Abbey Stadium

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Abbey Stadium
"The Abbey"
Abbey South Stand.JPG
Abbey Stadium
Full nameAbbey Stadium
Location Cambridge, England
Owner Grosvenor Estates
Operator Cambridge United F.C.
Capacity 8,127 (4,376 seated)
Field size110 x 74 yards [1]
SurfaceGrass
Construction
Built1923
Opened31 August 1932
Tenants
Cambridge United (1932–present)
Cambridge Regional College (2006–2014)

Abbey Stadium is a football stadium in Cambridge, England. It has been the home ground of Cambridge United F.C. since 1932, and currently has a maximum capacity of 8,127 spectators. [2] Cambridge Regional College F.C., Cambridge United's feeder club, played their home games at The Abbey from 2006 until their dissolution in 2014.

Contents

The first match ever played at the Abbey was a friendly against a team from Cambridge University Press on 31 August 1932. The record attendance at the ground (14,000) was also for a friendly, against Chelsea to mark the first use of the ground's new floodlights on 1 May 1970. This was the first time an English League ground's record crowd had turned out to watch a friendly.

Until well into the modern era, the Abbey Stadium was the only Football League ground to be styled a stadium, and was second only to Wembley Stadium in so being named. However, more recent ground moves and name changes have meant that a number of league clubs now play at grounds styled stadiums. For sponsorship reasons, the ground was until 2017 officially named the Cambs Glass Stadium. [3] For similar reasons it has also previously been named the Trade Recruitment Stadium, [4] and the R Costings Abbey Stadium. [5] However, thanks to the cooperation of sponsors the ground has reverted to its original name of the Abbey Stadium.

History

Abbey United (as the club were then known) had moved to Parker's Piece at the start of the 1930–31 season. Despite the special significance of Parker's Piece in the history of football, it being the first place where the Cambridge Rules were played out, the lack of spectator capacity and disruption caused during games meant this move was not a successful one. [6]

Henry Francis, then president of the club, offered United a lifeline in 1931 when he donated land he had acquired to the club, and erected a grandstand and changing rooms on it. This land, where United have been resident since, was close to one of the club's former grounds (known as the Celery Trenches) where, with the approval of the Cambridgeshire FA, the club played while the new ground was being prepared.[ citation needed ] The first match at the newly constructed Abbey (though it was not known as this until 1961) was played on 31 August 1932 against Cambridge University Press. [7] A grandstand was not opened until March 1934, and subsequent stands were constructed between a period of many years up until 1954 when the final terrace, on the west of the ground (now the 'Habbin Stand'), was completed.[ citation needed ]

Much redevelopment has occurred since including the redevelopment of the main stand to include a roof and extra seating and, most recently, the erection of a new all-seated stand at the south of the ground to replace the original open terrace that had stood there since 1966. Despite planning permission being granted for further development, as part of the same scheme, at the north end of the ground (including an 86-bedroom hotel, retail space, new offices and a new supporters club), financial difficulties meant this has yet to be entered into. [8] In the 1991–92 season, Cambridge were challenging for promotion to the forthcoming new Premier League and were faced with the prospect of changing Abbey Stadium into an all-seater venue, as all teams in the highest two divisions of the English league were obliged to be all-seater by 1994 due to the changes in legislation that followed the Hillsborough disaster of 1989. But due to Cambridge's subsequent decline (they were back in the lowest division of the Football League within four years) meant that the ground has changed very little in the last 15 years, and with standing accommodation still permitted below the second tier of the English league there has been little pressure to make the stadium all-seater and in 2001 the club's directors stated that it was their intention to retain standing accommodation for as long as they are at a level that will permit it.

The same financial difficulties meant the Abbey Stadium land, donated to the club by Henry Francis in 1931, was sold to then director John Howard's company Bideawhile 445 Ltd. in December 2004.[ citation needed ] Although the club confirmed in January 2006 it had "reached an agreement in principle" to buy back the ground, this has not yet happened, but is seen as crucial in safeguarding its long-term financial security.[ citation needed ] Also in January 2006, John Howard announced plans to move out of the Abbey Stadium to a new purpose built stadium in Milton. [9] These were criticised by fans as risking the club's identity by moving out of the city and, despite Howard describing them as crucial to the club's future, little else has been heard of them since.

In April 2008, the club announced that for the first time, the corporate naming rights in the stadium had been sold. Although the club's Chief Executive Norman Gautrey acknowledged that the fans would 'mourn the passing' of the Abbey Stadium name, it was stated to be crucial to the club's finances given the high annual rent on the ground. [10] Trade Recruitment began a five-year sponsorship deal on 1 May 2008 for a total fee of £250,000. [4] In the June 2009 a new deal was announced with a St Ives-based legal firm to rename the stadium as the R Costings Abbey Stadium. [5]

In March 2010 Cambridge Fans United started a project to purchase the Abbey Stadium from Bideawhile 445 Ltd. The attempt was unsuccessful and the stadium was sold to Grosvenor Estates for £3.5m. Positive talks between the club and Grosvenor have resulted in a "significant" rent reduction from the annual £240,000 being paid to previous ground owners Bideawhile over the next three years. Cambridge United, Grosvenor and their development partners, Great Shelford-based Wrenbridge, have also shaken hands on a memorandum of understanding to consider options for a new community stadium in Cambridgeshire. [11]

Current stands

The North Terrace The Abbey Stadium 2.jpg
The North Terrace
The South Stand at night Abbey South Stand.JPG
The South Stand at night
The Habbin Terrace Habbin Stand.JPG
The Habbin Terrace

The club planned to redevelop the ground (including building an all-seater stand on the North Terrace with new accommodation for the club's staff and incorporating a medium-sized hotel and new function room into the site), but after a series of financial crises, the club sold the ground in November 2004 to Bideawhile Ltd, a company partly owned by Cambridge United director John Howard, on a sale and lease back scheme for a reported £2 million. The club's supporters have since launched the Cambridge Community Stadium Trust, [13] which is striving to buy back the ground, a step that is seen as necessary to secure the club's long-term financial security.

The stadium's frontage, often criticised for negatively portraying the stadium, was refurbished during late June and early July 2007. [14] This involved recladding portacabins that serve as Cambridge United's offices and general maintenance of the stadium's car park. The following summer the rear wall of the Newmarket Road End was redecorated in amber with a black 'Amber Army' motif, a term for the club's supporters. [15]

Alix Dorrington The Abbey Panorama.jpg
Abbey Stadium panorama.

Non-football events

On Friday and Saturday 26–27 May 2006, the Abbey Stadium hosted Cambridge's first major outdoor pop concert under the title Abbey Aid . The capacity of the ground was, however, reduced for this event to around 7,000, all of which was standing accommodation on the pitch. This was due to a failure to gain a safety certificate for the ground's stands as they were built without dynamic loading protection, a necessary feature for stands at a music concert. However, the concerts only attracted approximately 1,000 paying spectators on each night – well short of the numbers the organisers had anticipated – and the events ended up losing money. [16]

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References

  1. "Cambridge United". Internet Football Ground Guide. conferencegrounds.co.uk. Archived from the original on 25 December 2007. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
  2. "R Costings Abbey Stadium". Cambridge United F.C. 3 September 2013. Archived from the original on 9 January 2015. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
  3. Stewart, Tom. "CAMBRIDGE UNITED ANNOUNCE CAMBS GLASS LTD AS NEW STADIUM SPONSOR". Cambridge United website. Archived from the original on 24 November 2016. Retrieved 24 November 2016.
  4. 1 2 "£250,000 Stadium Deal Confirmed". cambridgeunited.com. 30 April 2008. Archived from the original on 1 May 2008. Retrieved 2 May 2008.
  5. 1 2 "Legal eagles fly in to sponsor Abbey". Cambridge News . 12 June 2009. Archived from the original on 17 June 2009. Retrieved 13 June 2009.
  6. Cambridge… the birthplace of football?! Archived 17 August 2016 at the Wayback Machine BBC News
  7. Club Info Archived 30 August 2010 at the Wayback Machine Cambridge University Press FC
  8. East Area Planning Authority Meeting 1 September 2005 Archived 27 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine Cambridge City Council. Retrieved 18 July 2007.
  9. "Talks confirmed on new stadium plan". Cambridge Evening News . 11 January 2006. Retrieved 18 July 2007.[ permanent dead link ]
  10. "Stadium Sponsorship". cambridgeunited.com. 28 April 2008. Archived from the original on 29 April 2008. Retrieved 28 April 2008.
  11. "United plan move to a new stadium" Archived 4 April 2012 at the Wayback Machine , Cambridge News
  12. "Ten Year Sponsorship Deal". cambridgeunited.com. 11 August 2007. Archived from the original on 27 August 2007. Retrieved 5 September 2007.
  13. "The Cambridge Community Stadium Trust". Cambridge Fans United. 29 May 2006. Archived from the original on 6 October 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  14. "Looking good!". Cambridge United. 5 July 2007. Archived from the original on 30 June 2012. Retrieved 21 December 2007.
  15. "NRE Transformed!". Cambridge United. 22 June 2008. Archived from the original on 29 July 2012. Retrieved 23 June 2008.
  16. "Another blow for United as they lose at abbey again". Cambridge Evening News. 29 May 2006. Archived from the original on 10 March 2007. Retrieved 12 July 2007.

Sources

Coordinates: 52°12′44″N0°09′15″E / 52.2121°N 0.15415°E / 52.2121; 0.15415