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For many of you who didn’t know, football, i.e. soccer, has been around for the best part of 200 years. This was when the modern football rules and codes, that we would associate with today's game, were established. Oh and FYI my American friends, do not let those pesky English wisecrackers get on your back about the word soccer! Soccer is a slang word for Association Football, that originates in the U.K., and is similar to the word fiver, which used to mean a five-pound note.
Anyway, football is the most popular sport in the world, with an estimated 3.5 billion people worldwide tuning in to watch the World Cup Final in 2018. This democratisation of football can be attributed to two very important Scots. One would be John Logie Baird, the inventor of the TV and the very reason half the world’s population could have watched a live sporting event from Russia simultaneously, and the other, who is the focus of today’s article, would be Archibald Leitch.
Archibald Leitch is the most famous football contributor that no one knows. He grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, and became an architect during the late 1800s. The reason this man was such an influential figure within the modernisation of football was that up until Leitch, football stadiums were non-existent. Leitch was first employed to design a stadium for his boyhood club, Rangers Football Club, one half (the other being Celtic Football Club) of one of the most famous rivalries in world, "The Old Firm." Leitch built a main stand for Rangers back in 1899—which is still used by 50,000 supporters every second weekend during the football season in Scotland. The stadium attracted a great deal of publicity for Leitch and he then went on to do many other stadiums in Britain. The following is a comprehensive list of the stadiums he built and a star denotes which stadiums are still in use today:
- Anfield, Liverpool*
- Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, London
- Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough
- Bramall Lane, Sheffield*
- Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff*
- Craven Cottage, Fulham, London*
- Dalymount Park, Dublin*
- Deepdale, Preston*
- The Old Den, New Cross, London
- Dens Park, Dundee*
- The Dell, Southampton
- Ewood Park, Blackburn*
- The Double Decker stand (The Kop), Filbert Street, Leicester
- Fratton Park, Portsmouth*
- Goodison Park, Liverpool*
- Hampden Park, Glasgow*
- Home Park, Plymouth*
- Hyde Road Football Stadium, Manchester
- Ibrox Park, Glasgow*
- Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield*
- Lansdowne Road, Dublin
- Leeds Road, Huddersfield
- Molineux, Wolverhampton*
- Old Trafford, Trafford, Greater Manchester*
- Park Avenue, Bradford*
- Roker Park, Sunderland
- Rugby Park, Kilmarnock*
- Saltergate, Chesterfield
- Selhurst Park, South Norwood, London*
- Somerset Park, Ayr*
- Stamford Bridge, Walham Green, London Fulham*
- Starks Park, Kirkcaldy*
- Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London*
- Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh
- Valley Parade, Bradford*
- Villa Park, Birmingham*
- West Ham Stadium, Custom House, London
- White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London
- Windsor Park, Belfast*
The purpose of this article was to highlight the important, and extremely underrated, work that went into building these incredible stadiums. As you can see, the vast majority are still in use today, and others like Highbury and White Hart Lane, both in London, have only recently been demolished. This illustrates the tremendous engineering effort that went into building these massive structures. To build structures that are over 100 years old and are in use today up and down Britain is a talent that many of us would envy. Each building holds on average 30,000 spectators, and many more spectators on a regular occurrence would have been in attendance back when they were first built. The reason the number of spectators has been reduced was due to those “health and safety requirements.” Apparently packing supporters into stadiums like sardines isn’t appropriate in the case of a fire. These stadiums, and the history of one man who was commissioned to build them, are important to remember. We mustn’t forget the history of the people’s game, and the history of what is the ultimate spectator's sport. Intrinsically built into that history is Archibald Leitch, and the magnificent stadiums he built. The unfortunate aspect is that many football fans from Britain simply don’t know who he is, but hopefully this article can right some of those wrongs, and put Leitch back in our minds while we sit in his seats.