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Cardiff Arms Park
Cardiff rugby ground
Cardiff Arms Park and Millennium Stadium.jpg
Location Cardiff, Wales
Coordinates 51°28′47″N 3°11′1″W / 51.47972°N 3.18361°W / 51.47972; -3.18361
Broke ground 1967
Opened 1969
Owner Cardiff Athletic Club
Surface Grass
Architect Osborne V Webb & Partners
Main contractors G A Williamson and
Andrew Scott & Co
Capacity 16,500 (1969)[1]
12,500 (present day)[2]
Cardiff RFC
Cardiff Blues from 2003-2009
The National Stadium
Welsh National Rugby Ground
The National Stadium The Arms Park Cardiff.jpg
Location Cardiff, Wales
Coordinates 51°28′43″N 3°10′57″W / 51.47861°N 3.1825°W / 51.47861; -3.1825Coordinates: 51°28′43″N 3°10′57″W / 51.47861°N 3.1825°W / 51.47861; -3.1825
Opened 1881
Renovated 5 October 1912,
7 April 1984
Closed 27 April 1997
Demolished 1997
Owner Cardiff Athletic Club & WRU, from 1968 only the WRU
Surface Grass
Construction cost £9M
Architect Osborne V Webb & Partners
Main contractors G A Williamson and
Andrew Scott & Co
Capacity 65,000 (1984)
53,000 (1997)
Cardiff RFC until 1969
Wales national rugby union team from 1964
1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games
Cricket ground
Cardiff Arms Park Cricket Ground.jpg
Location Cardiff, Wales
Coordinates 51°28′47″N 3°11′1″W / 51.47972°N 3.18361°W / 51.47972; -3.18361
Opened 1848
Closed 1966
Demolished 1966
Owner Cardiff Athletic Club
Surface Grass
Capacity 7,000[3]
Glamorgan County Cricket Club and Cardiff Cricket Club

Cardiff Arms Park (Welsh: Parc yr Arfau Caerdydd), also known as The Arms Park, is a rugby union stadium situated in the centre of Cardiff, Wales. The history of the rugby ground starts with the first stands appearing for spectators in the ground in 1881–1882,[4] although the Arms Park had cricket played on the site since 1848.[3] Until the end of the 2008-09 season, the stadium was the home to both the Cardiff Blues rugby union team and Cardiff Rugby Football Club, however with the Blues moving out to the Cardiff City Stadium, Cardiff RFC are now the only tenants.

Until 1966, the site had a cricket ground to the north and a rugby ground to the south. The cricket ground was home to the only Welsh first-class cricket club, Glamorgan County Cricket Club. The rugby ground was host to the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in 1958 and home to Cardiff RFC and the Wales national rugby union team. From 1970, the site had two rugby union stadiums: the Cardiff rugby ground, which had replaced the cricket ground, and the National Stadium. The National Stadium was home to the Wales national rugby union team and it was officially opened on 7 April 1984, however by 1999 the Millennium Stadium had replaced it as the national stadium of Wales. The Cardiff rugby ground has remained the home of Cardiff RFC, but this is unlikely to continue beyond 2009/2010 as the professional Cardiff Blues team moved to the new Cardiff City Stadium in August 2009, and the semi-professional Cardiff RFC is expected to relocate at the end of 2009/2010 season to make way for further redevelopment.

The site has been host to many sports, apart from rugby union and cricket; they include athletics, association football, greyhound racing, tennis,[5] British baseball and boxing. The site also has a bowling green to the north of Cardiff rugby ground, which is used by Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club, this is the bowls section of the Cardiff Athletic Club.[6] The National Stadium also hosted many music concerts including Bon Jovi, The Rolling Stones, U2, Bryan Adams and Michael Jackson.



Beginnings of a ground

The Cardiff Arms Park site was originally called the Great Park,[7] a swampy meadow behind the Cardiff Arms Hotel. Cardiff Arms Park was named after this hotel/pub, however by 1878, the building had been demolished.[8]

From 1803, the Cardiff Arms Hotel and the Park had become the property of the Bute family.[3][9] The Arms Park soon became a popular place for sporting events, and by 1848, Cardiff Cricket Club was using the site for its cricket matches.[3] The 3rd Marquess of Bute stipulated that the ground could only be used for "recreational purposes".[9] At that time Cardiff Arms Park had a cricket ground to the north and a rugby union ground to the south.

Plans of the cricket ground (north) and rugby ground (south) in 1927. (Glamorgan Record Office)

1881–2 saw the first stands for spectators; they held 300 spectators and cost GB£50.[4] The architect was Archibald Leitch, famous for designing Ibrox Stadium and Old Trafford, amongst others.[10] In 1890, new standing areas were constructed along the entire length of the ground, with additional stands erected in 1896.[11]

Redevelopment of 1912

By 1912 the Cardiff Football Ground, as it was then known, had a new south stand and temporary stands on the north, east and west ends of the ground.[4] The south stand was covered, while the north terrace was initially without a roof.[4] The improvements were partly funded by the WRU.[11] The opening ceremony took place on 5 October 1912, with a match between Newport RFC and Cardiff RFC. The new ground was opened by Lord Ninian Crichton-Stuart.[4] This new development increased the ground capacity to 43,000 and much improved the facilities at the ground compared to the earlier stands.[4][11]

In 1922 John Crichton-Stuart, 4th Marquess of Bute, had sold the entire site and it was bought by the Cardiff Arms Park Company Limited for GB£30,000, it was then leased to the Cardiff Athletic Club (cricket and rugby sections) for 99 years at a cost of £200 per annum.[12][13]

New North Stand and South Stand redevelopments

During 1934 the cricket pavilion had been demolished to make way for the new North Stand,[3] which was built on the rugby union ground, costing around £20,000.[14] However in 1941 the new North Stand and part of the west terracing had been badly damaged in the Blitz by the Luftwaffe during the Second World War.[15]

At a general meeting of the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) in June 1953, they made a decision, "That until such time as the facilities at Swansea were improved, all international matches be played at Cardiff".[13] At the same time, plans were made for a new South Stand, which was estimated to cost £60,000, however the tender price came out at GB£90,000, a compromise was made, and it was decided to build a new upper South Stand costing £64,000 instead, with the Cardiff Athletic Club contributing £15,000 and the remainder coming from the WRU.[13] The new South Stand opened in 1956, in time for the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games.[15] This brought the overall capacity of the Arms Park up to 60,000, of which 12,800 spectators were seated and the remained standing.[11][15]

The 1934 new North Stand,
rugby ground, Cardiff Arms Park

The Arms Park hosted the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games, which was used for the athletics events, but this event caused damage to the drainage system, so much so, that other rugby unions (England, Scotland and Ireland) complained after the Games about the state of the pitch.[13] The Development Committee was set up to resolve this issue on a permanent basis. They looked at various sites in Cardiff, but they all proved to be unsatisfactory.[13] They also could not agree a solution with the Cardiff Athletic Club, so they purchased about 80 acres (320,000 m2) of land at Island Farm in Bridgend,[13] which was previously used as a prisoner-of-war camp. It is best known for the being the camp where the biggest escape attempt was made by German prisoners of war in Great Britain during the Second World War.[16] Due to problems including transport issues Glamorgan County Council never gave outline planning permission for the proposals and by June 1964 the scheme was abandoned.[13] At that stage, the cricket ground to the north was still being used by Glamorgan County Cricket Club, and the rugby union ground to the south was used by the national Wales team and Cardiff RFC.

By 7 October 1966, the first floodlit game was held at Cardiff Arms Park, a game in which Cardiff RFC beat the Barbarians by 12 points to 8.[17]

The National Stadium

The National Stadium, which was also known as the Welsh National Rugby Ground, was designed by Osborne V Webb & Partners and built by G A Williamson & Associates of Porthcawl and Andrew Scott & Company of Port Talbot.[18][19]

After agreement from the Cardiff Athletic Club, the freehold of the south ground was transferred solely to the WRU in July 1968.[13] Work could then begin on the new National Stadium. Glamorgan County Cricket Club would move to Sophia Gardens and the cricket ground to the north would be demolished and a new rugby union stadium built for Cardiff RFC, who would move out of the south ground, allowing the National Stadium to be built, for the sole use of the national rugby union team.[13]

The National Stadium
The National Stadium (left) and Cardiff rugby ground (right) both on an east-west alignment
Demolition of the National Stadium
with only the 1970 North Stand remaining

On 17 October 1970, the new North Stand and the Cardiff RFC ground was completed, the North Stand cost just over GB£1 million.[13] The West Stand was opened in 1977 and the new East Terrace was completed by March 1980. By the time the final South Stand had been completed and the Stadium officially opened on 7 April 1984, the South Stand had cost £4.5M. At the start of the project, the total cost was estimated at £2.25M, although by time it was finished in 1984, it had risen by nearly four times that amount.[13]

The two stadiums on the site both had approximately east-west alignment; the Cardiff Rugby Ground to the north (Castle Street) end, and the National Stadium to the south (Wood Street) end. The original capacity was 65,000 but this had to be reduced in later years to 53,000 for safety reasons. 11,000 of these were on the East Terrace and the conversion to all-seater stadium would have reduced the stadium capacity still further to 47,500. This capacity would have been much less than Twickenham and the other major rugby venues and also less than the demand for tickets to major events.[20]

The first evening game to be played under floodlights was held on 4 September 1991 at 8.00pm, between Wales and France.[21] The last international match to be held at the National Stadium was between Wales and England on 15 March 1997, and the last ever match that was held at the National Stadium was on 26 April 1997 between Cardiff and Swansea, Cardiff won the WRU Challenge Cup by 33 points to 26 points.[22]

The Millennium Stadium

Just thirteen years later in 1997, the National Stadium was considered too small and did not have the facilities required of the time and it was demolished and a new stadium, the Millennium Stadium, was built in its place (completed to a north-south alignment and opened in June 1999). This would become the fourth redevelopment of the Cardiff Arms Park site.[23] Although the Millennium Stadium is on roughly two thirds of the National Stadium, Cardiff Arms Park site, it is currently no longer using the Arms Park name.[15] The official website confuses the issue as well, one part states that "The Millennium Stadium is located on Westgate Street in Cardiff; next to the Cardiff Arms Park". whereas another section specifically refers to the stadium as "The Millennium Stadium, on the Cardiff Arms Park"[24]

Cardiff rugby ground

Cardiff rugby ground, Cardiff Arms Park
Bmibaby Stand
Westgate Street end
South Stand
River Taff end
Gwyn Nicholls Memorial Gates (north entrance)
South entrance
Cardiff Athletic Clubhouse

Only the Cardiff rugby ground now use the name Cardiff Arms Park. Cardiff rugby ground has two main stands, the North Stand, which was renamed the Bmibaby Stand in August 2002,[25] and the South Stand. Both the Bmibaby Stand and the South Stand have terracing below seating. The other ends of the ground are the Westgate Street end (east), which has rows of seating below executive boxes, plus the club shop, and the River Taff end (west), which has 26 executive boxes.[26] Cardiff rugby ground has two main entrances, the south entrance, and the Gwyn Nicholls Memorial Gates (north entrance), which was unveiled on 26 December 1949 in honour of the Welsh international rugby player Gwyn Nicholls.[27] The Cardiff Athletic Clubhouse is situated in the corner of the ground between the South Stand and the Westgate Street end.

Glanmor's Gap, previously the 1970 North Stand of the National Stadium, now part of the Millennium Stadium

The South Stand of the Cardiff rugby ground formed a complete unit with the North Stand of the National Stadium. Now the same structure of the South Stand of the Cardiff rugby ground is also physically attached to the North Stand of the Millennium Stadium. This section is known colloquially as Glanmor's Gap, after Glanmor Griffiths, former chair and President of the WRU.[28] This came about because the WRU were unable to secure enough funding to include the North Stand in the Millennium Stadium, and the National Lottery Commission would not provide any additional funds to be used for the construction of a new ground for Cardiff RFC. The Millennium Stadium was therefore built with the old reinforced concrete structure of the National Stadium (North Stand) and the new steel Millennium Stadium structure built around it.

There is doubt about the future of the Arms Park after 2010. The Cardiff Blues team moved from the Arms Park for the season 2009–2010 to the Cardiff City Stadium as part of the Leckwith development and became tenants of Cardiff City FC. Cardiff RFC Ltd, the company that runs Cardiff Blues and Cardiff RFC, still has a 15-year lease on the Arms Park, but talks are underway to release the rugby club from the terms of the lease, to enable the Millennium Stadium to be redeveloped with a new North Stand and adjoining convention centre. However, it still has the original requirement on the lease, that the land will only be used for "recreational purposes", as stipulated by the Bute family. But the Arms Park site is a prime piece of real estate in the centre of Cardiff, which means that it may be difficult to sell the land to property developers. The estimated value of the whole Arms Park site could be at least GB£25 million, although with the "recreational use" requirement, its actual value could be a lot less than that figure.[6] A decision by Cardiff Athletic Club on the future of the Arms Park has yet to be made.[29]

Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club

Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club, Cardiff Arms Park
The clubhouse and bowling green
The Les Spence Memorial Gates

Cardiff Arms Park is best known as a rugby union stadium, however Cardiff Athletic Bowls Club (CABC) was established in 1923,[30] and ever since then, the club has used the Arms Park as its bowling club. The bowls club is a section of the Cardiff Athletic Club and shares many of the facilities of the Cardiff Arms Park athletics centre.[31]

The Club has produced two Welsh international bowlers; Mr. C Standfast in 1937 and Mr. B Hawkins who represented Wales in the 1982 World Pairs and captained Wales in 1982 and 1984.[30]


Association football

Football Association of Wales programme cover of the first international football match held at the National Stadium in 1989

The Riverside Football Club, founded in 1899, played some matches at the Arms Park until 1910, when they moved to Ninian Park,[14] and later became Cardiff City Football Club.

On 31 May 1989, Wales played its first international game against West Germany at the National Stadium. It was also the first ever international football match held in Great Britain that was watched by all-seater spectators.[32]

Athletics (track and field)

In 1958, the British Empire and Commonwealth Games were held in Cardiff. The event has been the biggest sporting event ever held in Wales, however it would not have been possible without the financial support given by the WRU and the Cardiff Athletic Club.[13] Both the opening and closing ceremonies took place at Cardiff Arms Park, plus all the track and field events, on what had been the greyhound track.[13] It would turn out to be the last time that South Africa would participate in the Games until 1994. South Africa withdrew from the Commonwealth Games in 1961.

Baseball & British baseball

Baseball was established early on in Cardiff, and one of the earliest of games to be held at the Arms Park was on 18 May 1918. It was a charity match in aid of the Prisoner of War Fund between Welsh and American teams of the U.S. Beaufort & U.S. Jupiter. British baseball matches have also regularly taken place at the Arms Park and hosted the annual England versus Wales international game every four years.[33][34] The games are now usually held at Roath Park.


Around 25,000 spectators watched international boxing on 1 October 1993, at the National Stadium with a World Boxing Council (WBC) Heavyweight title bout between Lennox Lewis and Frank Bruno. It was the first time that two British-born boxers had fought for the world heavyweight title.[35] Lewis beat Bruno by a technical knockout in the 7th round, in what was called the "Battle of Britain".[36][37] On 30 September 1995, Steve Robinson the World Boxing Organization (WBO) World Featherweight Champion, lost against Prince Naseem Hamed at the Cardiff rugby ground in 8 rounds.[37]

The first boxing contest held at the Arms Park was on 24 January 1914, when Bombadier Billy Wells beat Gaston Pigot by a knockout in the first round of a 20 round contest.[38] Boxing contests were held later on 14 June 1943, 12 August 1944, 4 October 1951 and 10 September 1952.[39]


In 1845 Cardiff Cricket Club was formed, by 1848 they had moved to their new home at the Arms Park.[40] Glamorgan Cricket Club, at the time not a first-class county, played their first match at Cardiff Arms Park in June 1869, against Monmouthshire.[41] They played their first-ever County Championship match there in 1921,[42] competing there every season (except while first-class cricket was suspended during the Second World War), their last match being against Somerset in August 1966. Glamorgan then moved to a new ground Sophia Gardens on the opposite bank of the River Taff to the Arms Park,[43] following work on the creation of a national rugby stadium, later named the National Stadium.

The first first-class cricket match actually to be held on the ground was between West of England and East of England, on 20 June 1910. In all more than 240 first-class cricket matches were played at Cardiff Arms Park.[44]

Only one List A game was ever played at the ground, and this was only the second match of its type: Glamorgan's Gillette Cup fixture against Somerset on 22 May 1963.[45] Except for the aforementioned 1910 game, the only major match not to involve Glamorgan was a Test Trial in July 1932, which was badly affected by the weather and saw play on only one of the scheduled three days.

Greyhound racing

To help pay for the upkeep of the site, a greyhound track was opened in 1927. The Arms Park (Cardiff) Greyhound Racing Company Limited signed a 50-year lease in 1937, with Cardiff Athletic Club, the owners of the Arms Park, having no rights to break the agreement or to review the rental until the 50 years were up. However the last greyhound race was actually held at the National Stadium was on 30 July 1977.[46]

Rugby union

Welsh Rugby Union programme cover of the 1970 North Stand of the National Stadium in 1970

In 1876, the Cardiff RFC was formed and soon after they also used the park. On 12 April 1884, the first international match was played at the ground between Wales and Ireland, when 5,000 people watched Wales beat Ireland by 2 tries and a drop goal to nil.[13]

The Arms Park rugby ground became the permanent home of the Wales national rugby union team in 1964. Later, the National Stadium was also home to the WRU Challenge Cup from 1972 until the last ever match held at the Stadium on 26 April 1997, at a much reduced capacity, between Cardiff RFC and Swansea RFC. Cardiff RFC won the match by 33 point to 26, with the last try scored by Nigel Walker.[47]

The National Stadium hosted four games in the 1991 Rugby World Cup, including the 3rd / 4th place play-off.[48] The National Stadium was also host to the inaugural Heineken Cup final of 1995-6 when Toulouse beat Cardiff RFC by 21 to 18 after extra time, in front of 21,800 spectators.[49] The following final in 1996-7 was also held at the National Stadium, this time it was between Brive and Leicester Tigers. Brive won the match 28 points to 9, in front of a crowd of 41,664.[50] The Heineken Cup is Europe's premier Rugby Union club competition.

In 2008, the Cardiff rugby ground hosted all the games in Pool A of the 2008 IRB Junior World Championship and also the semi-final on 18 June 2008, in which England beat South Africa 26–18.[51]

"The greatest match...the greatest try"

The stadium is best known as the venue for what some say was the "the greatest try ever scored" by Gareth Edwards for the Barbarians against the New Zealand All Blacks in what is also called "the greatest match ever played" on 27 January 1973.[52][53] The final score was 23 points to 11 to the Barbarians (this translates to 27 points to 13, in today's scoring system).

The game is one I will never forget and those of us who played in it will never be allowed to forget. It is a match that will live with me forever. People tend only to remember the first four minutes of the game because of the try, but what they forgot is the great deal of good rugby played afterwards, much of which came from the All Blacks. After the success of the 1971 Lions tour, which captured the imagination of the whole country, it was an opportunity to bring a lot of that side together again.[54] —Gareth Edwards

The scorers were:
Barbarians: Tries: Gareth Edwards, Fergus Slattery, John Bevan, J P R Williams; Conversions: Phil Bennett (2); Penalty: Phil Bennett.
All Blacks: Tries: Grant Batty (2); Penalty: Joseph Karam.

Concerts and conventions

Major music concerts were also held at the National Stadium:

Singing tradition

The National Stadium was known primarily as the venue for massed voices singing such hymns as "Cwm Rhondda", "Calon Lân", "Men of Harlech" and "Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau" ("Land of my Fathers" - the national anthem of Wales).[72] The legendary atmosphere including singing of the crowd was said to be worth at least a try or a goal to the home nation.[73] This tradition of singing has now passed onto the Millennium Stadium.[73]

The Arms Park has its own choir, called the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir. It was formed in 1966 as the Cardiff Athletic Club Male Voice Choir, and today performs internationally with a schedule of concerts and tours. In 2000, the choir changed their name to become the Cardiff Arms Park Male Choir.[62]

See also


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External links

Preceded by
Heineken Cup
Final Venue

Succeeded by
Stade Lescure

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