Closed Stadiums and Football Grounds

wembley
Old Wembley Stadium - Adrian Cable [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

In one sense football stadiums are little more than bricks and mortar. They are the physical locations where football happens and nothing more. In another sense, though, they are so very much more than that.

Football stadiums have history in their bones. They are the physical manifestation of people’s hopes and dreams, their aspirations. There is a reason why fans of teams are reluctant to see them leave their home ground for pastures new. Liverpool fans look at Anfield as a holy place. Tottenham consider White Hart Lane to be akin to Mecca.

Yet sadly, over time, grounds get closed. Football clubs move their base of operations from one location to another and their previous homes get abandoned and, eventually, taken over to become something else entirely.

Here we’ll explore the reasons why grounds tend to be closed and what happens to them next, as well as having a look at some of the most famous examples of stadiums that have been shut down and re-purposed.

Closed Stadiums

Stadium Capacity Year Opened Year Closed Final Match
Gigg Lane
CLOSED
12,500 1885 2019 Bury v Blackburn (24/07/2019)
Griffin Park
CLOSED
12,300 1904 2020 Brentford v Swansea (29/07/2020)
Moss Rose
CLOSED
6,355 1891 2020 Macclesfield v Salford City (29/02/2020)
The Boleyn
CLOSED
35,016 1904 2016 West Ham v Man Utd (3-2 10/05/2016)
Vicente Calderón
CLOSED
54,907 1967 2017 Atletico Madrid 3 -1 Athletic Bilbao (2017)
White Hart Lane
CLOSED
36,284 1899 2017 Tottenham Hotspur v Man United (14/05/2017)

Why Do Stadiums Close Down?

There are, as you’d imagine, a whole host of reasons why stadiums might be closed down. There are some obvious, ones, though. In some instances the club that call the ground home might get into financial difficulties and decide to sell their ground to investors, for example.

One of the most obvious reasons that stadiums are shut down is a decision from the club to move to a better location. In a number of cases throughout history the stadiums have become rundown and the cost of re-development is not as financially sensible as simply moving to a new ground. Equally, some clubs have considered it important to move to a new stadium as demand for tickets has begun to outstrip the club’s ability to supply tickets.

Most clubs only decide to leave their stadium when no other option is available to them. In the case of the stadiums named before, both Liverpool and Tottenham decided to redevelop Anfield and White Hart Lane instead of leaving them altogether; though in the case of Spurs they have had to play agree to play games at Wembley whilst the stadium is altered.

What Happens Next?

In plenty of cases a new ground is built on the location of the old one. Wembley is a good example of this. Equally it is not unheard of for a new team to move into the stadium once the former occupants have moved elsewhere, but in that instance the ground is not technically ‘closed’ and is therefore irrelevant to this piece.

Oftentimes, especially if the club had decided to sell-up in order to generate some cash, developers take over the location of the stadium and make of them what they will. This can sometimes be bulldozing them completely and turning them into a housing estate or a supermarket megastore, for example. In the case of Arsenal Stadium, which is perhaps better known as Highbury, the developers changed the old stands into apartments and made the pitch into a delightful garden area.

Basically there is no shortage of options for what can happen to the stadium once it has been decided that it is no longer of use. The key question for the club or company that owned it, however, is ‘Can we make money from the ground?’ If they can, they will.

Famous Examples Of Closed Stadiums

Wembley Stadium

Arguably the most famous example of a stadium that closed down, Wembley was not only the home of England’s national side but also the location for the country’s most famous cup finals. The FA Cup, the League Cup and even a European Cup final were all held under the shadow of the twin towers.

Highbury

A slight example of how things can go wrong when you move stadium, Arsenal chose to abandon Highbury in order to order to move into an all-singing, all-dancing new ground that was the epitome of modern and new. In order to do it, though, the club saddled themselves with debt and the major honours dried up as a consequence. In the decade prior to the move they won three league titles, four FA Cups and a League Cup. After? Just two FA Cups.

The Boleyn Ground

Better known as Upton Park, West Ham called the Boleyn Ground home for 112 years. It was starting to get run down, however, and there were attempts to redevelop it before it was realised that would cost too much money. Instead they got an excellent deal to move to Olympic Stadium that had been built for the 2012 London Olympics, so they took it.

White Hart Lane

The home of Tottenham Hotspur for over 115 years the Lane will be a difficult ground to replace.  Spurs moved to Wembley during the demolition of the old stadium with the new stadium built on the same site.

Maine Road

Manchester City weren’t always owned by rich men from Abu Dhabi. They used to be one of the poorer sides in the league and Maine Road was their home for eighty years. It was renovated numerous times but in the end it made sense to move and the City Of Manchester Stadium, built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, was the perfect location to move to.

Tower Athletics Ground

Merseyside is best known for two clubs: Liverpool and Everton. Over the other side of the water there is another team that older readers might also remember named Tranmere Rovers. They’re still in existence but, sadly, have dropped down through the leagues. What not everyone will know is that there was an even bigger ground named the Tower Athletic Ground that was capable of housing 100,000 people. New Brighton Tower played there and it was used as a depot during the Second World War. It was sold to the Wallasey Housing Corporation and is now the site of a housing estate.

White City Stadium

Built for the 1908 Summer Olympics and used as a host ground for the 1966 World Cup, White City Stadium was the first Olympic stadium built in the UK. There was also a speedway track at the ground and it was featured in a number of movies; most famously the ‘You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!’ scene from The Italian Job. It was closed in 1985 due to a lack of use and a disintegration of the features.