Location in Southport
|Former names||Ash Lane|
|Owner||Sefton Council (freeholder)|
|Operator||Southport F.C. (long leaseholder)|
|Capacity||6,008 (1,660 seated) |
|Field size||115 × 78 yards|
Haig Avenue, known as Merseyrail Community Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is a football stadium in Blowick, Southport, Merseyside, England, that holds 6,008 people (1,660 seated, 4,164 standing)
The ground is situated in Blowick, which is just inside the east boundary of Southport, just off the A570, the main road to Ormskirk, and to the M58 motorway. It is sited at the edge of a residential area, adjoining school playing fields.
Haig Avenue now has a capacity of 7,000, though the record attendance is 20,010 against Newcastle United in the fourth round of the FA Cup in 1932, and a similar number attended an FA Cup tie with Everton in 1968. These days the ground seldom operates at more than a quarter full, although nearly full houses have been registered for key matches, such as the 1998 F.A. Trophy semi-final against Slough Town which Southport won to reach their first ever Wembley final; and their 2010 FA Cup 3rd Round home tie against Sheffield Wednesday.
The ground has a covered main stand, called the Grandstand, opposite an uncovered terrace, known as the Popular Side. Behind the goals, the south (Scarisbrick) end is covered; this is where the majority of the home fans congregate. The south stand is called the Jack Carr Stand, after a popular director at the club, and was named shortly after his death. The north (Blowick) away end is open to the elements.
Southport F.C. moved to what is now called Haig Avenue in 1905 (then called Ash Lane). The road the ground is situated on and the ground itself were officially renamed Haig Avenue after Earl Haig in 1921.
The grandstand that now stands at Haig Avenue was opened in August 1968, 2 years after the original main stand had burnt down. The wooden structure, which had been purchased from the Southport Flower Show burnt down the day after a game against Wrexham on Boxing Day in 1966 (a game which Southport won 1-0). Most of the clubs possessions including kits, went up in flames with only the club safe (holding the previous day's takings) surviving. A temporary main stand was put up instead during the season Billy Bingham's side won promotion to the third division. Eric Morecambe presented the club with a trophy to commemorate their achievement.
Today there is open terracing at the 'Blowick' away end and on the 'Popular' side opposite the Main Stand. Covered terracing for about 10,000 spectators on the Popular side and Scarisbrick end was demolished following legal action against the football club by Sefton Council under the Safety of Sports Grounds legislation. Many supporters still feel aggrieved that instead of assisting the club to build new covered terracing, their Council took such harsh action against the club when it was already going through a difficult period. Other local authorities have been very helpful to their football clubs. Being a holiday/leisure resort, the national profile of Southport F.C. is important in the marketing of the town, but this has not been recognised by the current council. Until 1974 Southport was a county borough in its own right, but it is now a part of Sefton MBC.
After years of procrastination, the club said that in the summer of 2014, with the financial assistance of 'Trust in Yellow' (the Supporters' Trust), County Insurance and a grant from the football authorities, it would erect new corner floodlights to replace those erected along the sides of the pitch over 40 years ago. While some preparatory work on the project started in May/June 2014, just within the deadline set in the town planning conditions, the club has since revised the completion date to November 2014.
Everton Reserves currently play their home games at the stadium.
- "Southport Merseyrail Community Stadium". footballgroundguide.com. Retrieved 25 April 2016.
- "PORT PROUD TO ANNOUNCE MERSEYRAIL COMMUNITY STADIUM SPONSORSHIP". www.southportfc.net. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "Haig Avenue". Soccerway. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "Directions to Haig Avenue". Port Online. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "History of Haig Avenue". Port Online. Retrieved 16 September 2012.
- "Everton Reserves 3, Man Utd Reserves 2". Retrieved 16 September 2012.
Everton Reserves beat Manchester United Reserves at Haig Avenue.