History brings memories and a feeling of ownership from fans, that their stadium is there’s where they saw their greatest victories and harshest defeats. Whatever the weather, whatever the result, they continue to take their seat and support their side in the stadium that is a home away from home.
But as clubs grow and stadiums need to be updated or upgraded, some owners choose to relocate or rebuild. One of the biggest developments has been the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium which replaced White Hart Lane. It was opened in 2019 with a capacity of over 62,000 and considered a stadium of the future. It has been designed to deliver the best match day atmosphere in sport, with its bowl shaped layout fans have been in awe of its modern design which is made to feel as compact as possible. It is a stadium for big football fixtures and has already seen impressive sides attend and will host the EFL Quarter final where Spurs will play West Ham United on 22nd December.
White Hart Lane before it has the experiences passed down from fan to fan and pre-match routines leading up to the fixtures. There is a concern that with the new stadium it is being opened up to too much of a tourist attraction, and the die-hard fans are being diluted leaving the atmosphere quieter. Too many people can be seen sitting behind their phones, taking pictures throughout the game and selfies, rather than cheering on the team.
From north London to west London, and Brentford FC are making their Premier League debut in 2021/22. Having not experienced top flight football since 1947, Brentford’s fans are used to a different kind of match day experience. Having spent many years in the third and fourth tiers of English football they gained promotion to the Championship in 2014 and the Premier League in 2021. They had previously played their matches at Griffin Park, which had been their home since 1904, leaving many memories behind.
The Brentford Community Stadium has been their home since 2020 and while it is newer it is not much bigger. Still with a capacity under 20000, the new stadium is up to date with the modern day requirements set out by the Premier League. Fans have missed the social aspect of the match day prior to kick off, where before the game they could meet at one of the pubs at each corner of the ground. Home and away fans alike would do the same and the atmosphere built before the sides had even taken to the pitch.
Football has changed and the way people watch has as well. Modern stadiums are being built to the comfort of supporters, for those who attend each week to those who are just interested in experiencing seeing a live game no matter who is playing. These changes are often more appealing to the younger fans as well as families who look for the comfort and safety of the experience, knowing that the stands are well maintained and supervised adequately to be able to sit and watch without concern.
After tragedies such as the Hillsborough disaster, there is a constant review of the safety requirements for stadiums in order to watch games more safely and this requires some grounds to be updated, especially if the club moves up the football pyramid. New stadiums ensure that these safety guidelines have been followed which is for the benefit of all in attendance.
More and more look to the commercial benefit as well, with Fulham FC currently updating their historic Craven Cottage stadium to ensure that it can be economically beneficial even outside of match days. Restaurants, bars and hireable function rooms are available in order to ensure the stadium is used throughout the week and not just for the first team matches.
For many though, this new form of stadium takes away the raucous atmosphere that there used to be. Older stadiums which gained reputations for the crowd almost being the twelve man on the pitch made it difficult for visiting teams. Different stands would gain their pwn reputations amongst a set of supporters and the players themselves would react to the more vocal stands to build up the atmosphere. Less and less are being encouraged to get behind the team, singing their songs and cheering their side on, reacting to every kick, rather than sitting and watching, recording on their phones for memories.
The likes of Turf Moor where Burnley play and Crystal Palace’s Selhurst Park remain old fashioned and full of atmosphere, while The Emirates will likely once again hold a more subdued atmosphere for Arsenal as it has been since moving from Highbury.
With larger capacities it can be harder to build that atmosphere, it is up to the fans and the club to do all they can to build it up to help make the transition good for all.