There are good grounds, and there are ‘great’ grounds

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Saturday November 30th 2013, KO 15:00 at ‘The Rapid Solicitors Stadium’ AKA Belle Vue.

Northern Premier League Division One North.

Wakefield (Royal Blue/Royal Blue) 0-3 Bamber Bridge (Red/Red), attendance 46.

Admission £9.50, programme £1, badge £3.50, hot dog £2.40, coffee £1.

Over breakfast on the morning of the game I was still undecided about my eventual destination. Ros who’d accompanied me on this little jaunt, wished to photograph Wakefield cathedral in/out, and in the dark, as part of her project to photograph all 42 of the English Anglican cathedrals. So, I would be going to Wakefield regardless, but I had a nagging desire to take in a new ground at NL Step three, so I was still toying with visiting Frickley Athletic, which would have meant a thirty mile roundtrip from Wakefield to South Elmsall and back again to collect Ros. Ultimately also nagging at the back of my brain was the knowledge that Wakefield are currently playing at a Rugby League venue. So, I thought two things could, and probably would happen in the future, a/ They may move away from this venue, and it could be lost to football for ever, and or b/ the ground is modernised and redeveloped, which I believe will happen. So, Wakefield FC it was to be.

A lovely relaxed forty something mile drive across the northern edges of the peaks gave us plenty of time to kill in the centre of Wakefield, a city much ignored by those outside of Yorkshire, but once you are there, you realise what a large place it is, population circa 77,000. Rather overshadowed by its noisy neighbours, specifically Leeds with its splendid Victorian and Georgian architecture, Wakefield is less glamorous, but is like most of this region solidly working class and solidly white rose Yorkshire! I’d driven passed Belle Vue in the past, but had no idea of where the entrance to this substantial stadium was located. Driving up the main Doncaster Road you can see the back of the stands and the floodlights but no obvious entry point into a car park. I found out, having parked elsewhere, that the car park for the stadium sits behind another car park for wimpy/superbowl, a sign would not have gone amiss, hey ho I should have read the website, which tells you exactly that!

Once I had retrieved my car, and parked in the correct location, I was soon into the stadium. It was an immediate wow factor, on entrance a stand that ran virtually from corner flag to corner flag, with terracing in front. At the other end of the stadium  substantial covered terracing. At the nearest end behind the goal, a large rather ugly corporate hospitality structure, and opposite more terracing, some covered, with portacabins raised up in the centre which housed the match day refreshments etc. All in all, it had a very strong feel of a football ground from the 1960s/70s before the all seater requirements were introduced. A cheesy grin was playing around my face, pleased that I’d decided on this venue, of course being the home of Rugby League Wakefield ‘Trinity’ Wildcats the stadium is used to hosting super league fixtures in front of 5,000 rather than the 50 or so expecting today.

Built in 1895, the current capacity is listed as somewhere between 11 or 13,000 depending on which source you view, and the record crowd was 28,254 v Wigan in 1962. Or 29,235 for the challenge cup final in 1923 again depending on the source. Many scenes from This Sporting Life were filmed at the Belle Vue Stadium during Wakefield’s third round Challenge Cup match against Wigan in 1962.

Wakefield Trinity have long been in negotiation with the local council to find an alternative site, as the present Belle Vue stadium does not comply with the proposed standards required by the Super League. However, there have been difficulties in agreeing with the council on a suitable alternative site. Plans for a new stadium in partnership with Wakefield City Council were rejected after the council decided that it would be difficult to deliver within budget on an appropriate timescale. Plans for a 12,000 seater stadium near junction 30 of the M62, in Stanley, were unveiled on 17 April 2009, with the development proposed by Yorkcourt Properties and a community trust, chaired by former Rugby Football League chairman Sir Rodney Walker.

On 8 June 2011 it was announced that the club will totally redevelop the existing ground to a capacity of 12,000 to meet the Super League criteria.It is hoped that this will safeguard the Wildcats future in the Super League as this was seen as the main reason the club could be demoted out of the top flight. On 26 July 2011 Wakefield were granted a grade ‘c’ so  Belle Vue stadium will be redeveloped. So the message is, ‘Get there soon’ if you want to see it in its current incarnation.

I’d got chatting to a fella in the car park, and also met him in the ground, Brendan from Scunthorpe was also ticking the ground, and had been pleased to tick a Wetherspoons in Hemsworth on the way over. It was good to catch up with Brendan at times during the game and at HT, to talk all things football and grounds. Such a shame then that only 46 of us rattled round this wonderful old ground. Maybe the lack of local support is due to the city being a rugby league stronghold, that Leeds United are so popular locally, and more likely because of the clubs recent history which was not in Wakefield at all. The club was based in the little village of Emley. Emley AFC were playing at their quaint three-sided ground, but their fortunes on the pitch had meant they needed to leave for ground grading purposed to allow the club it’s promotion up the pyramid. So in 2000 they decamped to Wakefield and became Wakefield Emley FC, it seems the support did not move with them, as AFC Emley were formed later and continued to play in the village, as they do to this day.

Since those early days they have played at College Grove in Wakefield and also recently at Ossett Town FC, before moving back to Belle Vue this season, they also dropped the old colours once AFC Emley had been formed. Going into this game the ‘Bears’ of Wakefield were still without a home league victory, whereas visitors from Lancashire Bamber Bridge were happily top three and looking set for a strike at an automatic promotion place. Well this form never really looked like being overturned. As early as the 14th minute Wakefield conceded a penalty, but a good save from keeper Dan Trueman from Tom Williams kept the score at 0-0. However it was only another 8 minutes before Williams made up for this aberration, striking home from inside the area. Further second half strikes from Chris Marlow n 57 and Alistair Waddecar on 81 only emphasised the difference in quality between the two sides. I spent much of the game seeking out the nooks and cranny’s of the wonderful old stadium and had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon.

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One thought on “There are good grounds, and there are ‘great’ grounds

    laurencereade said:
    December 11, 2013 at 10:09 am

    That ground is just wonderful, a must visit

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