|Location||Hendon, London NW4|
Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers
Barnet & District Athletic Club
Barnet Copthall is a leisure complex in Hendon, London NW4, near the border with Mill Hill. At its centre is a stadium known for sponsorship reasons as Allianz Park, the home ground of rugby union Premiership side Saracens since February 2013.
Today, the complex houses a local authority-owned swimming pool and gymnasium facilities next to the new Allianz Stadium which is primarily used for Rugby and Athletics. It is also used by some local schools for sports training sessions. There is also a private golf driving range on the site.
Prior to the involvement of Saracens, the complex perhaps achieved its greatest fame when London Crusaders (now the London Broncos) made the athletics stadium their home for two seasons of second division professional rugby league between 1993 and 1994.
The stadium is today home to two athletics clubs, Barnet & District AC and Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers. Before Saracens took over the stadium, it was also home to non-league football club Kentish Town.
In November 2010, Saracens, searching for a new home after their landlord Watford F.C. activated a break clause in their groundshare agreement, revealed they were in discussions with Barnet Borough Council about a move to the stadium. Under the plan, Saracens would redevelop the stadium into a modern facility with 3,000 permanent seats. Demountable stands would allow a capacity of 10,000 for rugby matches whilst retaining the stadium's ability to host athletics events. Finally, the plans called for the use of an artificial pitch, the first in English rugby union. Widnes Vikings introduced the first in English rugby as a whole in when they used it for the 2012 Super League season.
Since final approval from Barnet Council was still required in May 2011, Saracens and Watford to agreed to a one-season extension of the groundshare agreement. The project was approved in February 2012. The stadium opened in January 2013, after Saracens began the 2012–13 season as a nomadic club, using 5 different venues for home matches (Twickenham, Wembley, Vicarage Road, King Baudouin Stadium and Stadium MK). A sponsorship deal with German financial services company Allianz that included stadium naming rights, worth £8 million over six years, was announced on 24 July 2012.
On 25 January 2013, the newly renovated ground had its "soft opening", hosting its first Saracens match against the Cardiff Blues with Saracens winning 19-11 in the LV Cup before a crowd limited to 3,500. The new artificial pitch was reported to be very good after the game. The full opening came on 16 February, with Saracens defeating Exeter Chiefs 31–11 in a Premiership match before a capacity crowd of 10,000.
Notes and references
- "Saracens agree £8m naming deal for new stadium". BBC Sport. 24 July 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "Saracens set out Copthall Stadium plans". BBC Sport. 10 November 2010. Retrieved 10 November 2010.
- "Saracens return to Watford's Vicarage Road next season". BBC Sport. 11 May 2011. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
- "Saracens plan for Copthall stadium revamp approved". BBC News London. 3 February 2012. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
- "LV= Cup: Saracens 19-11 Blues". BBC Sport. 25 January 2013. Retrieved 30 January 2013.
- "Allianz Park praised after staging first match between Saracens and Cardiff Blues". Sky Sports. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- "Saracens 31-11 Chiefs". BBC Sport. 16 February 2013. Retrieved 16 February 2013.
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