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Belle Vue was the home of English professional football club Doncaster Rovers from 1922 to 2007. It was located in Doncaster, South Yorkshire. The ground was renowned for having the biggest pitch in the UK, at 110 yards long, and 72 yards wide. In addition to the size of the pitch, it was considered to have one of the best playing surfaces due to the fertile soil, providing a perfect pitch. The ground was affectionately called by fans 'Old Belle Vue' or OBV and had a total capacity of 40,000.

Belle Vue
Old Belle Vue
The Main Stand at Belle Vue (geograph 4502138).jpg
Main Stand of the ground in 1983. The ground was later destroyed due to a gas leak.
Full nameBelle Vue
LocationDoncaster, South Yorkshire, England
Coordinates53°31′00.71″N 1°06′16.92″W / 53.5168639°N 1.1047000°W / 53.5168639; -1.1047000Coordinates: 53°31′00.71″N 1°06′16.92″W / 53.5168639°N 1.1047000°W / 53.5168639; -1.1047000
OwnerDoncaster Rovers F.C.
OperatorDoncaster Rovers F.C.
Capacity40,000
Construction
Built1922
Opened26 August 1922
Tenants
Doncaster Rovers F.C. (1922–2006)
Doncaster R.L.F.C. (1995–96) & (1998–2006)
Doncaster Belles L.F.C. (1991–1997)

Contents

HistoryEdit

The ground was opened by Charles E. Sutcliffe from the Football League on Saturday, 26 August 1922. The opposition was Gainsborough Trinity. The initial capacity was for 7,000 spectators, which was extended year-on-year as finances allowed. In 1927 the main stand at Doncaster's former ground in the suburb of Bennetthorpe was jacked up and moved on rollers to Belle Vue to form the family stand, where it remained until 1985 when the tragic events at Valley Parade, Bradford meant that the old wooden structure was deemed unsafe and was demolished.

In 1938 the capacity of Belle Vue was increased to 40,000 and it was in 1948 that the stadium recorded its highest attendance of 37,099 against Hull City, although apocryphal accounts refute this and claim that many more gained entry to the ground by climbing over walls and thus avoided having to pay.

Rovers decline and 1995 fireEdit

In the later years of the 20th century, as the club's fortunes began to decline and finances became tighter, the capacity of Belle Vue was cut dramatically, falling as low as 4,859 in May 1987 when mining subsidence was found underground beneath the Popular Stand terrace.

A fire in the Main Stand one night in June 1995 caused extensive damage and nine months later Chairman Ken Richardson was arrested after the full-time whistle blew on an evening match against Fulham. He was charged with conspiracy to commit arson and was subsequently found guilty. He was sentenced to four years imprisonment. The actual arsonist, 41-year-old Tyneside man Alan Kristiansen, received a one-year prison sentence; it was revealed that Kristiansen, a former SAS soldier, had been paid £10,000 by Richardson to start the fire. His accomplices Ian Hay (aged 54 and from Gateshead) and Alan Cracknall (aged 32 and from Newcastle-upon-Tyne) both received nine-month prison sentences suspended for two years.[1]

2003 renovationsEdit

In the summer of 2003 work began to repair the Town End terrace, to replace the old seating in the Main Stand and to extend the Rossington terrace. In the summer of 2004 the Popular Stand terrace was also extended and executive boxes were built at the Town End of the stadium. New club offices, a new supporters bar and the application of tarmac to the car park completed a much needed facelift. In a move that angered some fans Belle Vue was renamed Earth Stadium as part of a sponsorship deal with Rotherham based finance company Earth Finance. The capacity reached the region of 11,500.

Keepmoat Stadium and Belle Vue closesEdit

A new stadium had long been mooted for Doncaster Rovers. The stadium finally started to become a reality when planning permission was granted. Construction started on 17 October 2005 of a 15,000 all-seater community stadium complex. The new ground was named the Keepmoat Stadium.

The last ever game at Belle Vue was on 23 December 2006 against League One leaders, Nottingham Forest. Doncaster Rovers finished their time at the stadium with a win, with a goal from Theo Streete ensuring a 1–0 victory.[2]

Life after footballEdit

On Wednesday, 7 February 2007 nearby residents to the old stadium described a sound like a bomb going off in the early hours of the morning, the impact of the blast left more than half of the Main Stand obliterated and much of the roof in pieces. Two people at the scene received hospital treatment for injuries sustained in the explosion – one of whom had to be transferred to a specialist burns unit in Nottingham – while one lane of Bawtry Road had to be closed for two hours because of scattered debris and the risk of further explosions. It was rumoured in the town that earlier in the evening somebody had broken into the stadium and stolen the boiler, while leaving the gas pipes open, filling the stand with gas. Two different men later entered the stadium through wide open gates and doors before inadvertently igniting the gas, causing the explosion. The alarm was raised at 3.17 am on Wednesday, 7 February, when a police patrol officer on duty near the stadium in Bawtry Road witnessed the explosion and called for the fire brigade. One man in his 20s was arrested in connection with the incident and was questioned by police.

Demolition of the stadium, home to Doncaster Rovers for 84 years, was expected to be imminent because of the safety threat that the derelict site posed to the public.

Following the explosion, demolition of the stadium was rapidly speeded up and now very little remains of the ground. For a long time after its demolition, areas of terrace were still identifiable and large sections of the pitch remained. Floodlights, executive boxes, turnstiles, snack bars and offices were all removed or destroyed, along with the ground's club house, the Rovers' Return.

The site was patrolled by security following the explosion and was fenced off whilst demolition work was undertaken.

The whole area has now been redeveloped as a housing estate with virtually all traces of the old stadium now removed.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Davison, John (6 March 1999). "Ex-owner of Doncaster Rovers jailed for arson plot". The Independent. London. Retrieved 2 April 2011.
  2. ^ "Doncaster 1–0 Nottm Forest". BBC News. 23 December 2006. Retrieved 24 December 2006.