Here's a look at some of the finest stadiums outside the Premier League
As we gear up for the new Championship season, today we are looking at some of the best stadiums that will be on show during the course of the campaign. There is an argument that the league has become like a second Premier League. There are certainly some big clubs competing at this level with some fantastic stadiums on show.
Some of the smaller clubs in the division have the opportunity to play games in some wonderful arenas – and that all adds to the prestige of the league. In fact, some stadia on show in the Championship is of better quality than some of the teams currently competing in the Premier League. This is just one of the many reasons why this league is so exciting to watch for fans all around the world.
So, now we have all of that out of the way – let’s get stuck into our list…
1. Stadium of Light (Sunderland) Capacity: 49,000
No one is going to argue that Sunderland are a massive club to be playing in the Championship next season. In some ways, similar to what we saw last season with Newcastle United. The Stadium of Light is the biggest stadium that will be on show in the league with a capacity of 49,000.
Of course, it remains to be seen how many fans they will be able to attract to games next season as matches may lack the appeal they had in the Premier League. However, I’m still tipping them to have the highest average attendance in the coming season. Myself and various other fans of a certain age still remember this stadium being built.
In fact, the ground opened in 1997 and cost £24m, which doesn’t sound like a huge price by today’s football market. The Stadium of Light was further expanded in 2002 to take it up to the capacity that it enjoys today. Certainly, this arena is one of the most notable in England and has staged international football matches, concerts, and home games for Sunderland A.F.C.
2. Villa Park (Aston Villa) Capacity: 42,682
Aston Villa are included in another one of my articles looking at teams that may sizzle during next season. Therefore, Villa fans can look forward to a successful campaign – and certainly a significant improvement on what occurred in the Championship last season. Every successful team needs a home stadium that offers the sort of atmosphere to put off the opposition.
Villa Park is not a modern stadium by definition as it was originally constructed in 1897. However, the ground has obviously gone through various improvements since then. Such as the construction of the main Trinity Road Stand completed in 2000 – and taking the stadium up to its current capacity of 42,682.
In the Championship, there is nothing worse than seeing big stadiums that are only partially full. To some extent, it’s a function of big clubs falling on hard times – but Aston Villa will be keen to get as many supporters into their ground as they possibly can next season. Most people would surely agree that Villa Park is one of the iconic football grounds known within the UK, Europe and even the world.
3. Hillsborough Stadium (Sheffield Wednesday) Capacity: 39,732
I’ve mentioned in previous articles how Sheffield Wednesday have fallen on hard times in recent years. Growing up, I can remember Wednesday as a regular and solid Premier League club, so it is a demonstration of what can happen when certain things are not as well managed as they should be. Things have certainly improved for the club now and I’m tipping them to be in the top six of the Championship for the third consecutive year.
In terms of where they play their home games, Hillsborough Stadium is a name that is recognised around the world. Unfortunately, the connotation around it is not entirely for positive reasons. Hillsborough was the venue for an FA Cup semi-final in 1989 that led to 96 Liverpool fans crushed to death. It’s a reason why our stadia tend to be all-seater these days, and why certain people are wary of any calls for standing areas to be reintroduced into football grounds.
Let’s remember though that Hillsborough doesn’t deserve to be known simply for that awful incident. It is also a great stadium that will be hosting Championship football in the coming season. The ground is not modern of such but has seen various improvements over the years. For example, the building of the Kop Corner in 1986, which has helped extend the capacity to its current level of 39,732.
4. Elland Road (Leeds United) Capacity: 37,890
Leeds United are an iconic name in UK, European and worldwide football. However, like the other teams on this list, they have fallen on hard times. Things improved dramatically for them last season under Garry Monk, but it’s unknown if that progress will continue under a new manager. What we can say about the Whites though is they play their football in a truly iconic stadium.
Elland Road has hosted some special events, over the years, such as big concerts, 2015 Rugby World Cup matches, Champions League, and Premier League football. There is no doubt that it is a special venue to host Championship matches next season. The stadium was originally built is 1897, but has been continuingly renovated and expanded over the years to bring it to its current capacity of 37,890.
What’s clear about the value of football clubs, in the modern era, is the importance of owning your ground. In 2004, Leeds United were forced into selling their ground due to their financial crisis, but a report in the Sun from the 28th June, details how they have now bought back the ground from the private landlord for around £20m. This is a very smart decision that will surely strengthen the Leeds United brand as they aim to get back into the Premier League.
5. Riverside Stadium (Middlesbrough) Capacity: 33,786
Middlesbrough gave Premier League football a decent go last season, but a lack of firepower cost them their position in the league. So, they are back in the Championship and will be looking to rebuild things from here. I personally think that they are one of the teams that will get things right in the coming season with a top six place likely.
The Riverside Stadium is one of the newer grounds in this list. In fact, it was opened in 1995 and cost just £16m to build. Like the other stadia mentioned here, the ground has been used for several different purposes such as hosting international games. The capacity has also been increased slightly from when it first opened and at one time had a capacity of 35,100.
However, various reorganisations that have occurred in recent years including a range of improvements prior to promotion to the Premier League, meant that the ground was reduced to 33,786. Nevertheless, this is a perfectly sufficient capacity for the Championship. There are provisional plans in place though to increase the capacity to 42,000 if the club can become established in the Premier League.
6. Pride Park Stadium (Derby County) Capacity: 33,597
Derby County are one of those Championship clubs where expectations for the season ahead always seem to be high. However, the Rams seldom manage to live up to these expectations and a season of disappointment often follows. In fact, that is probably an accurate way of describing what occurred last season for the club.
Derby are another one of those teams with a great stadium and that certainly helps as they strive for success. Pride Park Stadium is another of the fairly modern options in this list; it was opened in 1997 with a final construction cost of £28m. The stadium has been expanded slightly since first opening from 30,000 to its current capacity of 33,597.
Pride Park has hosted international games and was considered as part of the bids for the 2018 World Cup and the 2012 Olympic Games. In 2013, the ground was renamed the iPro Stadium following a £7m sponsorship deal – but reverted back to its original name in 2016 after the cancellation of that deal. Derby fans will certainly be hoping that Pride Park proves to be a fortress as the club look to put together a successful promotion campaign back to the Premier League.
This completes the content section of this article as we have now reviewed the best stadiums in the Championship. What will be interesting to see here is the kind attendances the clubs mentioned on this list receive on their grounds.
If you like Championship content like this, keep an eye on my profile page for all my latest articles. Next, I will be covering something more current with one article focused on managers and another one on clubs.