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Ewood Park
Ewood Park - Walker Steel stand.jpg
Full name Ewood Park
Location Blackburn, Lancashire BB2 4JF
Coordinates 53°43′43″N 2°29′21″W / 53.72861°N 2.48917°W / 53.72861; -2.48917Coordinates: 53°43′43″N 2°29′21″W / 53.72861°N 2.48917°W / 53.72861; -2.48917
Built 1882
Opened 1882
Capacity 31,367 [1]
Field dimensions 115 x 76 yards
Tenants
Blackburn Rovers F.C. (1881, 1890-present)

Ewood Park is a football stadium in Blackburn, Lancashire and is the home of Blackburn Rovers Football Club — one of the founder members of the Football League and Premier League. Rovers have played there since they moved from Leamington Road in the summer of 1890. The stadium opened in 1882 and is an all seater multi-sports facility with a capacity of 31,367. It comprises four sections: Darwen End, Riverside Stand (named as such because it stands practically on the banks of the River Darwen), Blackburn End, and Jack Walker Stand, which is named after Blackburn industrialist and club supporter, Jack Walker. The football pitch within the stadium measures 115 yards (105 m) x 76 yards (69 m).

The stadium hosted three matches during the Women's Euro 2005 competition — two England matches in group play, and the final. Ewood Park has also hosted numerous England U21 internationals including England v Wales in 2004.

In November 2002, Ewood Park was the location for a Rugby league Test Match International between Great Britain and New Zealand.

Ewood Park is the second oldest home to a Premier League club. Stamford Bridge was constructed earlier (1876), although its current tenants (Chelsea FC) did not start playing there until 1905.

Contents

History

The Jack Walker Stand, named after Jack Walker

Football had been played on the site since at least 1881; Rovers played four matches there when it was known as Ewood Bridge and was most likely little more than a field. Their first match was against Sheffield Wednesday on April 9.[2]

Ewood Park was opened in April 1882 and during the 1880s staged football, athletics and greyhound racing. Rovers moved back in in 1890 and played their first match against Accrington in September. The ground became a great success and was given the honour of hosting an international - England v Scotland in 1891. In 1893, Blackburn Rovers bought the ground for £2500 but came close to disaster soon after when part of a stand collapsed under the weight of a 20,000 strong crowd for the visit of Everton.

In 1903, a roof was built on the Darwen End of the ground, at a cost of £1680. The stand now held 12,000 spectators. A year later, in 1904, the Nuttall Street Stand was built, based on designs by the architect, Archibald Leitch. The stand was first used by supporters on New Year's Day 1907 for a match against Preston North End. A double tiered Riverside Stand was built in 1913, bringing the capacity of Ewood Park up to 70,886 with 7000 seats.

In 1928, a concrete wall was erected around the ground. Furthermore, the Blackburn End was terraced and the Riverside Stand re-roofed at a total cost of £1550. Ewood Park saw its largest crowd - 61,783 for the visit of Bolton Wanderers in 1929. Floodlights were installed in 1958 and were first used in a friendly against Werder Bremen. Two years later a concrete roof was erected over the Blackburn End terrace.

Prior to the most recent rebuild the Nuttall Street Stand was renewed back in 1984 after a fire in the summer months, this was two banks of executive boxes. After concerns about wooden grandstands after the inferno at Valley Parade, Bradford, the Riverside Stand was demolished in 1987. Chairman Bill Fox, later persuaded his friend, and fellow Rovers supporter, Jack Walker to provide the steel for a new single tiered all seater stand, opened in 1988.

After selling Walkersteel to British Steel for £330 million, Jack Walker decided to buy Blackburn Rovers and set about changing Ewood Park to one of the most advanced grounds in the country. In June 1992 the local council approved plans to develop Ewood Park into a 31,000 all-seater stadium. By February 1994, a new two-tiered Blackburn and Darwen End stands were open. The ground's transformation was complete when in August 1994, the Jack Walker Stand was opened on the site of the old Nuttall Street Stand.

Future

There are plans to rebuild the Riverside Stand in the same design as the other three, which would bring the capacity up to 40,000, however, these plans have been put on hold until supporter demand requires a capacity increase. There is a model of the planned Riverside Development in the boardroom of the stadium.

The Riverside Stand

Record attendances at Ewood Park; 1929-1960

Blackburn Rovers is a big club in a small town. Per capita Blackburn Rovers is one of the best supported football clubs in the world. The town of Blackburn has a population of 105,085. The county of Lancashire [1] [2] (including Blackburn Rovers) has eight Premier League clubs. [3]

Record Attendance:
61,783 v Bolton Wanderers, 2 March 1929. (FA Cup 6th Round).
Highest in the FA Cup at Ewood Park:
60,011 v Blackpool, 4 March 1925, (FA Cup 4th Round).
54,400 v Huddersfield Town, 9 March 1939, (FA Cup 6th Round [replay]).
53,889 v Burnley, 16 March 1960, (FA Cup 6th Round [replay]).
53,000 v Everton, 25 January 1930, (FA Cup 4th Round).
52,920 v Burnley, 8 March 1952, (FA Cup 6th Round).
52,468 v Liverpool, 7 January 1950, (FA Cup 3rd Round).
51,223 v Blackpool, 30 January 1960, (FA Cup 4th Round).
51,177 v West Bromwich Albion, 23 February 1952, (FA Cup 5th Round).
51,000 v Liverpool, 1 March 1958, (FA Cup 6th Round).
Highest in the Football League at Ewood Park:
52,656 v Preston North End, 26 December 1921 - Division 1 (Level 1).
48,000 v Burnley, 1 January 1914 - Division 1 (Level 1).
46,847 v Preston North End, 4 October 1947 - Division 1 (Level 1).
45,521 v Leicester City, 16 April 1954 - Division 2 (Level 2).
44,612 v Preston North End, 4 November 1950 - Division 2 (Level 2).
43,192 v Wolverhampton Wanderers, 13 September 1958 - Division 1 (Level 1).
42,891 v Preston North End, 7 April 1950 - Division 2 (Level 2).
42,000 V Burnley, 16 October 1926 - Division 1 (Level 1).
41,830 v Tottenham Hotspur, 30 August 1958 - Division 1 (Level 1).
41,789 v Liverpool, 22 February 1958 - Division 2 (Level 2).

[4]

Average attendances at Ewood Park; 1947-2010

Blackburn Rovers are the greatest and most successful town club in the history of English football and were the first giants of the English game. This has meant that per capita, Blackburn Rovers have always enjoyed staunch, passionate, popular and loyal support. At Ewood Park, 53,889 v Burnley, 16 March 1960, (FA Cup 6th Round [replay]) and 41,789 v Liverpool, 22 February 1958 - Division 2 (Level 2) turned out to watch the blue & whites.[4]

However, attendance figures have fluctuated depending upon a number of variables such as the economic climate, ticket prices and the success of the club and which has led to criticism in the media and amongst supporters of rival clubs about the loyalty and level of Rovers support. For example, Stoke City, a club who's supporters are very popular with the English media, only average 28,000 [3] since promotion to the Premier League with a city population of 259,252 (2001 Census) almost three times Blackburn's population with only two thousand more supporters.[4]

As can be found by looking at statistics, [5] [6] [7] what is often the case is that football clubs, representing cities, with two or three times the population, smaller stadium and only marginally higher attendance figures are lauded by the media while Blackburn Rovers, Rovers fans and Ewood Park is only seen in the most derisory of ways.

This kind of professional snootery, multiple standards, disproportionate criticism and over all schewed view of Blackburn Rovers and their support, often by middle-class journalists on triple figure salaries that do not pay to watch Premier League football, has led Rovers fans to believe that media football pundits enjoy a parasitical relationship with football and view Blackburn Rovers as one of the country's most unfashionable football clubs; explaining Rovers fans feelings that that the club has never really been forgiven for winning the Premier League.

Sadly, the 1960s, 70's and 80's saw a decline in the clubs fortunes and this was reflected in the attendance figures, this happens at all football clubs and Blackburn Rovers are no exception. Today, the attendance Blackburn Rovers attracts to Ewood Park is the second highest in proportion to town/city size in the Premier League. Blackburn is a town and only has a population of 105,085, [8] so the attendance accounts for nearly a quarter of the town's population. Ewood Park is the 11th largest facility in capacity in the Premiership.

Current 2000's average: 23.675
2009-2010: 26.000 (current average)
2008-2009: 24.899
2007-2008: 23.943
2006-2007: 21.275
2005-2006: 21.015
2004-2005: 22.315
2003-2004: 24.376
2002-2003: 26.225
2001-2002: 25.976
2000-2001: 20.740
1990's average: 20.337
1999-2000: 19.253
1998-1999: 25.764
1997-1998: 25.253
1996-1997: 24.947
1995-1996: 27.552
1994-1995: 25.653 Ewood Park officially opened as newly developed all-seater stadium.
1993-1994: 17.319 Ewood Park being redeveloped.
1992-1993: 16.247 Ewood Park being redeveloped.
1991-1992: 13.288
1990-1991: 8.100
1980's average: 9.003
1989-1990: 9.607
1988-1989: 8.864
1987-1988: 9.503
1986-1987: 6.773
1985-1986: 5.826
1984-1985: 9.648
1983-1984: 7.623
1982-1983: 7.353
1981-1982: 8.655
1980-1981: 11.684
1970's average: 10.038
1979-1980: 10.311
1978-1979: 8.640
1977-1978: 12.227
1976-1977: 10.130
1975-1976: 10.489
1974-1975: 12.651
1973-1974: 7.432
1972-1973: 9.214
1971-1972: 8.256
1970-1971: 8.334
1960's average: 15.380
1969-1970: 12.523
1968-1969: 10.617
1967-1968: 13.531
1966-1967: 14.721
1965-1966: 13.513
1964-1965: 16.110
1963-1964: 21.543
1962-1963: 16.001
1961-1962: 15.906
1960-1961: 19.343
1950's average: 25.096
1959-1960: 27.299
1958-1959: 30.544
1957-1958: 22.708
1956-1957: 23.091
1955-1956: 23.001
1954-1955: 26.928
1953-1954: 26.123
1952-1953: 23.157
1951-1952: 23.228
1950-1951: 24.830
1940's post Second World War average: 24.755
1949-1950: 22.351
1948-1949: 22.421
1947-1948: 27.883
1946-1947: 26.367

[9]

The average attendance for 2006-07 was approximately 21,275.[5] This represented a 5,000 decline in average attendances in just four years, despite the success experienced by Blackburn Rovers in the 2005-06 Premiership. Rovers took action to reverse this by reducing ticket prices by 25% for the 2007-08 season, a move which was commended by everyone involved in the game. For the 2007-2008 season, an adult Season Ticket cost £250.00 in the Riverside Fraser Eagle Stand; £300.00 in the Blackburn End Stand and £350.00 in the Jack Walker Stand. This was very successful as attendances immediately rose and the prices were again frozen for the 2008-09 season. For the 2009-10 season, the club announced further season ticket price reductions. For example, a Season Ticket in the Walkersteel Blackburn End Stand will cost £199 for adults; a Season Ticket for 15 games in the WEC Group Darwen End Stand will cost £149 and will take in 15 home matches with the option to buy - at preferential rates - for the other four Ewood Park fixtures; the Riverside Stand will cost £199 with adult match day prices ranging from £15.00 to £35.00. [10]

Blackburn Rovers pricing policy represents the best value Season Ticket in the Premier League and is cheaper than the vast majority of Football League and Non League clubs. These kind of pricing policy's have enhanced Rovers' reputation of a fan-driven club in the heart of the community and have reinforced Rovers' position as a club which is traditional in the way it is attempting to retain football's working-class fan base.

Crowd trouble at Ewood Park

Crowd trouble at football matches are far from a modern phenomenon. Blackburn Rovers have a number of local Lancashire rivalries due to being the most successful of all the town clubs in Lancashire and England.

The local rivalry between Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End goes back over one hundred years. In 1888 Preston refused to play a match against Blackburn due to their reception by the Blackburn fans. Whether this was at Ewood Park or not is unclear as Rovers did not take up permanent residence at Ewood Park until 1890.

On Christmas Day 1890 during Rovers first season at Ewood Park, Blackburn Rovers played local rivals Darwen. Rovers were due to play Wolverhampton Wandereres the following day and so fielded a weakened team. This infuriated the fans, particularly as ticket prices had been increased for the game. When the Darwen team appeared, the fans urged them to leave the pitch, which they did, later re-emerging with their second eleven. Eventually, Blackburn and Darwen fans invaded the pitch, pulling up the goal posts and threatening to wreck the press box. The police intervened and finally managed to control the situation.

Lancashire derbies can always be heated affairs and on 27.11.1926, during a Division 1 (Level 1) fixture, Blackburn Rovers v Manchester UTD saw some ugly scenes of crowd ytouble immediately after the final whistle was blown. Rovers player, 'our' Sid Puddefoot was seen by many Rovers fans to be lying on the ground after the final whistle. The Rovers fans believed he had been hit by a UTD player and began a pitch invasion. This led to a dangerous situation in which the Manchester UTD players were surrounded by hundreds of angry Rovers fans. The police intervened for the safety of the UTD players and managed to clear a path to the players tunnel. However, hundreds of Rovers fans remained on the pitch and many efforts were made to attack the UTD players. Once inside their changing room, the UTD players locked the door in fear. Soon after, the police managed to disperse the crowd. Rovers won the game 2-1. [11]

Blackburn Rovers did have an active hooligan following in the late 1960's to the mid 1970's seeing the town of Blackburn and Ewood Park develop a particularly fearsome reputation. From the mid 1960's to the mid 1970's Rovers began to fall into decline, eventually being relegated to Division 3 (Level 3) at the end of the 1970-1971 season for the first time in their history, remaining their until promotion as Division 3 champions during their centenary year at the end of the 1974-1975 season. From the mid 1970's onwards, Ewood Park began to lose its fearsome reputation.

As early as 1963 there were reports in the national media of fighting between Blackburn and Liverpool fans. From the late 1960's to the early 1970's, Blackburn's hooligan following was led mainly by Hells Angel's from Darwen. In the 1970's, skin head gangs from the Little Harwood, Queens Park and Audley areas of Blackburn began to follow the club. During this period, there were hooligan mobs in the Darwen End, Blackburn End and Riverside terrace which occasionally resulted in serious out breaks of crowd trouble with Manchester City, Bolton Wanderers and Burnley hooligans both inside and outside Ewood Park. [6] Blackburn is a small town and sometimes simply cannot cope with the numbers that city clubs in particular are capable of pulling.

The National Front had a presence at Ewood Park in the 1970's and early to mid 1980's. The NF youth paper, Bulldog was also occasionally on sale outside Ewood Park. One of the things that perhaps acted as the glue that that bound together hooligan mobs/organised casual's firms in the area was the NF. On one occasion in 1978, the target of racist abuse at Ewood Park was a Crystal Palace player Vince Hilaire, the first established black players in English football, who was given a volley of monkey chants and foul abuse coupled with National Front support which indicated that there was something more sinister taking place; in those days almost all black players got the same racist treatment at many English football grounds, Ewood Park was no exception. Alex Williams the Manchester City Goal Keeper (1985) was showered with bananas, apples, monkey chants and other racist abuse at the beginning of the second half as he ran towards the Blackburn End to take up position in City's goal. Williams was awarded the MBE in the 2002 New Years Honours list for his services to young people. A very large Union Flag with, "BLACKBURN NF" emblazoned along the middle was also highlighted on national TV news in the mid 1980's during a news report on racism at England matches. This kind of menace was certainly not uncommon at football grounds in England at the time and Ewood Park in the late 1970s and early to mid-1980s, it went with the experience of attending games at Ewood Park. [[12]]

Other early influential hooligan mobs that followed Blackburn Rovers came from the Mill Hill and Higher Croft areas of Blackburn, known as the Mill Hill Mob and H Division. However, there were often battles between these two rival gangs in Blackburn town centre. [6]

During a game against London club Queens Park Rangers, 17.09.1969 a Rovers fan ran onto the pitch from the Blackburn End and attacked the Queens Park Rangers Goal Keeper. He avoided police detection but was arrested some weeks later. Although incidences of individual fans encroaching the Ewood Park field of play and attacking or attempting to attack players, match officials or opposing fans is rare, this kind of incident has been known to happen; a fan ran on the pitch to attack the Burnley Goal Keeper in a fixture at Ewood Park during the 1965-1966 season before being intercepted and a fan ran onto the pitch, again from the Riverside Stand to remonstrate with the referee during a 1996-1997 season fixture. However, the QPR Goal Keeper attack is interesting as it was one of the first, some believe to be the first incident in English football, were a fan ran onto the pitch and physically assaulted a player. Rovers lost the game 0-1. [13]

An organised hooligan firm, the Blackburn Youth emerged in 1982 as Blackburn Rovers first casuals firm. As Blackburn lies in East Lancashire just north of the major Lancashire cities of Liverpool and Manchester, Blackburn has historically been strongly influenced by their causal trends in music and clothes much earlier than other Lancashire towns. For example, to this day Rovers fans or 'scarfers' and casuals refer to Burnley fans and casuals as, "the scruffs". [6]

Blackburn's catchment area includes Darwen, Accrington, Rishton, Great Harwood and Clitheroe and there has often been an uneasy relationship between the firms/mobs from each of these places, as well as from within the town itself. More recently this has included trouble between followers from Blackburn and Darwen and Clitheroe and Accrington; these tensions explaining Blackburn's inability to organise a consistently active hooligan firm. Also, Blackburn's neighbouring satellite towns include small firms from bigger clubs such as Manchester UTD, Manchester City and Leeds UTD. [6]

On 13.08.1985 during the Blackburn Rovers v Burnley Lancashire Manx Cup Final, protected by the police and the recently erected perimeter fencing, Burnley fans clambered onto the Darwen End roof, ripped 3 or 4 tiles off it and attempted to throw them onto the pitch, instead hitting their own supporters, huddled behind the goal. The Burnley manager came onto the pitch to address the Burnley fans in an attempt to instill some calm. Order was eventually restored with the game ending in a win for Blackburn Rovers; their jubilant fans thoroughly enjoying another victory of their oldest foe. Rovers won the game 1-0.

Also in 1980's during Division 2 games (Level 2) against Chelsea (18.10.1980) which ended 1-1 [14] and Manchester City (02.03.1985) which ended 0-1 [15] there were brief crowd disturbances along the Riverside Stand terracing and Blackburn End terracing. During an FA Cup game involving Chorley (classed as the home team) and Preston North End (06.12.1986) there were ugly scenes of crowd trouble when the Blackburn End erupted in violence. It is unclear exactly who was involved but the local organised casuals firm known as the Blackburn Youth were believed to be involved; the game ended 0-0.

As football hooliganism at Ewood Park slowly went into decline from the mind 1970's onwards, the club also made efforts to defeat the problem and make Ewood Park and Blackburn Rovers more family oriented. One campaign revolved around encouraging the already passionate Rovers fans to keep up the vocal support but keep down the foul language. Blackburn Rovers also attempted to attract more of the sizeable local Asian population to Ewood Park in the 1980's with representatives of the club speaking on local radio about their desire for more Asian people to attend matches at Ewood Park. Sadly, this appears to have had little success. There was also an aggressive policing policy inside the ground which in itself could lead to minor disturbances and an iron perimeter fence was erected around the pitch in the early 1980s. From the 1990s onwards, most of the mainly partisan pubs outside Ewood Park have been strictly for home supporters only.

As already pointed out, from the mid 1970's and particularly during the 1980s Rovers fortunes slowly progressed relative to their nearest Lancashire town rivals Preston North End, Blackpool, Bolton Wanderers and Burnley, which seems to have been reflected in the behaviour of the fans both inside and outside Ewood Park. Also, the 1980s witnessed several events that were to change football as a spectator sport: the Bradford City Fire Disaster (1985); the Hysell Stadium Tragedy (1985); The Hillsborough Disaster (1989) and the Taylor Report (1989) the latter resulting in standing terracing in England being phased out, replaced by all-seater stadiums, in some cases completely new stadiums being built. [16]

During the 1990s, the face of football stadia in England began to change and with it the type of atmosphere inside the stadia and the type spectator clubs were now attempting to attract. This meant pricing policies that deliberately out priced and alienated working-class supporters; this was done in the belief that by attracting more women, families and middle-class consumers that football stadiums would become safer places. Setting aside the moral question of social prejudice through the deliberate policy of out pricing working-class supporters, it is not a sensible business measure for football clubs to out price working-class fans when those clubs represent working-class areas. However, there is no doubt that these measures had some success but how much, is open to debate.

Added to these measures local Blackburn born business man and life-long Rovers fan Jack Walker bought the club in 1991 and Rovers eventually gained promotion to the Premier League during the 1991-1992 season. Ewood Park was then rebuilt between between 1993-1995.

There have been minor disturbances inside Ewood Park with Manchester UTD, Manchester City and Bolton Wanderers fans during the 1990s and 2000s and the long awaited Ewood Park fixture with Burnley, the first in the top flight of English league football for 43 years resulted in a major police operation mounted by the Lancashire constabulary similar to the kind seen in Scottish football at Glasgow Celtic v Glasgow Rangers matches; reinforcing Rovers fans view of Burnley as the, "Millwall of the North".

Many Burnley fans felt that the police operation put in place for the game was an over reaction as Burnley fans could only travel to the game from Turf Moor and could only travel on official transport provided by the club leaving Turf Moor at about 07:30 for a 13:00 early kick off. One example being of a Burnley fan having to leave Ewood Park, Blackburn for Turf Moor, Burnley, travelling back to Blackburn for the game, then returning to Burnley after the game before making another return journey to his home in Blackburn later that evening. A journey of approx. twelve hours and forty miles when the supporter in question only lived a 5 minute walk from the Ewood Park.

However, the fear of serious crowd trouble was considered very real by the police. Blackburn v Burnley is the oldest derby in English football and arguably the greatest rivalry in the game. There has been a long history of crowd trouble when these two clubs have met. It is the sort of game in which passions can become so intense that not only hooligan mobs or organised casuals but fans, nick named "scarfers" by casuals, can also become involved.

The view amongst some Rovers fans was that although unnecessary, the police operation was an inevitable outcome of a curious combination of decades of exaggeration, half truths and Burnley folk-lore. This was the culture of the Burnley bogey-man myth; involving dare-and-do invasions of Blackburn town centre, Ewood Park and attacks upon meek Rovers fans, which can be traced back to the pubs, school yards and terraced streets of Burnley. One theory to this phenomenon is that such tales of extravagance were the consequence of Burnley followers attempting to maintain their profile and that of Burnley FC as their club plummeted to new depths of lower league mediocrity during the 1980's.

The feeling amongst Rovers fans was that this kind of bankrupt boasting had led to a self fulfilling prophecy in which Burnley fans and their Premier League era hangers on had talked themselves into their own awkward situation, to the obvious despair of the Burnley fans, although faint amusement of many Rovers fans.

Rovers fans also feel that as Burnley is a very small football club and as Blackburn Rovers has always historically been a far more successful football club than Burnley with a national and international profile befitting the historical stature of Blackburn Rovers, that the bitterness and resentment towards Rovers fans by Burnley fans may also be more intense for these same reasons; this resentment particularly inflamed by small club jealousy of Rovers' Premier League and League cup triumphs in 1995 and 2002 respectively.

Burnley fans and mobs also took beatings in Blackburn and at Ewood Park (also in Burnley and at Turf Moor) during the 60's and 70's while thereafter very rarely having the opportunity to return to Ewood Park for more than a quarter of a century; anger and bitterness at such humiliations being passed from father to son, uncle to nephew. This because both clubs moved in opposite directions during the 1980's, 1990's and 2000's, with Blackburn Rovers, despite intense media hostility and professional snobbery coupled with the jealous hatred of neutral supporters, going on to make history and achieve glory with their Premier League triumph at the end of the 1994-1995 season; while Burnley very narrowly avoided relegation to non league football in 1987, only eight years previously.

For the long 43 year awaited top flight fixture with Burnley at Ewood Park, the Burnley fans were given half of the Darwen End, with a significant 'no-mans' land separating the two sets of fans and a very heavy police and steward presence for the protection of the Burnley fans. The game ended without incident and a convincing 3-2 victory for Rovers, though flattering scoreline for Burnley.

Despite the occasional incident or perceived threat, it would now seem that any form of serious crowd trouble at this famous old footballing venue would thankfully appear to be a thing of the past.

Stands

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The Jack Walker Stand

The Jack Walker Stand view from the Darwen End

Formally the Nuttall Street stand. In 1905, the textile baron Laurence Cotton became chairman and set about overhauling both team and ground. In 1906, construction started on a new main stand seating 4,112 on its upper tier with a paddock for 9,320 in front with changing rooms and offices underneath, cranked at one end to follow the angle of Nuttall Street. [17] It was a standard design from the pattern book of Archibald Leitch who also constructed stands at Ibrox, Roker Park and Goodison. The Nuttall Street Stand was built at a cost of £24,000 and opened on New Years Day 1907 for a match against Preston North End. The Nuttall Street stand changed very little until a fire in 1984 in the Blackburn End corner of the Stand. The club took the opportunity to redevelop this section of the stand with executive boxes and glass-fronted lounge overlooking the ground. The development cos £250,000 and was named the John Lewis Complex, after the clubs founder.[7]

The modern Jack Walker Stand now carries the name of Jack Walker, former club owner. It has 11,000 seats and is one of three stands that were built during Ewood Parks ground redevelopment in the 1990s. This stand contains the home/away dressing rooms and media/conferencing facilities. Furthermore the stand is home to the Premier Suite and Jack's Kitchen which form part of the club's hospitality packages.

The Walkersteel Blackburn End Stand

The Blackburn End was terraced in 1928, but did not acquire its concrete cantilever roof until 1960, which was financed after an FA Cup run to the FA Cup Final in 1960. The Blackburn End then changed very little until Ewood Park was redeveloped 1993-1995. The Blackburn End is so named as the town of Blackburn lies behind the stand and is strictly for Blackburn supporters only.[8]

The modern Blackburn End Stand has 8,000 seats, and constructed in the early 1990s, the boardroom in the Nuttall Street Stand was dismantled piece by piece and, when rebuilding was finished, reassembled in the Blackburn End. The higher tier of the stand houses the family enclosure which is designated to provide a safe and comfortable environment for under 16s and their families. The lower tier houses some of the most passionate Rovers supporters. The rear of the stand is also home to a memorial garden and a statue of Jack Walker entitled "Rovers' Greatest Supporter". Outside the stand is the Blackburn Rovers club shop "Roverstore" which was revamped in 2008. The home supporters ticket office and "Blues" cafe bar is situated in the lower reaches of the stand. From here ground tours are lead by Rovers legend, Ronnie Clayton. Furthermore, the stand is home to the "Strikers Lounge" where members of the club's junior membership scheme "Team Rovers" congregate before and after matches. The Bob Crompton suite and Executive Boxes are also located in the stand. In 2006, the club announced that the stand would be sponsored by Walkersteel.

The Riverside Stand

Two league championships in 1912 and 1914, along with three good cup runs, helped to finance a third stand on the River Darwen side of Ewood Park. Constructed to another of Archibald Leitch's standard designs it was completed in 1913 with 2,944 seats and a large new terrace in front. In 1928 the Riverside Stand roof was re-roofed for a total outlay of £1,550. It was not until 1988 that the Riverside Stand was replaced by a new stand as the old stand had failed a safety check in 1985 that came in the aftermath of the Bradford City fire;[9] a new, single-tier stand housing over 4,300 (700 seated approx.). The new structure was a huge disappointment for the fans and further development of the Riverside Stand took place in the 1990s with further seats being added.

The material for the new roof and terracing was provided by local steel firm, Walkersteel, owned by the man who was soon to buy the club, Jack Walker. The Riverside Stand is now the oldest part of the modern Ewood Park. It is the only single tiered stand in the ground, the seating spells out the word "ROVERS"- the club's nickname. The stand holds approximately 4000 spectators. At the corner of the stand is a giant TV screen showing features, teamsheets and other live games on a match day.

In 2007, Blackburn Rovers announced that the stand would be sponsored by Fraser Eagle. This agreement came to an end of the 2008-2009 season as Fraser Eagle went into administration during that season. The club announced that the stand would be referred to as The Riverside Stand as no matter what name was given to the stand, Rovers fans, particularly those that followed the club during the pre-Jack Walker, SKY TV era, knew the stand as The Riverside. The Riverside Stand has previously been renamed The Walkersteel Stand and The CIS Stand.

The WEC Group Darwen End Stand

The first major developments of the facilities at Ewood Park took place in the early 1900s when a cover for 12,000 spectators was erected at the Darwen End of the ground in 1903 at a cost of £1,680.[8] During the summer of 1908 the Darwen End was concreted. [18] The Darwen End is traditionally for away supporters only, although in the late 1980s the Darwen End was opened for home supporters whilst the Riverside Stand was being rebuilt. The Darwen End is so named as the town of Darwen lies behind the stand about 1 mile up the road. No more major changes took place to the Darwen end until the ground was rebuilt between 1993-1995.

The modern Darwen End holds 8,000 seats, and houses away supporters in a two tier stand mirroring the Blackburn End. It was part of the early 1990s stadium redevelopment, its construction seeing the demolition of the Fernhurst Mill, the site of which is now occupied by a car park. The stand houses the club's education department which attracts youngsters from the surrounding areas for football-based activities in the classroom. Moreover, the stand is home to the "Legend' Lounge" a cost effective way for fans to enjoy top-level hospitality. Blackburn Rovers' club radio station- "Radio Rovers" is housed in the stand, where they broadcast live commentary from on match days. Also, the stand includes the International Suite, again part of the club's hospitality packages. Behind the stand is the Blackburn Rovers Indoor Centre which provides facilities for community coaching, football leagues and soccer schools. In 2008 it was announced that the stand would be sponsored by the WEC Group, a metal fabrication and engineering company based in Darwen. In the last 3 games of the 2008/09 season, the bottom part of the stand was used for home fans to give more confidence in the team to pull clear of the relegation zone.

Jack Walker Statue

Jack Walker (19 May 1929 - 17 August 2000) was an industrialist from Little Harwood in the English town of Blackburn, Lancashire. Making a fortune in the steel industry, Walker's name is popularly associated with Blackburn Rovers, the local football club in which he invested tens of millions of pounds. Rises in the fortunes of Blackburn Rovers attributed to Walker include the redevelopment of the club's stadium, Ewood Park, persuading Kenny Dalglish to come out of retirement to manage Blackburn in 1991 and twice breaking the British record for the most expensive transfer of a football player, signing Alan Shearer from Southampton for £3.3m in 1992 and Chris Sutton from Norwich for £5m in 1994. And in the 1994-95 season, Blackburn Rovers won the Premiership title.

Jack Walker was 71 when he died of Lung Cancer in 2000. A commemorative statue stands at Ewood Park, and a nearby road is named "Jack Walker Way" in his honour. Blackburn Rovers fans often refer to him as 'Uncle Jack' and 'The greatest Blackburn Rovers Supporter Ever'

Footnotes

  1. ^ "Premiership Club-by-club Guide". BBC. 2006-08-14. http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/football/eng_prem/5237764.stm. Retrieved 2006-12-30. 
  2. ^ Twydell, Dave (1991). Football League Grounds For A Change. p. 32. ISBN 0-9513321-4-7. 
  3. ^ Lancashire Football Association Directory of Members Handbook 2007-08. Lancashire: Lancashire County Football Association. 2007. 
  4. ^ a b Hayes, Dean (1993). Blackburn Rovers, An A-Z. pp. 8–9. ISBN 1-874181-10-1. 
  5. ^ http://soccernet.espn.go.com/stats/attendance?league=eng.1&year=2006&cc=5901
  6. ^ a b c d Lowles & Nicholls, Nick & Andy (2007). Hooligans: The A-L of Britain's Football Hooligan Gangs Vol 1. p. pp 58-62. ISBN 1903854636. 
  7. ^ Hayes, Dean (1993). Blackburn Rovers, An A-Z. pp. 50–51. ISBN 1-874181-10-1. 
  8. ^ a b Hayes, Dean (1993). Blackburn Rovers, An A-Z. p. 50. ISBN 1-874181-10-1. 
  9. ^ Hayes, Dean (1993). Blackburn Rovers, An A-Z. p. 51. ISBN 1-874181-10-1. 

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