Football is a game made for and by the fans, a fact we found out ever so cruelly amidst the COVID-19 pandemic when football was confined to games behind closed doors.
The electric atmosphere and rousing voices of the fans were dearly missed, as football games resembled eerily staged practice games in silence.
The 2021-22 Premier League season has seen a return to close to full capacity, capturing the excitement, sound and sight of a live audience. From the holy grounds of Anfield, to St. James' Park and Stamford Bridge, here's a look at the top 10 largest Premier League stadiums by capacity.
10. Goodison Park (39,572)
Goodison Park has historically been defined and known as England's first ever major football-specific stadium. The blue half of Merseyside has called this stadium at the heart of Liverpool "home", since 1892.
Even more interestingly, modern day Liverpool FC was born out of infighting and politics regarding Everton’s famous Goodison Park.
The Toffees' history has seen the stadium evolve and adapt to the demands of spectator capacity and safety regulations. Goodison Park is also famous for being the first ever ground to have undersoil heating in 1958 to overcome the rock hard conditions of the English winter season.
9. Stamford Bridge (41,631)
Home of the current European champions, Chelsea. The history of the famous Stamford Bridge, which is located in South West London.
First opened in 1877 and used by the London Athletic Club, Chelsea Football club was formed in 1905 and have been occupants of Stamford bridge for well beyond a century. In its heyday, Stamford Bridge could hold close to 100,000 standing spectators, having been designed by Archibald Leitch. Leitch was also the man that was responsible for both Craven Cottage and Hampden Park.
The 1970s plans for redevelopment and increased seating capacity almost put the club in bankruptcy, having been a costly and arduous affair.
The modern iteration of Stamford Bridge has coincided with the club's rejuvented success and global rise to popularity and fame. The naming rights of the ground, pitch and turnstiles are owned by the Chelsea Pitch Owners Association, a fan-owned organization that preserves the integrity of the historic ground.
8. Villa Park (42,682)
Occupants: Aston Villa
Another historic ground on this list is Villa Park in Aston, Birmingham. Villa park is home to one-time European champions Aston Villa. In 1897, The Birmingham side moved to what was once called Aston Lower Grounds, in the middle of the Aston Hall grounds. The field was in place of what was once designated as a pool area.
Villa park was once capable of hosting over 70,000 plus spectators, more than the current capacity, with four double tier stands and it’s currently a little more than half that figure. Due to a combination of Aston Villa's relegation from the English top-flight and recoveries, the allure is slightly lost on this once historic ground.
However, Villa park still boasts a cracking atmosphere during the big games, especially against perennial rivals Birmingham City.
7. St James' Park (52,354)
Occupants: Newcastle United
St. James' Park (infamously named as the "Sportsdirect Arena") is the holy cathedral of Newcastle United's religious fan base and has hosted the "Toon" since 1897.
Another redesign by the famous Archibald Leitch in the 1920s, St. James' Park was built across a slanting grazing ground and had a capacity of up to 60,000 in 1905.
The modern stadium, signified by the "Sir John Hall" stand inaugarated in 1993, is iconic for its "Shilloute" architecture. The white color of the Leazes and Milburn stands proudly jutting across the top of the pitch.
6. Anfield (53,394)
It's very hard to believe that Liverpool rank sixth on this list, considering the fact that their stadium has been lauded as one of the most popular in European club competitions.
Everton football club were the first occupants of Anfield in 1884, but it eventually became the home of the Red half of Merseyside.
It was in 1892 that Liverpool Football Club was born out of a dispute over Anfield, which has since been a spiritual home for the Reds. Many legends such as Bob Paisley, Bill Shankly and Sir Kenny Dalgalish have all seen glory and have been honored across the stadium.
The beautiful chant of "You'll Never Walk Alone" echoing across the terraces is a celebrated club tradition. Additionally, the phrase "kop" now almost exclusively used to describe Liverpool's famed Scion Kop.
The highest ever recorded attendance at Anfield was 61,905 with the sadly disbanded standing allowance, which is a figure that the planned expansion aims to reach in the coming years.
5. Etihad Stadium (55,097)
Occupants: Manchester City
The famous home ground of Manchester City was built for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which took place in Manchester. It was renamed the Etihad Stadium after the flagship airline owned by the Abu Dhabi group took over the club and its naming rights.
Manchester City contributed to inheriting the stadium in 2003, having said farewell to the iconic Maine Road Ground which the club occupied for close to a century. The spectacular sea wave design of the stands makes the stadium stand out as an architectural marvel to many. It also coincided with the rise of Manchester City's second golden era.
Many people, including current Manchester city boss Pep Guardiola, have gone on to make complaints about the ground’s atmosphere or lack thereof. However, the Etihad and its surrounding sports complex house a state-of-the-art training center and youth pitches that put Manchester City at the forefront of infrastructure in the English premier league.
4. London Stadium (60,000)
Occupants: West Ham United
West Ham United's former home, "The Boleyn Ground" was an iconic monument of the club's working class roots.
In 2016, West Ham united made the shift to the London Stadium, which was specially designed for the 2012 London Olympics games, on a 99 year lease. The move to the London stadium was a major upgrade to modernize the club and stadium facilities.
The hammers have fought off bids from fierce rivals Tottenham Hotspur and other multi-purpose stadium contractors to occupy the stadium.
The London stadium also has the distinction of hosting the first ever major league baseball game in Europe in 2019, when the Boston Red Sox played the New York Yankees.
3. The Emirates Stadium (60,704)
The landmark Emirates stadium, inaugurated in 2006 planned exclusively for Arsenal and was a massive step up for the club from the smaller, more intimate Highbury Stadium.
With the North London giants enjoying an immense spell of success under Arsene Wenger, the club hierarchy felt it was imperative and neccassary to capitalize on the club's commercial value and build a more bigger stadium.
The banks at that time, refused to fund Arsenal’s move to the Emirates Stadium until Arsene Wenger signed a long-term contract at the club.
Despite many lucrative offers on the table for Arsene Wenger, the french tactician chose to extend his stay so that he could oversee the move.
On this day in 2018, Arsène Wenger managed his final game at the ground he had such an influence on.
The £260 million loan for the stadium development was much talked about as a reason for extraordinary austerity under Arsene Wenger's later years at the club. Regardless, the stadium has been of immense value to the future of Arsenal.
The reported "distant" feel of the stadium was combatted by the "Arsenalisation" project with several memories and changes across the Emirates stadium. One of such includes statues of Arsenal legends, Thiery Henry and Dennis Bergkamp.
2. Tottenham Hotspur Stadium (62,850)
Occupants: Tottenham Hotspur
The newest and youngest Premier League ground is also one of the largest and most modern architectural marvels in London.
Having opened in 2019, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a state-of-the-art multipurpose stadium equipped with a retracting football pitch, as well as a turf and open grounds for different events.
Tottenham Hotspur had plotted to develop White Hart Lane since 2009, and proceeded to demolish the site of the old stadium to build from the ground up. In the meantime, Tottenham used the England national stadium, Wembley as a temporary home. Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy will consider it a masterstroke in terms of club revenue and commercial value in coming years.
1. Old Trafford (74,994)
Occupants: Manchester United
The largest club stadium in the premier league is Old Trafford. The ground is a mammoth stadium located at Stretford, and is the eleventh largest in all of Europe. Famously called the "Theater of Dreams," the iconic stadium has been in use since 1910 and could originally house an outstanding 80,000 spectators.
Home to one of England's most successful modern domestic and continental teams, Old Trafford is almost always packed to the rafters. During the Second World War, air raids destroyed the stadium, leaving Manchester United to share Maine Road with rivals Manchester City. In 1949, repairs and roof installations were finally completed at the famous stadium.
The famous North Stand is now called the "Sir Alex Ferguson Stand" in honor of the 25 years of excellence the Scottish tactician dedicated to the English giants. The stand can impressively house over 26,000 spectators on its own.
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