- Walkers Stadium
stadium_name = The Walkers Stadium
nickname = Filbert Way, The Walkers
fullname = The Walkers Stadium
location = The Walkers Stadium
built = 2002
opened = 2002
owner = Teachers Insurance
Leicester City F.C.
seating_capacity = 32,500
dimensions = 110 x 76 yards
The Walkers Stadium is a football stadium which hosts home matches of English football team
Leicester City F.C.The all-seater stadium, inaugurated in July 2002, holds 32,500 is named in a ten year deal after sponsors local snack foods firm Walkers, a former shirt sponsor of Leicester. It offers unobstructed views from every seat. It is larger than most stadiums in the Premiership and achieved the second best average attendance in the championship last year.On a national scale it is the 19th largest stadium in England.
Background and construction
Leicester's previous stadium was at nearby
Filbert Street. As a result of the success of Leicester during the late 1990s and the increasing popularity of football, the club outgrew Filbert Street to the extent that nearly every home game was a 21,500 sell-out. Some parts of the ground—the East and North Stands in particular—were also somewhat outdated, which led the manager, Martin O'Neillto joke that when he showed Filbert Street to new signings he led them backwards out of the players tunnel to prevent them from seeing the East Stand.
After an abortive attempt to build a new 40,000 all-seater stadium at Bede Island South, the club turned their attention to Freemans Wharf, a 22-acre (9 ha) former power station site about 200 yards south of Filbert Street. Planning permission was granted for a 32,500 all-seater stadium designed by the Miller Partnership in November 2000 and construction began in June 2001. The stadium was completed on time in 2002, ready for Leicester to take up residence for the start of the 2002/03 season.
The stadium was officially opened by former Leicester striker
Gary Linekeron 23 July 2002. He used a giant pair of scissors to cut a ribbon on the pitch after arriving at the stadium in a Walkers lorry.
The first game at the new stadium was a friendly against Spanish team
Athletic Bilbao, on 4 August 2002. The game finished 1-1, with Tikoscoring the first goal at the stadium, and Jordan Stewartscoring Leicester's first goal. The attendance was approximately 24,000 (no official figure was recorded due to a computer problem). The first competitive match took place six days later and Leicester beat Watford 2-0 in front of a near capacity crowd of 31,022. Brian Deanescored both goals, including the stadium's first in competitive games. Leicester ended the 2002-03 season promoted back to the Premier League, losing just two home games in the season.
The £37 million cost of the new stadium, combined with relegation from the Premiership, the collapse of the English transfer market due to the introduction of the transfer window and the collapse of
ITV Digitalmeant that Leicester went into receivership shortly after moving to the new stadium. Birse Construction who had built the stadium therefore lost a large part of their fee, and they withdrew from any further football ground construction. The main losers from this were, ironically, Leicester's local rivals Coventry City, who were in negotiations with Birse to build their own new stadium.
As part of the deal which brought the club out of receivership, the ownership of the stadium reverted to American company Teachers Insurance, who had supplied £28 million via a bond scheme towards the stadium's construction, with the club taking a long-term lease while the bond repayments were made.
In October 2006,
Milan Mandarićoffered a reported £25 million to buy Leicester City. This figure includes £15 million, according to reports, to buy back the stadium from its current owners.
Milan Mandarić reported in the local
newspaperThe Leicester Mercury that he envisioned Leicester City becoming a powerful club and the stadium, possibly within the next few years, could have a capacity of 45,000.
The stadium at full strength (if rennovated to full potential) could hold up to 55,000. However this would only happen if Leicester became a regular top six
Premier Leagueside according to LCFC.
Former Leicester City shirt sponsors Walkers paid a "seven figure sum" [http://www.lcfc.premiumtv.co.uk/page/StadiumOverview/0,,10274,00.html] for naming rights for ten years [http://www.talkingballs.co.uk/showpost.php?p=51973&postcount=12] , i.e. expiring in 2012. Originally the ground was to have been called the "Walkers Bowl", but that name was dropped after a fans petition against it. Fans criticised the name for having only the name of the sponsor in it, and no Leicester City reference, such as "filbert," or "fosse", while some fans objected to "Walker's Bowl" on the grounds that they thought it was ridiculous and too "American". As a result of the petition, the name was quickly changed to the "Walkers Stadium"; however, some fans are still unhappy with the name, and it is still sometimes referred to (usually derogatively) as the "crisp bowl" (in reference to Walkers best known products).Many fans refer to the stadium as Filbert Way after the grounds address, keeping links with the past.
In May 2007, Walkers signed a new deal, extending their sponsorship of the stadium until 2017 [http://www.lcfc.premiumtv.co.uk/page/LatestNews/0,,10274~1029628,00.html]
During their absence from
Wembley Stadium, the England national football teamplayed a home friendly game against Serbia and Montenegro at the stadium on 3 June 2003. Goals from Steven Gerrardand Joe Colegave England a 2-1 victory. On 12 Octoberof the same year, the ground hosted an international friendly match between Brazil and Jamaica, with Roberto Carlos scoring the winner.
May 20 2006, the stadium hosted the Football Conference playoff final between Hereford United and Halifax Town. A goal in extra time gave Hereford a 3-2 win and promotion to the Football League. Nine days later, the ground was also the venue for another international friendly, with Ghana beating Jamaica 4-1.
October 12 2007, the England under 21 side took on Serbia and Montenegro U21. The game ended with England winning 1-0 after a Matt Derbyshiregoal in the 1st half.
International Matches Held at Walkers Stadium
Leicester's best supported rugby club, Leicester Tigersconsidered sharing the stadium with Leicester City as their own 16,000 capacity ground at Welford Road was considered too small to handle the growing popularity of rugby. The plan would have seen the two clubs form a jointly owned company to buy the stadium from Teachers. The deal was abandoned in 2005 as the clubs failed to fully agree terms. Because of the continued parlous state of the football club's finances, rumours that groundsharing was still being discussed continued to circulate, with some suggestions that Tigers were considering buying the stadium outright from Teachers. As of 2007, a permanent groundshare seems to have been finally ruled out, with the takeover of Leicester City by Milan Mandaric and Leicester Tigers unveiling plans to expand Welford Road.
However, Tigers played have played three matches at the stadium, either to capitalise on the larger capacity with the greater interest in high-profile games or when competition rules demanded that the match be played away from their normal home ground. The first match was a Heineken Cup semi-final on
24 April 2005, Tigers losing 27-19 to Toulouse. On 1 April 2006Tigers lost 15-12 to Bath in a Heineken Cup quarter final, in front of a sell-out crowd. The poor performances by the team in these matches led some Tigers supporters to complain that the stadium was "jinxed" and called for Tigers not to play there in future. However, the third Heineken Cup game there on the 21 April 2007, saw Tigers beat Llanelli Scarlets33-17, at the semi final stage. It now seems likely that future high-profile Tigers matches will be played at the stadium, and it may also serve as a temporary home during the redevelopment of Welford Road.
3 December 2006South Africa played a game against a World XV to mark the centenary of the Springboks' first game abroad [http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/rugby_union/6037067.stm] .
* [http://www.freewebs.com/tims92/041leicestercity.htm www.tims92.co.uk - Walkers Stadium page]
* [http://homepage.ntlworld.com/caim.johnson/page17.html www.iansgrounds.cjb.net - Walkers Stadium page]
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