Over the years the Premier League has been the envy of other football nations around the world for the excitement of the games that are played. While England may not have the same international players as some other countries it has a league where the very best side can be beaten by the bottom sides. One factor that contributes to the excitement of the leagues is the stadiums that the games are played in. Throughout the country week after week stadiums are packed out. Football is so popular that there are sides in the Vanarama National League that have average attendances of over 4,000 people per game. There are 92 other sides in higher leagues in the country. No side has a higher average league home attendance than Manchester United who attract 75,000 spectators each week. They have been playing their home games at Old Trafford since it was built in 1910.
There was a period after the Second World War when they shared the Maine Road Stadium with Manchester City, as a result of the bomb damage caused during the conflict. The ground has been able to keep expanding its size with new stands being built in the 1990s and 2000s. The ground is the second largest football stadium in England after Wembley and regularly hosts FA Cup semi-final games. When Wembley was being rebuilt it hosted the England national a games and in the 1966 World Cup several games were played at the ground. The first ground to be built in the country specifically as a football stadium was Goodison Park in Liverpool. It is the home of Everton FC and was constructed in 1892, now having a capacity of just under 40,000.
The stadium in the past has hosted FA Cup semi-finals, plus one final in 1894, and in 1966 hosted games in the World Cup Tournament. It is a typically English stadium with the stands being very close to the pitch. It feels that the spectators are on the pitch itself and that the atmosphere can be electrifying. Due to its location the ground cannot he developed any more. Everton are now looking to relocate to a new Stadium in nearby Walton, as Goodison Park cannot seat all the spectators who wish to attend the home games.
Another ground that has been popular hosting many FA Cup semi-finals is Villa Park in Birmingham, the home of Aston Villa FC. It has in fact hosted 54 semi-finals and is able to seat 43,000 fans. It has also hosted 16 internationals and has been the home of Aston Villa since 1897. There are current plans to increase the capacity of the ground to 50,000 and it is quite remarkable that despite the magnificence of the stadium the side are currently languishing in the second tier of English football.
Another side in the same division as Aston Villa are Sheffield Wednesday and they also play at one of the country’s largest Stadium and that is Hillsborough. Built in 1899 it can seat nearly 40,000 spectators. It has hosted many FA Cup semi-finals but sadly it will always be remembered for the 1989 semi-final between Liverpool and Nottingham Forest. A combination of huge spectator numbers and poor organisation from the authorities, resulted in the deaths of 96 Liverpool fans. The ramifications of this day have had enormous effects on football grounds throughout the country.
In 1990 a report was submitted by Lord Justice Taylor into the causes of the disaster. The police were blamed for their lack of control and organization on the day, and it was recommended that all football stadiums should provide seats for all spectators.
Every ground in the country has followed the recommendations and this has been at great expense to the clubs. Prior to 1989 virtually every ground in the country had vast areas of terrace where spectators would stand. This has now been replaced by seated stands that cannot hold the capacity of people that the terraces once did. Many sides have now had to close their old stadiums and build new grounds that can carry a higher capacity. The older grounds were often in the centre of cities and there was no room available for them to redevelop.