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Observer 10 Worst Stadiums

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Grounds for complaint: Luton has just been voted the crappiest town in Britain, and if may of the 20,000 voters were football fans it is not hard to see why. But when it comes to nominating England's crappiest football ground there are plenty to give grotty Kenilworth Road a run for its money. A new survey by Observer sport reveals all...


Gemma Clarke

The Observer


The new edition of Crap Towns is out and rival publishers are plotting a new book on the country's crappiest football grounds.

To help them on the way, Observer Sport has conducted its own survey, based on the traditional Sunday newspaper practice of ringing a few people and writing a story that starts 'new research shows...' or 'a new survey reveals...' Our network of football fans, our own writers and editors, and lots of people on internet chatrooms and down the pub have been consulted, and we have restricted the survey to the English leagues because there are too many crap grounds in Scotland.



Most of the opinions are from the 'Visiting Supporters' end of the stadium, though hats must be raised to the man from Rotherham who nominates his own club. We take into account the many factors that go towards making a crap ground - leaking roofs (when lucky enough to have a roof), long queues, seats designed for jockeys, rip-off prices, lack of atmosphere, PA announcers with speech impediments, weak tea, poor pies, strategically placed barbed wire and girders, neanderthal natives, crumbling terracing, smelly toilets, police who really need the overtime, and overall grimness. This being a subjective rather than a scientific survey, the weather and the result inevitably come into play. The journey to the game, and the crapness of the surrounding area are equally important, as can be seen from our two chart-toppers. You are welcome to take a perverse pleasure in your club getting a mention; and just because a stadium is new it is not exempt from being crap. The final verdict on the Top 10 goes to the sports editor, a groundhopper saddo who long ago ticked off all 92 clubs in the English leagues and who likes crap grounds, as do many of our contributors. Because of his club allegiances, though, there was never any chance, whatever the voting, of the frequently nominated Withdean ('magnificent treeline, and German regional league charm') or Fratton Park ('reassuringly earthy in the way that Stella is reassuringly expensive') making the top three.


1. Priestfield, Gillingham

Capacity 10,952, Built 1892, Prices £15-30

New research shows that Gillingham is the biggest dump in English football. Priestfield topped an Observer poll, and this fan's view is typical of many: 'Never fails to live down to expectations. Used to be nothing more than a couple of cowsheds knocked together but after redevelopment it resembles a 1970s garage forecourt. The away end has two Portakabins for toilets and the worst catering outside Selhurst Park. The walk from the train station is like walking through the Shangri-La Caravan Park just after closing time.'

Another contributor offered the view that Gillingham 'is the place that makes Middlesbrough look like Monte Carlo'. The Observer sent reporter Jamie Jackson to investigate further. Here's his view:

'I'm going to smash you in the mouth and run off!' Gillingham High Street, Tuesday 28 September. An angry teenage lad with a crewcut is threatening a girl outside the railway station before the match. As a welcome to a town described by a football club spokesman as 'a dump', it is about right. The 'town centre' is a street of kebab houses, cheque cashers, branches of Iceland and Woolworth's, dilapidated buildings, and at least seven charity shops and discount stores. The street is book-ended by the derelict Prince Albert pub and the still-open Southern Belle. If you want to make a night of it, there's the bingo hall around corner.

The route to the stadium passes Costcutter and along a winding street of terrace houses. Apart from a newsagent, and Hair Sandra at number 189, the only sign of prosperous retail life is a branch of the drain cleaners,Dyno Rod. If the houses are not boarded up or run-down, they have rubbish and bin liners spilling on to the pavement. Along Priestfield Road there are more deserted businesses, and children fighting over bits of cardboard and swearing at each other.

An unalluring alleyway takes you on to Linden Road and the main entrance into the stadium. There is the ticket office, the club shop and the Blues Rock Café, which offers 'Karaoke at the bar for £1.50'.

In the stadium the food is poor and £26 is a bit steep for a seat. It's not the football club's fault that their town is so grotty. Chairman Paul Scally is keen to move them four miles out of town. Given what happened with Wimbledon we shouldn't be in favour of any such move, but in this case...


2. Kenilworth Road, Luton

Capacity 9,975, Built 1904, Prices £12-£21

'The whole area surrounding the ground is run-down and dreary; it feels more like going to your local prison than a football match. To enter the away end you have to walk through a house - you go through the front door, up some stairs and from the top you can see all the other terraced houses along the road, and it's not a pretty sight. The seats are falling apart and packed so tightly that you can barely breathe. Too many large pillars, 'executive boxes' that look more like flats, horrible food, too many police...'

• 'Luton will never, ever be forgiven for the David Evans ID card nonsense and the plastic pitch. That dreary netherworld walk from the station to the "stadium" - it's unrelenting misery. God, what a dump.'


3. Millmoor, Rotherham

Capacity 11,514, Built 1906, Prices £19

'Being a Rotherham fan, I dare not criticise anybody else's ground. Ours must be one of the worst - a wooden main stand that is in desperate need of bulldozing, no legroom in any of the seats... Coming to Millmoor isn't all bad, though. You'll find a friendly reception and some decent pubs around the ground. And the pies are fantastic.'

• 'Having previously seen the ground in the film ID , I didn't think it would actually be that bad. It was. The only good thing was the pies. We left in a hurry and to see Rotherham disappear in the distance was a huge relief.'

• 'Visiting Millmoor was like entering another world, the land that time forgot. The stand at the away end is a huge tin can with water dripping everywhere. It's good to hear that the club are considering reshaping Millmoor but these updates should have been done 10 years ago.'


4. Withdean Stadium, Brighton

Capacity 6,960, Built 1930, Prices £22

• 'Has to be the worst in the Football League. A three-sided athletics stadium, not a football ground, and the track makes the pitch seem miles away. The fourth side is a sandpit for the long jump and a hammer-throwing area, which utterly ruins the atmosphere. Despite being the worst by a mile, it's among the most expensive.'

• 'Probably a great place to hold a minor county athletics meeting, and maybe some day they can get back to doing exactly that. You can't help but feel sorry for the Brighton fans.'

• 'Brighton is unarguably a cracking place to go out - full of excellent boozers, eateries and clubs. Unfortunately the Withdean isn't in Brighton. It's out in the suburbs. It's dreadful.'

• 'I went there once to watch Withdean v East Grinstead in the Sussex County League. The attendance was 38. Says it all.'


5. Fratton Park, Portsmouth

Capacity 19,973, Built 1897, Prices £26-£30

• 'Portsmouth drum up a fervent atmosphere for every home game, but there the potential positives end. From the barbed-wire-topped walls to the sprawling wasteland, it's an unwelcoming venue. You'd be forgiven for thinking this was a prison. The toilets were clearly designed for no more than two fans at any one time. The seats are bolted directly on to the old-style terracing, offering zero leg room. Then there's that bloody non-stop bell-ringing.'

• 'Portsmouth should not have been allowed to play Premiership football at such an ancient stadium. Tradition is one thing, but £30 for being exposed to the elements, with miniature toilets supplemented by a handful of Portaloos, and a coffee bar the size of my old mum's larder... it's nothing short of a disgrace.'

• 'On the walk from the station you'll find the bars shut before the match because locals have tried to fight the away fans, themselves, or the nearest aggressive lamp-post.'


6. Selhurst Park, Crystal Palace

Capacity 26,400, Built 1923, Prices £28-£35

• 'A grimy, joyless place... it's only the other side of London, but could be on the moon. Boasts its own microclimate... it can be sunny and bright as nearby as East Croydon railway station but Selhurst Park is invariably grey, cold and drizzly. The Arthur Wait stand to which away supporters are condemned is shallow and ugly, and both Crystal Palace and the pre-mutation Wimbledon saw fit to charge £20 for entry long before it approached the norm.'

• 'Grey, gloomy, and I've never found a decent pub near the ground, despite many attempts. Too far from the station, whichever one you choose, and too close to Croydon. I suppose we should at least be glad that Croydon itself doesn't have a League team. Just imagine that...'


7. Blundell Park, Grimsby

Capacity 10,033, Built 1898, Prices £14-£16

• 'Grimsby has the worst seating imaginable, with unbelievably bad views from some areas in the away end. Blundell Park has no redeeming features. It looks a complete tip, and they even increased the cost of a pie in the away end.'

• 'If Grimsby are in your division and you're going to miss an away trip, make it this one. The fish and chips are good, though.'

• 'It's a bit of a con. Blundell Park isn't in Grimsby at all, it's in Cleethorpes. You entertain notions of an attractive seaside town with a sandy beach, and candyfloss - but it's a ghost town where all the dogs in Lincolnshire congregate to make a mess on the seafront walk.'


8. Ninian Park, Cardiff

Capacity 19,000, Built 1909, Prices £22-£27

• 'Away fans have a small area near the corner flag with a pillar obstructing most of the pitch, and fencing for segregation. The slightest bit of banter directed at the home support and you're threatened with eviction by unfriendly stewards. Giant queues for food. A dreadful experience.'

• 'They hate the English, and they hate Swansea even more. Whoever you are, you won't get a friendly welcome. What a prehistoric contrast to the Millennium Stadium.'


9. National Hockey Stadium, Milton Keynes Dons

Capacity 9,000, Built 1990, Prices £10-£20

• 'The word 'hockey' sums up why it's a bad ground - it's just not a football stadium. When I went last year there was no atmosphere from either set of supporters because Norwich fans were split up into two sections of the ground, with a huge gap in between them.'

• So many reasons to hate this place. The Franchise's Theatre of Dreams is a craphole in a retail park: it's exposed, the toilets are in Portakabins and stewards tell you not to jump up and down in case you knock the stand over. The pre-match drinking venue sums it all up: an anonymous hell hole called Chicagos. Stay away.


10. Stamford Bridge, Chelsea

Capacity 42,420, Built 1904, Prices £38-£48

'One of the most mean-spirited,unfriendly and scruffiest stadiums in the land.Not scruffy in a wholesome way,like Goodison Park for example,but in a an extremely tacky,cheap,classless way - a £2-for-a-Mars-bar way.Where do this mob get the brassnecked spivvery to charge visiting fans £52 (Manchester Utd) and £48 (Newcastle)for a view not dissimilar to watching the match through a letterbox? Standing is a necessity.Truly a cesspit of everything that is crass about twenty-first century football.'

• 'You can't enjoy a game there because you're overwhelmed with the sensation of being ripped off. Foul people.'

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10. Stamford Bridge, Chelsea

Capacity 42,420, Built 1904, Prices £38-£48

'One of the most mean-spirited,unfriendly and scruffiest stadiums in the land.Not scruffy in a wholesome way,like Goodison Park for example,but in a an extremely tacky,cheap,classless way - a £2-for-a-Mars-bar way.Where do this mob get the brassnecked spivvery to charge visiting fans £52 (Manchester Utd) and £48 (Newcastle)for a view not dissimilar to watching the match through a letterbox?


I was waiting for them to mention the old lady, but that shocked me its almost like a compliment

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I fuckin love the ruggedness of Goodison especially outside along Goodison road and apart from the lower bullens is it realy that bad??????


the back of the lower bullens is horrible, and if your behing a post otherwise what do you want from a stadium


The view from my seat is pretty good

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