The Racecourse Ground (Welsh: Y Cae Ras), known for sponsorship reasons as the STōK Cae Ras (or STōK Racecourse), is a football stadium in Wrexham, Wales. It is the home of Wrexham A.F.C.

STōK Cae Ras
STōK Racecourse (English)
Full nameRacecourse Ground
Y Cae Ras (Welsh)
Former namesMy Racecourse
Wrexham Glyndŵr University Racecourse Stadium
LocationMold Road, Wrexham, Wales LL11 2AH
Coordinates53°3′7″N 3°0′13″W / 53.05194°N 3.00361°W / 53.05194; -3.00361
Public transitNational Rail Wrexham General (0.3 mi)
National Rail Wrexham Central (1.2 mi)
OwnerWrexham A.F.C. (since 29 June 2022)
OperatorWrexham A.F.C.
Capacity12,600[1] (Football)
Field size102 m × 68 m (335 ft × 223 ft)
Opened1807, 1864 for football
Construction cost£3,500,000 (Mold Road Stand)
ArchitectWard McHugh Associates (Yale Stand)
Wrexham A.F.C. (1864–present)
Wales national football team (selected matches)
North Wales Crusaders (2012–2016)

It is the world's oldest international football stadium that still hosts international matches, having hosted Wales' first home international match in 1877,[2] and has hosted more Wales international matches than any other ground.[3] The record attendance at the ground was set in 1957, when Wrexham hosted a match against Manchester United in front of 34,445 spectators.[4]

The Racecourse Ground is the largest stadium in north Wales and the fifth largest in Wales. The ground is sometimes used by the Football Association of Wales for home international games. The ground has also been used by North Wales Crusaders rugby league club, Scarlets rugby union club and Liverpool Reserves. In the early days, the ground was used for cricket and horse racing. Concerts returned to the Racecourse in 2016 when Stereophonics performed.

Its sponsorship name was effective from 1 July 2023,[5] following a sponsorship deal with STōK Cold Brew Coffee.[6][7]

History edit

Inception (1864–1952) edit

Wrexham Football Club have played at the Racecourse Ground since being formed in the local Turf Hotel public house in October 1864. However, Wrexham played their home games in the 1881–82 and 1882–83 seasons at the Recreation Ground in Rhosddu due to an increase in rent from the then owners, Wrexham Cricket Club, while also changing the name to Wrexham Athletic for one season. Before the club was formed the ground was mainly used for cricket and occasionally, horse racing.[8] The Racecourse was used extensively for flying before the First World War, with Gustav Hamel making public displays in August 1912 and June 1913. Wrexham Borough Council considered making the racecourse the town's municipal airport, however this was later developed at Borras. [9]

Expansion (1952–2002) edit

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 local sponsorship allowed for the construction of a new stand on the Mold Road side of the ground. The 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.

Controversial ownership (2002–2006) edit

In 2002 then Wrexham F.C. 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 in a UEFA Champions League qualifier in 2005.

On 26 June 2002, the freehold to the Racecourse Ground was acquired by Wrexham A.F.C. from Wolverhampton Dudley Breweries for £300,000. On the same day, the ownership of the freehold was transferred by the chairman, Alex Hamilton, from Wrexham A.F.C. 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 F.C. was renegotiated. The new lease stated that Damens Ltd could evict Wrexham F.C. 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 F.C. was given a years' notice to quit the ground;[10] 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 club's then-administrators (the club having gone into administration in December 2004 with debts of £2,600,000).

Transfer to Wrexham Village Ltd (2006–2016) edit

With the club's 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.

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 Wrexham 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 Wrexham University (then known as Glyndŵr University). The proposed deal, subject to completion and contract under the financial terms agreed by both parties, would allow both sporting teams to continue using the facilities.[11] The purchase of the ground also resulted in the re-branding of the stadium, incorporating the university's name.[12]

On 19 May 2014, work began at the Racecourse;[13] which included a new pitch and sprinkler system, and changing rooms for players and officials. The medical and treatment facilities were also upgraded, together with improved seating for disabled supporters, better floodlighting and removal of cambers at the ‘Kop’ end of the ground. The results mean the stadium has been reclassified to Category 3 level, meaning it is able to host international football matches.[14]

University ownership (2016–2022) edit

Logo used during Wrexham Glyndŵr University freehold lease.

In August 2016 Wrexham University and Wrexham A.F.C. signed a contract that signalled a new future for the Racecourse. The lease from the university was branded as "My Racecourse" (Welsh: 'Nghae Ras I).[15]

The university, which purchased the landmark in 2011, saving it from possible extinction, handed operational control of the ground over to the football club as part a 99-year lease.[16]

Club ownership, sponsorship rebranding (2022–present) edit

After the takeover by Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, the club began talks with Wrexham University to purchase the freehold of the ground.[17] On 29 June 2022, the club purchased the freehold of the stadium from the university.[18]

In 2022, Wrexham Council began a bid for 'levelling up' funding, a UK Government initiative aiming to increase public investment outside of south-east England.[19] The funding would be made available to the construction of a new Kop stand, improved media, broadcast, and floodlight facilities, a car park, and ground works for a convention centre and hotel.[20] These upgrades would allow for a return of competitive Wales national football fixtures. Former Wales footballers Mickey Thomas and Malcolm Allen served as figureheads for the bid.[21][22]

On 25 May 2023, it was announced the stadium is to be known using the sponsorship name STōK Cae Ras, also referred as the STōK Racecourse, from 1 July 2023, following a sponsorship deal with STōK Cold Brew Coffee.[6][7][23] The sponsorship name was officially adopted on 1 July 2023.[5]

Stadium details edit

The Kop
Wrexham Lager Stand
STōK Cold Brew Coffee Stand (a.k.a. "Tech End")
Macron Stand, looking towards the Kop

Stands edit

The Kop
The originally 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 League. Since 2008, it has been unused on safety grounds. In November 2022, Wrexham Council's planning committee approved plans for a 5,500 capacity seater stand including a hospitality lounge, office and retail space for the club as well as further facilities for the club's community trust.[24] The stand was demolished in January 2023 for a complete rebuild, as it has been unused for a number of years by that point, being deemed a health hazard;[25] the process was expected to finish by the start of the 2024–25 season,[26][27] but additional complications have shifted that timeline indefinitely.[28] The renovation is expected to take 11 months.[29]
On 4th December 2023, the club announced that permission had been sought to install a temporary stand at the Kop End.[30] The temporary stand will allow for an additional 2,289 home supporters, as well as accommodation for 20 wheelchairs with access via Crispin Lane. The temporary stand was opened at 80% capacity in time for the fixture against Newport County on 23 December 2023. The temporary stand will be partially exposed to bad weather but will have a reduced ticket cost.
Wrexham Lager Stand
Capacity 4,200, 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 sponsored by Wrexham Lager, a locally owned independent brewery. 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 had been renamed the Cash4Gold Stand.
STōK Cold Brew Coffee Stand[31]
Formerly the Wrexrent Stand, Marston's Stand, or Tech End. It holds 2,800 spectators and provides the supporters with excellent views of the pitch and excellent acoustics. From the 2007–08 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. It was renamed for the 2023–24 season.
Macron Stand
The newest stand, capacity 3,500, 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 Nando's 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 edit

Wrexham have 38 disabled places available at the front of the Macron Stand. There are 22 parking spaces in the Wrexham University car park (next door) as well as two disabled toilets, plus low-counter refreshment kiosks, with steward assistance if required. Admission is £12 for disabled supporters (£5 concessions) and helpers are admitted free of charge.

The stadium has eight allocated spaces for those who are visually impaired; the commentary provided is also broadcast to the local hospital.

In October 2013, the stadium hosted the United Kingdom's first 'autism friendly' football match. A group of around 50 attended the Racecourse to watch Wrexham play against Woking.[32]

In August 2015, a new viewing platform was opened by Lord Faulkner of Worcester, using funding from the Premier League's Football Stadia Improvement Fund.[33] Located at the rear of the Macron Stand, this further increased the number of places available to disabled fans, as well as providing protection from the elements. It has space for six users and carers.

After the platform was opened, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson praised the club in the House of Lords, saying "This is a club, my Lords, that genuinely cares about its spectators. My Lords, the big clubs are hiding."[34]

In January 2018, Wrexham Football Club hired Kerry Evans, its first disability liaison officer.[35] At the beginning of the 2018–19 season it was announced that the Racecourse is now autism friendly,[36] for every home game each season, with allocated seating in a quieter area of the stadium (if required) and the club also providing ear defenders and a quiet hub to use if required and a dedicated steward who is on hand to help. The club became the first in Wales to win an autism-friendly award in 2018, awarded by the National Autistic Society.

In November 2018, the DSA started the Audio Descriptive Commentary service, where blind or visually impaired supporters can listen to the game, live in the stadium. There are 10 handsets available, on a first come first served basis.

Rugby League edit

Domestic edit

The ground was home to former Super League club Crusaders RL from 2010 after their departure from Brewery Field in Bridgend in South Wales. Crusaders were hoping to play at Rodney Parade in Newport but the deal fell through; they then decided to move to North Wales and a new franchise was created.[37]

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

In 2011 Crusaders withdraw their Super League licence application and ultimately folded citing financial invalidity.

2012 saw the birth of a new club, born from the ashes of the old club. North Wales Crusaders currently play in the Co-operative Championship 1 competition. They are seen as a separate entity from the former club, and are starting their own chapter in rugby league history. From 2016, North Wales Crusaders no longer play at the Racecourse Ground.

International edit

International Rugby League games have also been staged at the ground. The stadium hosted Wales' clash with England in the 2012 Autumn International Series. In 2013, it held Wales' 2013 Rugby League World Cup home game with the USA on Sunday 3 November 2013, with the Tomahawks ending the home side's chance of a quarter-final appearance with a 24–16 win. The win by the USA, a team expected to be easily beaten in their first ever Rugby League World Cup,[citation needed] would see them return to Wrexham for a quarter-final clash against tournament favourites Australia, on Saturday 16 November 2013. As expected, the Kangaroos (who would go on to win the World Cup) defeated the USA 62–0, with 5,762 in attendance.

As part of the 2014 Rugby League European Cup, the Racecourse Ground hosted the match between Wales and Ireland on 2 November.

As of 2015, the Racecourse Ground has hosted nine Wales internationals. The results were as follows:[38]

Date Opponents Result Attendance Part of
29 October 2000   Cook Islands 38–6 5,016 2000 World Cup
29 July 2001   England 33–42 6,373
6 October 2010   Italy 6–13 2,971 2010 European Cup
13 November 2011   Australia 14–56 5,233 2011 Four Nations
16 June 2012   France 16–28 1,464
27 October 2012   England 12–80 4,014 2012 Autumn International Series
29 October 2013   United States 16–24 8,019 2013 Rugby League World Cup
2 November 2014   Ireland 14–46 1,293 2014 European Cup
16 October 2015   Scotland 18–12 1,253 2015 European Cup

Rugby Union internationals edit

The Racecourse Ground has held four rugby union internationals. Three of them were Wales’ friendlies against Romania and won all three of them (70–21 30 August 1997, 40–3 on 3 October 1999 and 54–8 on 27 August 2003 which was a warm-up game before the 2003 Rugby World Cup. It also hosted a 1999 Rugby Union World Cup Pool 4 match between Japan and Samoa on 3 October 1999 with Samoa winning 43–9. The Racecourse has also played host to the Wales 'A' squad on numerous occasions.

Date Competitors Attendance Part of
30 Aug. 1997   Wales 70-21   Romania Autumn Internationals
3 Oct. 1999   Samoa 43-9   Japan 15,000 1999 Rugby World Cup Pool D
1 Nov. 2002   Wales 40-3   Romania Autumn Internationals
27 Aug. 2003   Wales 54-8   Romania 2003 Rugby World Cup Warm-Up Tests

Other uses edit

The first concert was held at the stadium in July 1982, when Motörhead headlined with Twisted Sister making their UK debut as the support act.[39][40] Other concerts at the venue have included Stereophonics, as part of their Keep The Summer Alive tour,[41] UB40[42] and Olly Murs.[citation needed] Kings of Leon performed two shows at the stadium in May 2023.[43][44]

The stadium was used as a filming location in the 2015 television film Marvellous about the life of Neil Baldwin.[45]

Location edit

The ground is located on Mold Road close to the A483 dual carriageway. Wrexham General railway station is adjacent to the ground.[46]

Attendances edit

The five biggest attendances for Wrexham matches at the Racecourse have been:

Date Competition Opposition Attendance
26 January 1957 FA Cup Manchester United 34,445
26 December 1936 Third Division North Chester City 29,261[47]
17 January 1978 League Cup Liverpool 25,641
11 March 1978 FA Cup Arsenal 25,547
7 December 1935 Third Division North Chester City 24,086[48]

References edit

  1. ^ "THE WORLD'S OLDEST INTERNATIONAL FOOTBALL STADIUM". Wrexham.Com. Retrieved 18 February 2024.
  2. ^ "Guinness cheers Racecourse with official record". Daily Post North Wales. 18 June 2008. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  3. ^ "Racecourse Ground, Wrexham". Wales Football Online. Archived from the original on 18 July 2011. Retrieved 27 July 2010.
  4. ^ "Wrexham v Manchester United, 26 January 1957". Archived from the original on 29 November 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  5. ^ a b "STōK CAE RAS | Stadium sponsorship now live". Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  6. ^ a b Lewis, Thomas (25 May 2023). "Wrexham fans react to Racecourse SToK rebrand". North Wales Live. Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  7. ^ a b "Wrexham AFC announce historic ground sponsor deal: STōK Racecourse Stadium". Retrieved 25 May 2023.
  8. ^ "History". Wrexham FC. 6 December 2012. Archived from the original on 15 December 2012. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
  9. ^ Jones, Ivor (2008). Airfields and Landing Grounds of Wales: North. The History Press. p. 159. ISBN 978-0-7524-4510-6.
  10. ^ "Timeline: Crisis at Wrexham FC". BBC News. 19 November 2004. Archived from the original on 10 October 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2013.
  11. ^ "Glyndwr University to buy Wrexham's Racecourse stadium". BBC News. 3 August 2011. Archived from the original on 29 June 2013. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  12. ^ "Wrexham ground to become Glyndwr University Racecourse Stadium". Daily Post. Archived from the original on 5 October 2012. Retrieved 23 August 2011.
  13. ^ "Glyndŵr University - Racecourse pitch revamp". Archived from the original on 8 September 2014. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  14. ^ "Wrexham FC's Racecourse Stadium gets 300k revamp". BBC News. Archived from the original on 4 January 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018.
  15. ^ "Fans Vote YES To Ground Lease – 'My Racecourse' Launches With £200k Target". Retrieved 29 June 2022.
  16. ^ "Reds take back running of the football ground on an extended lease..." Archived from the original on 4 November 2016. Retrieved 2 November 2016.
  17. ^ "Wrexham announce plan to regain Racecourse Stadium freehold on Hollywood anniversary". BBC. 9 February 2022. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  18. ^ ""Great day" as Wrexham Football Club acquires freehold of Racecourse Stadium from Glyndwr University". Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  19. ^ "Stadium for the North campaign launched to bring international sporting events back to North Wales". The Daily Post. 9 May 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  20. ^ "Stadium for the North bid wins cross-party political support". The Daily Post. 12 May 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  21. ^ "Stadium for the North: Mickey Thomas and Malcolm Allen lead launch". The Rhyl Journal. 10 May 2022. Retrieved 12 May 2022.
  22. ^ "Wrexham: Racecourse Kop end demolition given go-ahead". 24 June 2022. Retrieved 26 October 2022.
  23. ^ "STōK Cae Ras - Wrexham AFC". Retrieved 3 July 2023.
  24. ^ "Wrexham AFC: Racecourse Stadium's Kop redevelopment plans given council approval". BBC Sport. 8 November 2022. Retrieved 8 November 2022.
  25. ^ "Racecourse ground derelict stand redevelopment to be discussed". 29 December 2018 – via
  26. ^ "KOP DEVELOPMENT | Planning Committee Approval".
  27. ^ Gamble, Andrew (15 January 2023). "Rob McElhenney gives Wrexham stadium update with emotional fan promise".
  28. ^ "STATEMENT | Kop Development Update".
  29. ^ Sutcliffe, Richard. ""Rob and Ryan are being remarkably calm": Wrexham chief on their first two months back in the EFL". The Athletic.
  30. ^ "Capacity Increase". 4 December 2023.
  31. ^ "Wrexham AFC announce name change for stand at the Racecourse Ground". The Leader. 2 July 2023. Retrieved 4 July 2023.
  32. ^ "Wrexham Racecourse Hosted First Autism-Friendly Match". Level Playing Field. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  33. ^ "Lord Faulkner Officially Opens Improved Stand". Wrexham AFC. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  34. ^ "Wrexham FC praised by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson for club's work to support disabled fans". Daily Post. Archived from the original on 27 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  35. ^ "Disability Liaison Officer". 17 January 2019.
  36. ^ "CLUB NEWS | The Racecourse Becomes An Autism Friendly Stadium". 8 August 2018.
  37. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 9 December 2009.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ "Racecourse Ground rugby league internationals". Rugby League Project. Retrieved 30 May 2015.
  39. ^ "Dee Snider Reveals How Lemmy Helped Twisted Sister Break Through". Ultimate Classic Rock. 29 December 2015. Archived from the original on 15 March 2017. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  40. ^ "How the UK changed Twisted Sister". Metal Hammer. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 16 May 2020.
  41. ^ "After success of Stereophonics Wrexham gig, fans demand more big act stadium gigs for town". Daily Post. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  42. ^ "British Reggae Legends UB40 Will Perform Live At My Racecourse – May Bank Holiday 2017". Wrexham AFC. Archived from the original on 26 December 2016. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  43. ^ "KINGS OF LEON | Two huge outdoor shows announced at the Racecourse Ground".
  44. ^ "Kings Of Leon announce two huge UK shows at Wrexham Racecourse Ground". Radio X.
  45. ^ "Marvellous! TV drama filmed at Wrexham's Racecourse wins two BAFTAs". Daily Post. Archived from the original on 19 December 2015. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  46. ^ "Wrexham | Club | Racecourse | North Wales' Premier Sporting Venue". Archived from the original on 12 October 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2011.
  47. ^ "Fixtures 1936/37". Archived from the original on 10 April 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  48. ^ "Fixtures 1935/36". Archived from the original on 11 April 2016. Retrieved 11 August 2014.