Welford Road Stadium
Welford Road is a rugby union stadium in Leicester, England, and is the home ground for Leicester Tigers. It is located between Aylestone Road and Welford Road on the edge of the city centre. The stadium has a capacity of 26,000, making it the largest purpose-built club rugby union ground in England; the capacity is planned to eventually reach 30,000. It hosted five full England national team matches between 1902 and 1923, and staged a single match at each of the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.
The Leicester Tigers moved there in 1892 and the first stands accommodated 1,100 spectators. The club house is located on Aylestone Road, where a small temporary stand is erected, with the other sides having permanent stands built on them.
The Crumbie Stand was built in the 1920s with the terrace being added later. The stand is named after the club's secretary who built the stand, Tom Crumbie. The members' stand – now replaced by the Caterpillar stand – was built on the side of the ground adjoining the former Granby Halls site; this stand was also built in the twenties. This expansion almost bankrupted the club but it helped attract top players and laid the foundations for Leicester first glory years in the 1920s and 1930s as well as their subsequent success. The stand is now sponsored by Holland and Barratt and is also commonly known by the same name. The stand allows for standing and seating capacity at the stadium.
The Alliance and Leicester Stand was opened at the Welford Road end in 1995. In 2010 this was renamed the Goldsmiths stand.
In 2004, the Tigers announced a plan to abandon Welford Road in favour of a groundshare at Walkers Stadium with the city's main football club, Leicester City F.C. However, the two clubs could not agree on which one would have priority at Walkers Stadium, and formally shelved the plan in 2005.
Leicester purchased the freehold to land adjacent to the ground in 2006. Plans have now been approved for the ground to be radically altered. It will eventually see capacity expanded from 16,815 to 30,000. In 2008, phase I of the redevelopment started with the construction of the Caterpillar Stand on the north side that increased capacity to 24,000. The stand opened on 19 September 2009 with a capacity crowd watching a match between Leicester Tigers and Newcastle Falcons. The stand has been renamed the MET-Rx Stand.
In May 2015, Phase II of the Leicester Tigers Redevelopment was under way to knock down the clubhouse, dating back to 1909, and the temporary stand to build a new 3100 capacity stand with a VIP premium lounge and a clubhouse inside the stand. It is to be completed for the start of the Aviva Premiership but the offices and VIP premium lounge will not be available until December 2015.
As part of Phase 1 of the Leicester Tigers Redevelopment Plan, the 90-year-old Members Stand, which was renamed the Next Stand in its latter years, was demolished before the end of 2008/2009 season. Therefore, the last couple of home matches were played at the Walkers Stadium. Officially opened on 19 September 2009 with a maximum capacity of 24,000 against Newcastle Falcons. With a total capacity of 10,000, it was originally called the Caterpillar Stand but was renamed in 2014 to the MET-Rx Stand.
Holland & Barrett Stand
First built in 1918, the stand was named the Crumbie Stand after the club's secretary Thomas Crumbie. The terraces were erected later, taking the capacity to approximately 7,000. In 2010, the Crumbie Stand was renamed the Holland & Barrett Stand after health food chain Holland & Barrett had signed a sponsorship deal with Tigers the previous year. Stage 3 of the Leicester Tigers Redevelopment Plan would be likely to involve the demolition of the Holland & Barrett Stand, replacing it with a larger stand connected to the new Clubhouse Stand.
Originally the Alliance and Leicester Stand, the Goldsmiths Stand is an all-seater and 16 executive suites stand built in 1995 on the East Bank of the ground. With a capacity of roughly 6000 seats, it increased Welford Road's capacity to 16,815. In 2010, the Alliance and Leicester Stand was renamed to the Goldsmiths Stand after a change of sponsorship.
After a controversial decision in which the RFU announced that Welford Road wouldn't host any World Cup 2015 matches opting instead for the King Power Stadium, Tigers released plans for the second stage of redevelopment in which the 100 year old clubhouse and the temporary stand was demolished and a new stand built. It could hold 3,100 fans, 62 disabled fans and their assistants and increase the stadiums capacity to 26,000. Building for the new stand started the week after Leicester's final home match of the season against Northampton Saints where they beat Saints 22-14. Part of the Stand was open for game against Wasps on 1 November 2015. Before Christmas, Tigers announced that they signed a deal with Caterpillar for the new stand to be the new Caterpillar Stand permanently. And the stand was was fully seated for the Northampton Saints Derby on 9 January 2016, a match which they won 30 - 27.
As of 2008, the stadium has hosted seven full cap international games. It hosted pool matches during both the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups and it was expected that it would also be a venue for the 2015 Rugby World Cup. However Welford Road was omitted from the long list of potential venues submitted by England Rugby 2015 to the International Rugby Board in October 2012. The shortlist did include the King Power Stadium in Leicester as a potential venue for the tournament. The stadium has also occasionally hosted England Saxons (previously England A and before that England B) and England U20 matches, and non-cap matches between international touring sides and Leicester or a Midlands or East Midlands XV.
|Date||Competition||Home team||Away team|
|8 February 1902||1902 Home Nations Championship||England||6||Ireland||3|
|9 January 1904||1904 Home Nations Championship||England||14||Wales||14|
|10 February 1906||1906 Home Nations Championship||England||6||Ireland||16|
|30 January 1909||Friendly||England||22||France||0|
|10 February 1923||1923 Five Nations Championship||England||23||Ireland||5|
|13 October 1991||1991 Rugby World Cup||New Zealand||31||Italy||21|
|10 October 1999||1999 Rugby World Cup||Italy||25||Tonga||28|
Welford Road has also played host to American Football, with a charity match in aid of Matt Hampson taking place on 28 May 2007 between the Loughborough University Aces and reunited 90s team Leicester Panthers. National League team Leicester Falcons also played a league match at the stadium as part of a fundraiser for local charity LOROS, beating the Birmingham Bulls 22–15 on 12 June 2010.
The record for the highest attendance at Welford Road was set on 4 October 1924, when 35,000 people saw Leicester play the touring New Zealand team. The highest attendance for a league fixture, and the highest post-war attendance, was 25,849 for the derby match against Northampton Saints on 9 January 2016, following the opening of the new Caterpillar Stand.
- "FWP project page". Fwpgroup.co.uk. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- Mann, Andy (19 September 2009). "Cat Stand will add to Welford Road atmosphere – Ellis". Leicestertigers.com. Retrieved 20 September 2009.
- Sherrard, Gary (6 November 2009). "Caterpillar C.E.O. officially opens new stand". Leicestertigers.com. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
- 1991 world cup at news.bbc.co.uk
- 1999 world cup at news.bbc.co.uk
- "England will host 2015 World Cup". BBC News. 28 July 2009.
- "Long list of potential venues for RWC 2015". Rugby World Cup. 8 October 2012.
- "Community: Tigers Rugby : Varsity Match". Leicester Tigers. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Super League IX 2004 – Round 15". Rugbyleagueproject.org. 20 June 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Leicester – Sport – The Matt Hampson Bowl". BBC. 28 May 2007. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Gridiron: Leicester Falcons land first win of season". This is Leicestershire. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Welford Road : Concerts". Leicestertigers.com. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Welford Road sets post-War record attendance". Leicester Tigers. 9 January 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
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