It’s easy to miss with the Olympics dominating the sporting world the last week that the English Premier League kicked off yesterday. One of the most popular sports leagues in the world features a wonderful array of stadiums…from old (Goodison Park) to new (Emirates Stadium) to small grounds like Bournemouth’s 11,000-seat Dean Court to giants like Old Trafford at Manchester United. I’ve listed the Ontario Hockey League and College Basketball as the best leagues to take a trip through, but overseas, the EPL would be amazing to check out all 20 grounds. The only downside is that you are confined to your stand (section) and don’t have the ability to move around and check out the stadium from a different perspective.
This season, there are a couple of changes to be aware of and the most notable is at West Ham United. Tight and cozy Upton Park has closed as the Hammers move into the former Olympic Stadium in London. Fans may miss the charm of the Boleyn Ground, but the easier transportation, extra room and other amenities should make for a lot of happy folks heading to a game. The Olympic Stadium becomes the third largest ground in the EPL and it was a lot of years (and money) in the making. Oh, and the bubbles will be making the trip. Over in Liverpool, a renovation to Anfield has added several thousand seats, including a third tier to the main stand. This looks to enhance the noise and atmosphere at what I think is the loudest ground in the league (though Selhurst can get insanely loud for Crystal Palace and Leicester’s KP was crazy last year).
Promotion/Relegation sees us say hello to three returning teams, two of which only had a one year stint in the Championship. Hull City is back and while their orange brings some nice color diversity to the league, their blah fan support and discontent towards ownership means they will give Sunderland a run for playing in the “least full stadium”. Burnley replaces Villa in making sure there are two teams wearing the Claret and Blue, but that also means the return of Turf Moor and David Fishwick! This small club with remarkable success has plenty of local/regional sponsors and David Fishwick’s Minibus company is one of them. His name became so visible to fans, that the Men In Blazers interviewed him and it was a terrific listen as he is a genuinely great guy (take a listen). Middlesborough is the third team promoted and they will seem ‘new’ to many American recent fans as their last appearance in the EPL was eight years ago. Riverside Stadium is their home, built in 1995. To make room for these three, we’ve lost some wonderful stadiums as they have departed to the Championship, where most of America suffers to see them in Standard Definition on Bein Sports. For now, we temporarily (maybe?) will miss seeing St. James’ Park (Newcastle), Villa Park (Aston Villa) and Carrow Road (Norwich) in our living rooms.
Lastly, if you want to visit White Hart Lane in North London for a Tottenham match, you may need to get there this year. Spurs are definitely building a new stadium and it is looking increasingly likely that this will be the last for White Hart Lane as it closes next year to allow for construction. I’ve always admired it and wanted to visit…sad to see it go.