St Mary's StadiumEdit profile
St Mary's Stadium is the home of Southampton F.C., in the city of Southampton. It is a UEFA 4-star rated stadium and with a capacity of 32,689 is the largest football stadium in the south of England, outside of London.
Since the 1980s, when Southampton regularly challenged the best sides in the English league (particularly in 1984 when they were league runners-up, there had been talk of the club relocating to a new stadium to replace The Dell due to the old stadium's cramped location which made it unsuitable for major expansion work.
When the Taylor Report on 29 January 1990 required all First and Second Division clubs to have all-seater stadiums by August 1994, Southampton's directors initially decided to upgrade The Dell into an all-seater stadium (which was completed in 1993) but speculation about relocation continued, especially as an all-seater Dell had a capacity of just over 15,000; despite this, Southampton continued to defy the odds and survive in the new FA Premier League after 1992.
After a lengthy and ultimately unsuccessful attempt to build a new 25,000 seater stadium and leisure complex at Stoneham, on the outskirts of Southampton, the city council offered the club the chance to build a new ground on the disused gas work site in the heart of the city, about one and half miles from The Dell.
The move was cited as the club returning home, due to the fact that the club was formed by members of the nearby St. Mary's Church, as the football team of St. Mary's Church Young Men's Association before becoming Southampton St. Mary's F.C., and eventually Southampton F.C.
Construction started in December 1999 and was completed at the end of July 2001, with work on the stadium itself and improvements to local infrastructure cost a total of £32 million.
The Saints have been in residence since August 2001 when they moved from the The Dell, which for the final years of its life, held just over 15,000 spectators - less than half the size of the new stadium. The first match was played on 1 August 2001 against RCD Espanyol, with the Spanish side winning 4–3.
The first competitive hat trick at the stadium was not scored by a Saints player, nor was it scored in a game involving Southampton F.C. That honour goes to former Aldershot Town striker Stafford Browne, who scored three goals in the Shots' 3–1 victory over Havant & Waterlooville in the Hampshire Senior Cup final on 1 May 2002.
The stadium is a complete bowl, with all stands of equal height. There are two large screens at either end that can be seen from any seat.
The stadium has four stands, which are named after the areas of Southampton they face. The main (east) stand is the Itchen Stand, and faces the River Itchen. The opposite stand is called the Kingsland Stand. Behind the south goal is the Chapel Stand, and to the north is the Northam Stand.
At the rear of the Chapel, Kingsland and Northam Stands, there is a continuous, translucent 'panel' that is designed to allow light to access the pitch. A large section of the roof at the Chapel Stand, at the southern end of the stadium is also translucent, for the same reason
At the rear of the Itchen Stand, there are 42 executive boxes, and a police control room. The stand also houses the club's offices, changing rooms, press facilities and corporate hospitality suites. The four main hospitality suites are named after some of Saints' greatest players:
* Terry Paine
* Mick Channon
* Bobby Stokes
* Matt Le Tissier
The Northam Stand is home to the majority of the more vocal supporters, as well as visiting fans. Visitors can be given up to 4,250 seats (15 per cent of the capacity) for cup games, and up to 3,200 for league matches.
The official ground name at opening was 'The Friends Provident St Mary's Stadium'. Initially the club wanted the ground to be named purely after the sponsors, but fan pressure influenced the decision to include a non-commercial title. In 2006 the new sponsor Flybe.com did not choose to purchase the naming rights to the stadium, meaning it reverted to the name 'St Mary's Stadium'.
The ground has an all-seated capacity of 32,689, including the press and directors boxes. Because of the segregation between home and away fans in the Northam Stand, it is unlikely the full capacity will ever be reached for a competitive match.
The current record attendance was for the match between Southampton and Arsenal on 29 December 2003, when 32,151 spectators attended. The lowest league record was Southampton versus Sheffield United, when just 13,257 attended.
In recent seasons the club's lower league position has had an impact on attendances, although the visit of Exeter City on Boxing Day, 2009 in a League One fixture attracted an attendance of 30,890. During the 2009–10 League One campaign, attendances increased significantly, attracting 29,901 against Milton Keynes Dons in the Football League Trophy and then, just 4 days later, 31,385 in a South Coast derby against Portsmouth in the FA Cup. The overall average attendance for the league season was 20,982, a near 3,000 improvement on the previous season despite being a league lower.
The Ted Bates Statue
On 17 March 2007, the £102,000 statue to commemorate club stalwart Ted Bates was unveiled, outside the front of the Itchen Stand. Almost immediately, the statue was widely condemned by supporters due to it being out of proportion, and not an accurate likeness of the former club President. The 11-foot statue was made by sculptor Ian Brennan.
Former chairman, Leon Crouch stated that he would help fund a replacement or remedial work, in association with the Ted Bates Trust, who were overseeing the collection of funds, commission and erection of the statue. The statue was removed less than a week after its unveiling. The replacement statue was unveiled on 22 March 2008.
The St Mary's Stadium has hosted one full England international match, a 2-2 draw between England and Macedonia in October 2002. David Beckham and Steven Gerrard scored for England. There has also been an international between Japan and Nigeria.
The stadium hosted European football in September 2003, when the Saints faced Steaua Bucharest in the first round of the UEFA Cup. The game ended in a 1-1 draw.
The stadium hosted an England under-21 match on 5 February 2008, when England played Republic of Ireland, England winning 3-0.
As is common for modern day stadia, St Mary's is also used as a conference facility, with hospitality suites available for this purpose most days of the week.
In the Northam Stand the Saints Study Support Centre - a club run initiative to help school children outside of class - can be found, along with the offices of Southampton City Training, a quasi-council run organisation which helps young people get vocational training.
It is also used as a prom setting for many local schools of Southampton, including St. Anne's and St. George's.
The stadium has also held film premieres for movies such as Casino Royale, as well as music concerts by Elton John in 2005 and Bon Jovi in 2006. There was a tribute to Elvis Presley in August 2007 and Southampton fan Craig David played at St Mary's on 25 October 2007, although neither in the main bowl of the stadium. Bon Jovi returned to St Mary's on 11 June 2008.
All stands bar the Itchen can be built upon and expanded if ever deemed necessary, which would give an approximate capacity of around 50,000. However this would cost a similar amount to how much it cost to build the stadium in the first place.
However, due to the upcoming Rugby World Cup, the stadium could be expanded to around 45,000 - 50,000 by the IRB as it has been chosen to host pool matches during the Rugby World Cup. The club will not pay anything for the expansion, however this is all subject to approval and planning permission.