa | Football
“I have a new lower league team (in the NPSL – a version of the Fourth Division in the United States and considered the highest level of amateur football) in my region which will open the game in two weeks”, begins Harriet Osborn. “They will use the stadium of a local school which has a capacity of 8,500 seats. As a few students at this school like to point out, this is a larger capacity than some stadiums used by professional teams in Europe, such as Salford City (5,108). What is the most extreme example of this: how many leagues of difference can we find between a large lower division stadium and a smaller upper division stadium? »
Perhaps the most obvious answer to this question is Queen’s Park, perennial conqueror of stadium stats. The 52,000 capacity Hampden Park was home to Scotland’s League One side for over a century but as of 2021 they are homeless as their tenure on the ground has come to an end and await the development of a new house. Nonetheless, in 2012-13 Queen’s Park featured in the fourth tier of Scottish football, while the 6,541-capacity Victoria Park in Ross County hosted top-flight action.
In England, Darlington played at the 25,000-seat Reynolds Arena while in the National League in 2010-11. That same season, Bloomfield Road, with a capacity of 16,220, hosted Blackpool in the Premier League. And the 11,000 capacity Dean Court hosted Premier League football in 2019-20 – that same season Notts County played fifth tier National League football at their Meadow ground Lane which holds 18,816.
Beyond the big boys of the National League, there have been very large borrowed stadiums that have hosted games at the very bottom of the pyramid.
Gateshead play at the 11,800 capacity Gateshead International Stadium – a home for athletics in the North East – and in 2003-04 were a Northern Premier Division One side in the seventh tier. There was nothing smaller in the Premier League that year, but Rotherham were second tier playing at the 8,300 capacity Millmoor.
Widnes FC home games are played at 13,350 Halton Stadium – home of rugby league club Widnes Vikings – and they played in the 10th-tier North West Counties League Division 1 in 2013- 14. That same season, Yeovil was in the Championship – Huish Park holds 9,565.
And, the biggest gap we found, non-league Hull United briefly shared the 12,225-capacity Craven Park of Hull Kingston Rovers, and was there for much of the 2015-16 League Division One season. East of the Northern Counties – the 10th tier of English football (or maybe the 11th – it’s not entirely clear). Good old Dean Court, with a capacity of 11,000, hosted Premier League side Bournemouth in the same year.
Are Fulham breaking records?
“Fulham have achieved their fourth promotion to the Premier League, which is surely a record. But, unlike Sky, we know football didn’t start in 1992. So which club holds the record for promotions to the top tier of English football? I’ll open the bidding with Fulham’s five, but I’m sure there are plenty of clubs with more than that. writes Richard Hirst.
Hold your horses, Richard. Fulham still have some way to go to surpass Norwich’s Premier League promotion prowess – the Canaries have gone up five times in the Premier League era and were relegated for the sixth time this weekend.
Four promotions before 1992 brings them to a grand total of nine, but that’s still a far cry from Birmingham City, who were promoted to the top flight no less than 12 times (the first being Small Heath in the early 1890s).
The Late Show (2)
In last week’s Knowledge we looked at teams playing their home and away games in May, specifically Luton and Nottingham Forest in 1987-88. Turns out, that was just the tip of a nerdy gratifying iceberg…
“There have been many instances in English league football (49 in fact) where two teams have played both games in May,” writes Chris Roe. “The Luton/Forest one identified in last week’s column (May 13 and 15, 1988) is not quite the latest.
“In 1966, Brighton and Oldham faced each other on May 13 and 18. And in 1977, Newport and Workington faced each other on May 14 and 17. If you flip the question, there are also some interesting answers. The first time that two English teams have completed both league games dating back to 1969, when Middlesbrough and Millwall played on August 12 and 18. Those games were their second and fourth of the season.
“This 1969-70 season was particularly interesting for this statistic. In the old Division One, each team played a home and away game in the second and fourth games, with all matches taking place between August 11 and 20.”
“In 1899 the British baseball champions were Nottingham Forest, while Spurs won it in 1906”, noted Paul Smith in January 2005. “What other football teams have had ties to baseball or are these team names a coincidence?”
The names are no coincidence. The National Baseball League of Great Britain and Ireland was founded in 1890. Four teams were involved, all closely linked to association football clubs: Derby County, Preston North End, Aston Villa and Stoke City.
Baseball flourished particularly in the North East with clubs in Middlesbrough, Darlington, Stockton and Thornaby. In 1933 a national baseball association was founded and professional leagues were formed in Lancashire and Yorkshire. The first professional matches began in 1936, with the Yorkshire League consisting of teams from Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Hull, Dewsbury, Wakefield and Scarborough. The games regularly drew 5,000 spectators – and sometimes as many as 10,000.
Can you help ?
“Like a few others, I have a memory of the BBC’s Barry Davies coming up against the Italians after their famous loss to South Korea in the 2002 World Cup. The quote goes something like: ‘…and the Italians come out of the World Cup because they WILL. DO NOT. TO LEARN.‘ The thing is, I can’t find any evidence of it anywhere. I even managed to get my hands on the full game (filled with commentary from Davies and Joe Royle) but the famous quote is nowhere to be found. I’m beginning to think this is all an apocryphal fever dream. So, am I going crazy or did Davies really say that? asks Rich Soden.
“Last Saturday, Exeter scored 25 seconds after their opponents Northampton were disallowed a goal. Is that a record? wonders Chris Whifin.
“Due to the odd number of teams in the National League this year, King’s Lynn Town will finish their season a week ahead of everyone else on May 7. At this point, my team, Stockport County, will have three games left to play. Has another team already finished their league season while another team in the same division still has three or more games to play?” asks Ian Waterhouse.
“If Nottingham Forest are promoted to the Premier League and Notts County remain in the National League, would that create the biggest difference in league positions between two local rivals who had played in the same league before?” thinks Makoto.