Grounds for Change

By Keith Brookman

For those football supporters out there who are members of the 92 club and enjoy visiting new grounds, then they are going to be busy during 2020/21 as there are at least six new grounds (probably more!) that I know of.

Not being a fan of visiting grounds just for the sake of being able to say I’ve been there, I’ve probably missed a few, but here goes with the ones I know are going ahead.

Brentford’s last game at Griffin Park was against Swansea City in the play off semi final and although they went through to the final by virtue of a 3-2 aggregate win they won’t be playing Premier League football at the new ground they move into for the start of the 2020/21 campaign. West London rivals Fulham put paid to that dream when they won the Wembley play off final.

The Brentford Community Stadium, which has a capacity of 17,250, should be ready for the start of the new campaign. It’s less than a mile from Griffin Park, so Rovers fans should have no trouble locating it, though I’m guessing that there will still be a lack of parking in that area of West London.

Rovers have been regular visitors to Griffin Park down the years; there has been 74 league meetings between the sides since 1920/21 though our last meeting there is as along ago as February 2011.

The away stand at Griffin Park was a two tiered affair – seats above, terrace below. [Photo Credit – Neil Brookman]

Griffin Park, opened in 1904, had a capacity of 12,300 so the club has the potential for generating additional revenue at their new home.

Those Rovers members of the 92 club wanting to tick the new stadium off their list will, no doubt, be waiting for the fixtures to come out so that they can make sure any planned visit doesn’t clash with a home game at the Mem!

It seems quite likely that Rovers will be visiting a new ground during the 2020/21 campaign in any case, as AFC Wimbledon’s new stadium is due to be opened in late October.

The new stadium, at Plough Lane just 250 yards from their original ground, will have a capacity of 9,300 and should afford a decent view for all, unlike the cramped conditions at their temporary Kingsmeadow home.

Rovers were AFC Wimbledon’s first opponents at their Kingsmeadow Ground back in 2011 and the sides have now met in 16 league games, including that historic first match.

The shallow terrace to the left of the photo wasn’t the best vantage point for visiting supporters to AFC Wimbledon’s Kingsmeadow Stadium. [Photo Credit – Keith Brookman]

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a new member of the English Football League this season; step forward Harrogate Town who beat Notts County in the National League play off final.

A visit to the CNG Stadium will no doubt be a must for several members of the 92 club, though they will have to wait a while as Harrogate have been given permission to play their home games at the Keepmoat Stadium, home of Doncaster Rovers, until October.

That’s because they were playing on an artificial 3G pitch, a surface not allowed under EFL rules. The club began work on laying a grass pitch the day after winning promotion but, naturally, it has to be given time before a game can be played on it.

The current stadium capacity is only 3,800, so if you’re intending to make your way up to North Yorkshire to take in a game, make sure of your ticket in advance!

The Keepmoat Stadium, home of Doncaster Rovers, is where Harrogate Town will play their first home fixtures as a Football League Club. [Photo Credit – Keith Brookman]

Harrogate are a team that Rovers have never played before, at least according to my records.

Moving out of the English Football League, but remaining close to home, National League North side Gloucester City are preparing to move back to a new ground at Meadow Park, home of their former ground.

The reason they left the city 13 years ago was because the ground was prone to flooding and they have since ground shared with Forest Green Rovers, Cirencester Town, Cheltenham Town and Evesham…in that order!

Formed in 1883, the same year that Rovers came into being, Gloucester are hopeful that the new ground will be completed in time for the start of the National League North campaign on 3rd October.

Rovers have played at Meadow Park in the past, and I have programmes from games played there in 1990,1991 and 1999 as well as a programme for a Gloucester County Senior Cup tie there on 28th February 2006 when Rovers won 2-1. The teamsheet for that game shows that Steve Book, Paul Trollope, Chris Lines and Ali Gibb were all in the Rovers starting XI on that occasion.

Gloucester City are returning to Meadow Park after an absence of 13 years.

There were also pre-season games against Gloucester City when they ground shared at Cheltenham’s Whaddon Road.

I’m sure there are a few Rovers supporters who can recall playing against Boston United in League Two and visiting their York Street ground. In fact, we visited that venue no fewer that five times in consecutive seasons from 2002/03.

It wasn’t the best of venues from which to watch a game and I recall the first time I went there and found that the press box was situated in an old wooden stand behind one of the goals.

Rovers fans at Boston’s York Street ground back in 2004

Well, they too are moving to a new home; like Brentford, they will not be hosting higher level football at their new home, having lost their National League North play off final against Altrincham on 1st August. They will be relocating to the Jakemans Community Stadium in time for the start of the 2020/21 season.

Rovers supporters will also be familiar with Bootham Crescent, the home another National League North of York City. If my maths are correct, then we have played league games there on 22 occasions, the last time being on 30th April 2016 when we were 4-1 winners.

They, too, are planning to leave the ground that has been their home since 1932 and move to the LNER Community Stadium, with Persimmon Homes moving in to build on the Bootham Crescent site.

The going was a little bit heavy on our last visit to Bootham Crescent, in 2016! [Photo Credit – JMP]

At the time of writing York were seeking updates from the City of York Council as to when the new stadium will be complete and when they can move in, so if you want to add that stadium to your list then best keep an eye on the York City website.

So there you are, 92ers, at least six new grounds to visit in 2020/21 and, unless we are drawn against any of the other clubs in a cup competition, the only one you are likely to see Rovers at is AFC Wimbledon’s Plough Lane ground.

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