King Power Stadium
|Full name||King Power Stadium|
|Former names||The Walkers Stadium (2002–2011)|
|Location||Filbert Way, Leicester, England LE2 7FL|
|Owner||K Power Holdings Co Ltd|
|Field size||102 x 67 metres|
|Leicester City (2002–present)|
The King Power Stadium (also known as Leicester City Stadium) is a football stadium located in Leicester, England. It is the home ground of Leicester City, who currently compete in the Premier League. The all-seater stadium, inaugurated in July 2002, has a capacity of 32,262 and is the 19th largest stadium by capacity in England. The stadium is named after King Power, a company owned by club owner Vichai Raksriaksorn.
Background and construction
Leicester's previous stadium was at nearby Filbert Street, which had been their home since 1891. It was gradually upgraded during the 20th century and with the advent of the Taylor Report in January 1990 requiring all clubs in the top two divisions to have all-seater stadiums by August 1994, Leicester City's directors began to investigate the possibility of building a new stadium during the early 1990s, but initially decided to take the redevelopment option by building a new stand on one side of Filbert Street and fitting seats into the remaining standing areas, giving the stadium a 21,500 all-seated capacity by the 1994–95 season.
Filbert Street's conversion to an all-seater stadium coincided with their promotion to the Premier League after a seven-year exile from the top flight, and with their relegation after just one season it appeared that the 21,500 capacity would be adequate.
However, success in the late 1990s saw crowds rise, which meant that virtually every game at Filbert Street was a sell-out by the end of the decade. Relocation was soon back on the cards; several similar sized clubs had relocated to new stadiums around this time, including Leicester's midland rivals Stoke City and Derby County.
Some parts of the ground – the East and North Stands in particular – were also somewhat outdated, which led the manager, Martin O'Neill to joke that when he showed Filbert Street to new signings he led them backwards out of the players tunnel to prevent them from seeing the East Stand.
In early 1998 plans were announced for a 40,000 all-seater stadium to be built at Bede Island South in time for the 2000–01 season, but these plans were abandoned on 5 January 2000. Chairman John Elsom vowed that other options, including relocation to another site or even further redevelopment of Filbert Street, would be considered, hoping that either option would have materialised by August 2002.
The relocation option was soon settled upon, as plans were unveiled on 2 November 2000 for a 32,000-seat stadium at nearby Freeman's Wharf, with 2003–04 being the expected completion date, although it was suggested at the time relocation could happen at the start of the 2002–03 season. Work on the stadium began in the summer of 2001, and by 10 October that year it was confirmed that the new stadium would be ready for the 2002–03 season.
The stadium was completed on time in the summer of 2002, ready for Leicester to take up residence for the start of the 2002–03 season. However, it was not an easy start at their new stadium as they had just been relegated from the Premier League and were more than £30million in debt.
The stadium also has under-soil heating.
The record attendance for football is 32,188 for Leicester City against Real Madrid in a pre-season friendly game in the summer of 2011. The overall record attendance is 32,488 for a rugby union match between Leicester Tigers and Bath in 2006. This is because this rugby match took place prior to seats being removed to provide segregation of rival football fans, reducing the capacity of the ground from exactly 32,500 to 32,262.
The stadium was officially opened by former Leicester striker Gary Lineker on 23 July 2002. He used a giant pair of scissors to cut a ribbon on the pitch after arriving at the stadium in a Walkers lorry. The first game at the new stadium was a friendly against Spanish team Athletic Bilbao, on 4 August 2002. The game finished 1–1, with Tiko scoring the first goal at the stadium, and Jordan Stewart scoring Leicester's first goal. The attendance was approximately 24,000 (no official figure was recorded due to a computer problem). The first competitive match took place six days later and Leicester beat Watford 2–0 in front of a near-capacity crowd of 31,022. Brian Deane scored both goals, including the stadium's first in competitive games. Leicester ended the 2002–03 season promoted back to the Premier League, losing just two home games in the season, despite spending the early part of the season in receivership due to their huge debts, until a takeover deal was completed.
The £37 million cost of the new stadium, combined with relegation from the Premiership, the collapse of the English transfer market due to the introduction of the transfer window and the collapse of ITV Digital meant that Leicester went into receivership shortly after moving to the new stadium. Birse Construction who had built the stadium therefore lost a large part of their fee, and they withdrew from any further football ground construction. The main losers from this were Leicester's local rivals Coventry City, who were in negotiations with Birse to build their own new stadium.
As part of the deal which brought the club out of receivership, the ownership of the stadium reverted to American academic retirement fund TIAA–CREF, who had supplied £28 million via a bond scheme towards the stadium's construction, with the club taking a long-term lease while the bond repayments were made.
In October 2006, Milan Mandarić reportedly offered £25 million to buy Leicester City. This was said to include £15 million to buy back the stadium from its current owners. Mandarić stated in the local newspaper, The Leicester Mercury, that he envisaged Leicester City becoming a powerful club and that the stadium could possibly in the future have a capacity of 45,000.
In 2002, former Leicester City shirt sponsors Walkers signed a ten-year deal for naming rights. The agreement was superseded halfway through the period, in May 2007, when they again paid a "seven-figure sum" to extend their sponsorship of the stadium until 2017. Originally the ground was to have been called the "Walkers Bowl", but that name was dropped after a fans' petition against it. Fans criticised the name for having only the name of the sponsor in it, and no Leicester City reference, such as "Filbert", "Fosse" or "Foxes", while some fans objected to "Walker's Bowl" on the grounds that the name too "American" (referring to the American college football bowl game concept). As a result of the petition, the name was quickly changed to the "Walkers Stadium"; however, some fans were still unhappy with the name, and it was sometimes referred to (usually derogatorily) as the "crisp bowl", in reference to Walkers best known products. Many fans refer to the stadium as Filbert Way after the ground's address, retaining a link with the past. The naming rights were sold to King Power for the 2011–12 season.
During their absence from Wembley Stadium, the England national football team played a home friendly game against Serbia and Montenegro at the stadium on 3 June 2003. Goals from Steven Gerrard and Joe Cole gave England a 2–1 victory. On 12 October of the same year, the ground hosted an international friendly match between Brazil and Jamaica, with Roberto Carlos scoring the winner.
On 20 May 2006, the stadium hosted the Football Conference playoff final between Hereford United and Halifax Town. A goal in extra time gave Hereford a 3–2 win and promotion to the Football League. Nine days later, the ground was also the venue for another international friendly, with Ghana beating Jamaica 4–1.
On 12 October 2007, the England Under-21 side took on Serbia and Montenegro U21. The game ended with England winning 1–0 after a Matt Derbyshire goal in the first half.
On 30 July 2011, Leicester city played a strong Real Madrid side in the Npower Cup, in front of a record 32,188 home fans, with star players such as Ronaldo and Kaka playing for Madrid. After falling behind to a first-half goal from Jose Callejon and a second on the hour from Karim Benzema, Sven-Göran Eriksson's men pulled a goal back a minute from the end through substitute Lloyd Dyer.
|Friendly 3 June 2003||England||2–1||Serbia and Montenegro||Leicester|
|20:00 BST||Gerrard 35'
J. Cole 82'
|Stadium: Walkers Stadium
Referee: Paul Allaerts
|Friendly 12 October 2003||Jamaica||0–1||Brazil||Leicester|
|15:00 BST||Roberto Carlos 15'||Stadium: Walkers Stadium
Referee: Rob Styles
|Friendly 29 May 2006||Jamaica||1–4||Ghana||Leicester|
|Euell 58'||Muntari 5'
Stewart 19' (o.g.)
|Stadium: Walkers Stadium
In 2004, the United Kingdom's best supported rugby union club, Leicester Tigers considered sharing the stadium with Leicester City as their own 16,815-capacity ground at Welford Road was considered too small to handle the growing popularity of rugby. The plan would have seen the two clubs form a jointly owned company to buy the stadium from Teachers. The deal was abandoned in 2005 as the clubs failed to fully agree terms. Because of the continued parlous state of the football club's finances, rumours that groundsharing was still being discussed continued to circulate, with some suggestions that Tigers were considering buying the stadium outright from Teachers. In 2007 a permanent groundshare seemed to be ruled out as Leicester Tigers received planning consent for a major expansion of their own Welford Road venue with a new 10,500-seat stand taking Welford Road to a capacity of 24,500.
However, Tigers have played six matches at the stadium, either to capitalise on the larger capacity with the greater interest in high-profile games or when competition rules demanded that the match be played away from their normal home ground. The first match was a Heineken Cup semi-final on 24 April 2005, Tigers losing 27–19 to Toulouse. This game attracted a near-capacity crowd of 31,883. On 1 April 2006, Tigers lost 15–12 to Bath in a Heineken Cup quarter final, in front of a sell-out crowd of 32,500 which is the record attendance for the stadium. This is unlikely to be equalled for a football match, unless the stadium is expanded, because of crowd segregation requirements. The third Heineken Cup game there on 21 April 2007, saw Tigers beat Llanelli Scarlets 33–17, at the European Cup semi final stage. With the expansion of Welford Road under way it is likely that the only rugby games to be played at the Walkers Stadium in future will be European Cup semi-finals when Leicester Tigers are drawn at "home" which enables them to propose a suitable English venue away from their home ground. They also played the last home game of the 2008–09 season and the play-off semi-final of the Guinness Premiership due to the demolition of the old Caterpillar Stand at Welford Road.
On 3 December 2006, South Africa played a game against a World XV to mark the centenary of the Springboks' first game abroad. It will further host matches for the 2015 Rugby World Cup hosting 3 pool matches: Argentina v Tonga, Argentina v Namibia, and Canada v Romania.
List of rugby matches
|Date||Competition||Home team||Away team|
|24 April 2005||2004-05 Heineken Cup Semi-final||Leicester Tigers||19||Toulouse||27|
|1 April 2006||2005-06 Heineken Cup Quarter-final||Leicester Tigers||12||Bath||15|
|3 December 2006||Exhibition match||World XV||7||South Africa XV||32|
|21 April 2007||2006-07 Heineken Cup Semi-final||Leicester Tigers||33||Llanelli Scarlets||17|
|11 April 2009||2008-09 Heineken Cup Quarter-final||Leicester Tigers||20||Bath||15|
|25 April 2009||2008-09 Guinness Premiership, Round 22||Leicester Tigers||73||Bristol||3|
|9 May 2009||2008-09 Guinness Premiership Semi-final||Leicester Tigers||24||Bath||10|