Racecourse Ground

The Racecourse Ground (Welsh: Y Cae Ras) is a stadium located in Wrexham, North Wales. It is the home of the oldest Welsh club in The Football League, Wrexham F.C. and, since 2010, the Crusaders Rugby League team who play in the engage Super League. In the past, the ground has also seen rugby union, cricket, horse racing and concerts performed before good crowds.

The stadium is recognised as the world's oldest international football stadium that still hosts international matches by Guinness World Records, having hosted Wales' first ever home international match in 1877, and has hosted more Wales international matches than any other ground.

The Racecourse is the largest stadium in North Wales and the fifth largest in Wales. The ground is sometimes used by the FAW for Wales' home international games. The ground was also used by Scarlets rugby union team, and formerly Liverpool F.C. Reserves. There are also ideas to install under soil heating at The Racecourse, after Wrexham had not played a game in 49 days between 6 December 2009 and 17 January 2010.

History

Wrexham Football Club have played at the Racecourse Ground since being formed in the local Turf Hotel public house in September 1872. There were however four seasons in the 1880s when the club played at the Recreation Ground in Rhosddu due to an increase in rent from the then owners, Wrexham Cricket Club. Before the club was formed the ground was mainly used for cricket and occasionally, horse racing.

1952 saw the laying down of concrete terracing on the ever-popular Kop end, which is now the oldest part of the ground. Five years later was to see the largest ever attendance at the Racecourse when 34,445 people gathered to witness an FA Cup fourth round tie against Manchester United. On 30 September 1959 the Racecourse saw the switching on of the newly installed floodlights.

After promotion to the old Second Division in 1978 the Border Stand was built, taking its name from the Border Breweries which owned the ground. This part of the ground is now known as the Eric Roberts Builders Stand, where visiting supporters are normally seated.

The latest addition to the ground was achieved in 1999 after Grant Aid from Sport Lot, the Welsh Development Agency and the Football Trust together with generous local sponsorship allowed for the construction of a new stand on the Mold Road side of the ground. The impressive new structure was originally named the Pryce Griffiths Stand after the then chairman (but since renamed the Mold Road Stand after the then chairman sold the club to Alex Hamilton) has a capacity of 3,500 and also contains hospitality and conferencing facilities.

The development also saw the Paddock areas of the Sainsbury's Stand and the Eric Roberts Builders Stand become all-seated, bringing the current capacity up to 15,500 and thus allowing international football and rugby union to once again be played at the Racecourse.

In 2002 then Wrexham FC chairman William Pryce Griffiths secured a 125-year lease on the Racecourse with Wolverhampton Dudley Breweries for £750,000, and a peppercorn annual rent of £1. The club hosted TNS vs Liverpool F.C. in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in 2005.

On 26 June 2002 the freehold to the Racecourse Ground was acquired by Wrexham AFC from Wolverhampton Dudley Breweries for the sum of £300,000. On the same day the ownership of the freehold was transferred by the Chairman, Alex Hamilton, from Wrexham AFC to another of his companies, Damens Ltd, for a nominal fee. After this controversial change in ownership the 125-year lease on the Racecourse held by Wrexham FC was renegotiated. The new lease stated that Damens Ltd could evict Wrexham FC from the Racecourse Ground upon 12 months' notice and payment of £1,000,000. The new lease also saw the club's annual rent increase from £1 to £30,000. In 2004 Wrexham FC was given a years' notice to quit the ground; this triggered a furious reaction from fans - in a legal case running through to March 2006 the High Court ruled that the ownership of the freehold of the ground had been improperly transferred, and ownership of the ground reverted to the clubs' then-Administrators (the club having gone into Administration in December 2004 with debts of £2,600,000).

Wrexham Village Ltd

With the clubs' emergence from Administration in May 2006, ownership of the ground passed new company, Wrexham Football Club (2006) Ltd, owned by Geoff Moss and Ian Roberts. They passed ownership of the football ground to a new holding company Wrexham Village Ltd, which owned both the new football club company, and later purchased the Rugby League club Crusaders from its owners in Bridgend, South Wales. Thus the new company had two tenants for the stadium.

In order to put a permanent cash injection into the sporting clubs, Wrexham Village proposed in 2008 a joint venture development with a yet to be chosen third party, to develop a student village area near the site of the KOP stand. The £40 million project would be developed in conjunction with Glyndŵr University to house over 800 students, and take place in two phases. The club would benefit from either land-lease income, or joint ownership within the development and hence rental income direct from the tenants. However, due to the global recession, the company found it hard to find a development partner, and the land and project was eventually sold freehold in 2009 to another company owned by Moss and Roberts.

In August 2011, after a period of instability at Wrexham Village Ltd, the owning company of the stadium and both the football and Rugby League clubs, the company agreed to sell the stadium and associated training grounds to Glyndŵr University. The proposed deal, subject to completion and contract under the financial terms agreed by both parties, will allow both sporting teams to continue using the facilities.

Stadium details
Stands

The Kop: the all-standing home stand, is named after the Battle of Spion Kop, as many grounds in the UK used to have ends named similarly. Behind the goal, it is known officially as the Crispin Lane End or "Town End". With a capacity of 5,000, the Spion Kop was the largest all-standing terrace in the English Football . The status of the stand is currently unknown. It was shut down to be demolished as part of Phase 3 of the proposed Wrexham Village developments around the ground, but has seen no activity in the past 2 seasons.

The Yale, backing onto where Yale College used to be. It was built in 1972 in preparation for the club's first venture into Europe, and also provided new dressing rooms, club offices and entertainment suites. The Centenary Club is also located here. The stand is officially sponsored by Marstons beer. The club held a lottery during the 2009-10 season with the winner getting to name the stand for a season. The winning ticket resulted in the stand being called the Loyal Canadian Red Stand. For the 2010-11 season it has been renamed the Cash4Gold Stand.

The Eric Roberts Builders Stand: formerly the Marstons Stand/Tech End. It holds 3,800 spectators and provides the supporters with excellent views of the pitch and excellent acoustics. From the 2007–2008 season home fans will be located in this stand and away fans moved to the wing of the Yale Stand, with the exception of games where a large away attendance is anticipated.

The Mold Road Stand: the newest stand, was secured with lottery funding, and built over the old Mold Road stand in 1999. The stand possesses a TV studio and eight fully equipped private boxes, and has a restaurant called "The Changing Rooms"; there is also a club shop which is run by the Supporters' Trust adjacent to the stand. The stand was initially named after the chairman Pryce Griffiths, but was renamed as the Mold Road Stand, following Pryce Griffith's endorsement of Alex Hamilton's redevelopment scheme. A family area, sponsored by Nandos was introduced in the 2009-10 season, located to the area of the stand nearest to the Kop. For the 2010-11 season, as part of the Crusaders presence, the stand was renamed the Greene King Stand

Disabled facilities

Wrexham have 45 disabled places available at the front of the Mold Road Stand. There are 22 parking spaces and two disabled toilets with dedicated refreshment kiosks. Admission is £10 for disabled supporters (£5 concessions) and helpers are admitted free.

Location

The ground is located on Mold Road close to the A483 dual carriageway. Wrexham General railway station is adjacent to the ground.

Rugby League

The ground is home to European Super League club Crusaders Rugby League since 2010 after their departure from South Wales Brewery Field in Bridgend they were hoping to play at Newports Rodney Parade but the deal fell through and they then decided to move to North Wales and a new franchise was created.

The Crusaders have enjoyed some well attended games at The Racecourse during 2010 with their opening engage Super League match against Leeds Rhinos attracted over 10,000 people, with large local support.

International Rugby League games have also been staged at the ground.

Rugby Union internationals

The Racecourse ground has held four rugby union internationals, with three of those matches being between Wales and Romania:

The Racecourse has also played host to the Wales 'A' squad on numerous occasions, which provided the North Wales supporters the chance to watch fringe and youth players ply their trade.

Attendances

All time highest attendance 34,445 v Manchester United, FA Cup, 4th Round, January 26, 1957.

Average attendance - Wrexham FC

Average attendance - Crusaders Rugby League

Modernisation
  • The Club Megastore, which was previously behind the Yale stand, has moved to the old Dickens Showroom.
  • New offices have been moved to above the new shop for the Accounts Team.
  • A new club reception for special guests is to be built in the old shop for Yale Stand ticket collection.
  • A new ticket system will soon be in operation; this includes the move to the new shop. In the not-too-distant future you will be able to book and pay online, and eventually print your tickets. They are also hoping to revitalise the season ticket system by replacing the current season tickets books with a single card.
  • A new designated family area has been placed in the Mold Stand at the Kop end.
  • A possible improvement of catering services as the existing catering contract runs until the end of the season.