Welford Road Stadium
Welford Road (currently known as Mattioli Woods Welford Road for sponsorship reasons) is a rugby union stadium in Leicester, England, and is the home ground for Leicester Tigers. The ground was opened on 10 September 1892 and is located between Aylestone Road and Welford Road on the southern edge of the city centre. The ground was developed in two main periods, either side of the First World War stands were built on both sides and then between 1995 and 2016 both ends were developed and the north side redeveloped. The stadium has a capacity of 25,849, making it the largest purpose-built club rugby union ground in England. It hosted five full England national team matches between 1902 and 1923, and staged a single match at each of the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.
|Surface||Eclipse Turf System Grass|
|Opened||10 September 1892|
|Expanded||1920, 1995, 2009, 2015|
In 1891 Leicester rented a ground in the north of the city, on the Belgrave Road where Roberts Road and Buller Road now stand, called the Belgrave Road Cycle and Cricket Ground, at the end of the 1890/91 season Leicester applied for a renewal of the lease but found the terms unacceptable. A committee was formed to find a suitable new ground and in December 1891 accepted the town corporation's offer of a 10-year lease on the ground between Aylestone Road and Welford Road, at the time this was the edge of the built up town. The lease was signed in March 1892 and £1,100 was spent leveling, draining and preparing the ground.
The ground was opened on 10 September 1892 when Leicester played the first game at the ground against a Leicestershire XV. The first stands accommodated 3,000 spectators and that season saw derby matches produce attendances up to 7,000 whilst 10,000 saw Leicester lose 12-0 to Coventry in the second round of the Midlands Counties Cup. The original club house built in 1909 was located on Aylestone Road, the ground was known as Welford Road rather than Aylestone Road as at this time the cricket club played on another sportsground on the Aylestone Road. The Members' & Crumbie Stands were built just before and just after the First World War respectively.
The east side of the ground was developed in 1995, originally terracing on an ash bank it became an all seater modern stand. Initially called the Alliance and Leicester Stand it has been known as the Mattioli Woods Stand since the 2016–17 season. The total ground capacity is currently 25,849 after the north stand (Members' Stand originally) was redeveloped in 2008 and west stand (previously clubhouse end) in 2016.
The newly opened West Stand (Robin Hood Stand) is a new all seating stand replacing the original 1909 clubhouse and a 1980s extension at the Aylestone Road end. Costing £6.7m the new stand has 2,917 spaces for general admittance & 190 executive seats. Replacing a temporary stand housing 992 places it has brought the capacity of the stadium to 25,849. The stand is currently known as the Robin Hood Stand due to a sponsorship agreement with Nottingham Building Society.
Before redevelopment of Welford Road began in 2008 Leicester Tigers explored many other options. On 23 November 2004 the club announced that it had entered into a 50–50 joint venture with the city's main football club, Leicester City, to purchase City's current ground, King Power Stadium then known as the Walkers Stadium. If the purchase had gone through, the Tigers would have surrendered their lease on Welford Road and moved into Walkers Stadium. However, after several months of talks, the two clubs could not agree as to which side would have priority at Walkers Stadium, and they ended any ground share plans in July 2005.
Leicester purchased the freehold to the ground and adjacent land in 2006 prior to this the club operated on a long term 99 year rolling lease from the city council.
On 11 June 2007 the club announced plans that it was working with AFL, who were involved in redeveloping Manchester United's Old Trafford, for a redevelopment plan which would raise the capacity from 17,498 to 25,000 by 2011.
On 20 February 2008 Leicester Tigers received planning consent for the £60million redevelopment of their Welford Road home. The first phase of the development would include space for 10,000 supporters in a new North Stand (Granby Halls side), taking capacity up from 17,498 to 24,000. After full renovation it will have a capacity of above 30,000.
In the summer of 2008 work began on the construction of the new North Stand – then called the "Caterpillar Stand" after the club's main sponsor, Caterpillar Inc., currently known as the Holland and Barrett Stand again due to sponsorship. The work was completed for the first home game of the 2009-10 season against Newcastle Falcons. The stand has room for 10,000 spectators along with a 1,000 seat hospitality suite. On the ground floor is the Final Whistle bar where no ticket is required for entry.
In October 2020 it was confirmed that the Tigers had extended their long term partnership with Mattioli Woods. The new five year deal will run until the end of the 2024–25 season and includes naming rights to the stadium which became Mattioli Woods Welford Road.
North Stand (Holland and Barrett Stand)Edit
Officially opened on 19 September 2009 against Newcastle Falcons with a total capacity of 10,000, it was originally called the Caterpillar Stand but was renamed in 2014 to the MET-Rx Stand then after Holland and Barrett became the main sponsors for 2016/17 season they received the naming rights to the North Stand.
The first development on the northern side of the ground was a 3,000 seat pavilion moved from the Belgrave Road Cycle and Cricket Ground in 1892, expanded by a further 500 people a year later. This stand was moved to the south side of the ground in 1899 and replaced with a new stand seating 2,020 people.
In 1913 work began to replace this stand with the New Members' Stand seating 4,000. With the First World War intervening it was not opened until 1918. This stand was widely known as the Members' Stand until 1999 when the stand became known as the Next Stand due to a sponsorship from Next plc. In 2008 the stand was demolished to make room for the current stand.
South stand (Breedon stand)Edit
The first development of the south side of the ground was in 1893 when a 600-seat stand was erected, in 1895 a press box was added. In 1899 the Old Members' Stand was moved from the north side of the ground and enlarged to 3,120 seats.
The New Stand (later renamed the Crumbie Stand in honour of Tom Crumbie) costing £21,000 (approx £850,000 in 2016) was officially opened on 2 October 1920 before a match against Headingley by the President of the RFU Ernest Prescott, Tigers celebrated with a 33-3 victory. Terracing was added as a paddock in front of the stand the next year to bring the capacity of the stand to circa 10,000. Due to health and safety regulations and the demands of the modern day coaches and broadcasters the seated capacity of the stand available to the general public has decreased from 4,500 to 4,269, the addition of a central walk way to the terrace has also seen the terrace capacity decrease.
In 2010, the Crumbie Stand was renamed the Holland & Barrett Stand after health food chain Holland & Barrett had signed a sponsorship deal with Tigers the previous year. In July 2016, after the health and supplements company were declared main sponsors and naming rights to the North Stand, the stand was renamed the south stand, however in 2018, the stand was renamed the Breedon stand due to sponsorship reasons.
East Stand (Mattioli Woods Stand)Edit
Originally the Alliance and Leicester Stand, the East Stand is an all-seater and 26 executive suites stand built for £2.3m in 1995 on the East Bank of the ground. With a capacity of 2,650 seats for general admittance, it increased Welford Road's capacity to 16,815. In 2010, the Alliance and Leicester Stand was renamed to the Goldsmiths Stand after a change of sponsorship. In 2016, the stand's name was changed to the Mattioli Woods stand after a sponsorship deal with Mattioli Woods
West Stand (Robin Hood Stand)Edit
After a controversial decision in which the RFU announced that Welford Road would not host any World Cup 2015 matches opting instead for the King Power Stadium, Tigers released plans for the second stage of redevelopment in which the 100 year old clubhouse and the temporary stand was demolished and a new stand built. It could hold 3,100 fans, 62 disabled fans and their assistants and increase the stadium's capacity to 25,849. Building for the new stand started the week after Leicester's final home match of the season against Northampton Saints where they beat Saints 22–14. Part of the Stand was open for game against Wasps on 1 November 2015. Before Christmas, Tigers announced that they signed a deal with Caterpillar for the new stand to be the new Caterpillar Stand. The stand was fully seated for the Northampton Saints Derby on 9 January 2016, a match which they won 30–27. It was announced in July 2016, that the stand would be renamed to the Robin Hood Stand after a new sponsorship deal with the Nottingham Building Society.
Since the end of the 2013-14 season, there have been two large screen TVs at the top of the West Stand and just by the right of the East Stand. The screens are used for showing the match, scores, TMO replays, advertisements from sponsors and the line-ups for each team.
The stadium has hosted seven full cap international games. It hosted pool matches during both the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups. The stadium has also occasionally hosted England Saxons (previously England A and before that England B) and England U20 matches, and non-cap matches between international touring sides and Leicester or a Midlands or East Midlands XV.
|8 February 1902||England||6 – 3||Ireland||1902 Home Nations Championship|
|"Report".||Try: F. Gardiner
Referee: R Welsh (Scotland)
|England: HT Gamlin (Blackheath), R Forrest (Blackheath), John Raphael (Oxford Uni.), JT Taylor (West Hartlepool), SF Coopper (Blackheath), B Oughtred (Hartlepool Rovers), Ernest John "Katie" Walton (Castleford), G Fraser (Richmond), JJ Robinson (Headingley), John Daniell (Richmond) capt., LR Tosswill (Exeter), H Alexander (Birkenhead Park), Denys Dobson (Oxford Uni.), PF Hardwick (Percy Park), SG Williams (Devonport Albion)|
|Ireland: J Fulton (NIFC) capt., CC Fitzgerald (Glasgow University), BRW Doran (Lansdowne), JB Allison (Queen's Uni, Belfast), IG Davidson (NIFC), Louis Magee (Bective Rangers), Harry Corley (Dublin University), Thomas Arnold Harvey (Dublin University), GT Hamlet (Old Wesley), Samuel Irwin (Queen's Uni, Belfast), A Tedford (Malone), P Healey (Limerick), JJ Coffey (Lansdowne), F Gardiner (NIFC), J Ryan (Rockwell College)|
|10 February 1906||England||6 – 16||Ireland||1906 Home Nations Championship|
|"Report".||Try: Telford (2)
Referee: A Llewellyn (Wales)
|England:John Jackett (Leicester), JE Hutchinson (Durham City), JRP Sandford (Marlborough Nomads), CH Milton (Camborne School of Mines), A Hudson (Gloucester), DR Gent (Gloucester), RA Jago (Devonport Albion), GEB Dobbs (Devonport Albion), HA Hodges (Nottingham), WA Mills (Devonport Albion), TS Kelly (Exeter), AL Kewney (Rockcliff), EW Roberts (RNEC Keyham), Vincent Cartwright (Blackheath) capt., CEL Hammond (Harlequins)|
|Ireland: GJ Henebrey (Garryowen), F Casement (Dublin University), HJ Anderson (Old Wesley), James Cecil Parke (Dublin University), HB Thrift (Dublin University), William Purdon (Queen's University, Belfast), ED Caddell (Dublin University), Basil Maclear (Monkstown), M White (Queens's College, Cork), CE Allen (Derry) capt., Alfred Tedford (Malone), HG Wilson (Malone), HJ Knox (Dublin University), JJ Coffey (Lansdowne), F Gardiner (NIFC)|
|30 January 1909||England||22 – 0||France||Friendly|
Con: Jackett (2)
Referee: W Williams (England)
|England: John Jackett (Leicester), Edgar Mobbs (Northampton), Frank Tarr (Leicester), Ronnie Poulton-Palmer (Oxford University), T Simpson, F Hutchinson (Headingley) RH Williamson, CA Bolton, Robert Dibble (Bridgwater & Albion) capt., WA Johns (Gloucester), AL Kewney (Leicester), AD Warrington-Morris, FG Handford (Manchester), H Archer (Guy's Hospital), ET Ibbitson (Headingley)|
|France: J Caujolle, T Varvier (Stade Français), H Houblain, E Lesieur (Stade Français), Gaston Lane (Racing Club de France), A Hubert (Association Sportive Français), A Theuriet, A Masse (Stade Bordelais Universitaire), R Duval, P Guillemin, J Icard, R de Malmann (Racing Club de France), Marcel Communeau (Stade Français) capt., G Borchard, G Fourcade|
|10 February 1923||England||23 – 5||Ireland||1923 Five Nations Championship|
Con: Conway 2
Referee: TH Vile (Wales Rugby Union
|England: Frederick Gilbert, Cyril Lowe, Edward Myers, Len Corbett, Alastair Smallwood, Dave Davies (c), Cecil Kershaw; Ernest Gardner, Frank Sanders, William Luddington, Wavell Wakefield, Ron Cove-Smith, Tom Voyce, Geoffrey Conway, Leo Price|
|Ireland: William Crawford, Robert McClenahan, Finlay Jackson, George Stephenson, Denis Cussen, William Hall; James Gardiner, Michael Bradley, Thomas McClelland, Dick Collopy, Charles Hallaran, Dunlop Cunningham, Jack Mahony, Robert Gray, John Thompson (c)|
Welford Road has also played host to American Football, with a charity match in aid of Matt Hampson taking place on 28 May 2007 between the Loughborough University Aces and reunited 90s team Leicester Panthers. National League team Leicester Falcons also played a league match at the stadium as part of a fundraiser for local charity LOROS, beating the Birmingham Bulls 22–15 on 12 June 2010.
The record for the highest attendance at Welford Road was set on 4 October 1924, when 35,000 people saw Leicester play the touring New Zealand team. The highest attendance for a league fixture, and the highest post-war attendance, was 25,849 for the derby match against Northampton Saints on 9 January 2016, following the opening of the new Caterpillar Stand.
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- Tigers call off ground share plan Archived 29 October 2005 at the Wayback Machine
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- "Club: History 2010-Present". Leicestertigers.com. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
- 1991 world cup at news.bbc.co.uk
- 1999 world cup at news.bbc.co.uk
- "Community: Tigers Rugby : Varsity Match". Leicester Tigers. 15 September 2011. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Super League IX 2004 – Round 15". Rugbyleagueproject.org. 20 June 2004. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
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- "Gridiron: Leicester Falcons land first win of season". This is Leicestershire. 12 June 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Welford Road : Concerts". Leicestertigers.com. 16 July 2010. Retrieved 15 February 2012.
- "Welford Road sets post-War record attendance". Leicester Tigers. 9 January 2016. Retrieved 10 January 2016.
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