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Stadium names - Fergus Kelly

Blog | By Fergus Kelly | Dec 21, 2022

The main danger of modern football isn't hooliganism - it's the dull new names of the stadiums. By Fergus Kelly

For a football supporter, despite what they say, it isn’t the hope that kills you. Nor the occasional dodgy chicken balti pie; nor the myriad missed train connections on journeys home that prolong the misery of another defeat in a far- flung League Two outpost.

It is the charmlessness of the stadium that is your destination.

Like our local newspapers, too many of the old stadiums’ kit-built replacements, apparently quicker to construct than a Nightingale Hospital, have migrated to the outskirts, where they share a retail space with a bowling alley, a tile warehouse, and the sort of low-rise hotel where travelling salesmen drink lager from which all taste has been chilled, in a profoundly characterless bar.

The old stadium names conjured up a bosky glade or other bucolic idylls; an Elysian escape for the cloth-capped working man in the midst of Lowry-like town centres, brooding beneath sooty chimneys.

But now, even when the stadiums survive, what happens? Mansfield Town’s elegiac Field Mill has been renamed by the sponsors the One Call Stadium.

I cannot imagine any circumstance in which I would refer to my hometown club Bradford City’s ground, Valley Parade, by its present corporate identity, the Utilita Energy Stadium.

Whatever became of their romantically-named predecessors? When Saturday came and the foundries fell quiet, the steel men trooped to see Scunthorpe United at the Old Show Ground. For the miners devoted to Doncaster Rovers, it was Belle Vue.

Then there was the Dell (Southampton), Gay Meadow (Shrewsbury Town), Vetch Field (Swansea City), Plough Lane (Wimbledon), Elm Park (Reading) and White Hart Lane (Tottenham Hotspur) – though it turns out that might have had more to do with a nearby pub than with a woodland site where once medieval hunts chased panting creatures of that name.

All now gone.