Finding myself with a free weekend, I decided to put it to good use. I could tidy the house, do the /DIY that needs doing, sort out the bills or go to a new football ground. I completed the 92 football league grounds in 2009, but since then new clubs have come into the league and some clubs have moved ground. One of the new clubs was Crawley Town managed by convicted tax fraudster Steve Evans. Much as I dislike him (and have told him to his face what I think of him when he came to Orient with Boston United), I needed to visit Crawley to keep up my membership of the 92 club.
So a phonecall to Crawley Town to check there were tickets available and I was on my way driving there for the game. Crawley play at the Broadfield Stadium which is a modern ground built in 1997 on the outskirts of Crawley. It is a small ground holding only 4997 spectator, which is below the minimum requirement for football league grounds. Crawley have until 2013 to meet these requirements and have plans for a new stand down the touchline on the west side of the ground.
The ground itself is easy to find. The roundabout outside the ground has a huge football on it!
I saw an interesting sign on the turnstiles to the away end of the ground as I walked to the ticket office – ok portakabin
Does this mean that you are allowed to take weapons in which are not offensive? I wonder why they don’t just ban all weapons? Life is full of these big questions.
I got my ticket from the ticket office
and had a walk round the ground where I discovered the REDZ bar, which is Crawley’s clubhouse. They had a rather efficient service system in there with a bottle bar as well as a draft bar. A couple of pints purchased and I took them outside. Quite sensibly the club allow spectators to mingle and drink outside by the all weather pitch. As parents drank their kids played on the all weather pitch.
It was a good chance to mingle and to get to speak to some long suffering Bristol City fans. Exchanging stories about the treatment over the years by West Midlands Police and stories of watching Bristol or Newcastle humiliate ourselves in the FA Cup. Of course there was the obligatory reference to Ronnie F*cking Radford and THAT goal. I also met a fellow Newcastle fan who lives in Crawley. Geordies here, Geordies there…..
Then it was time to get into the ground.
The above photo is of the North Stand and the Bristol City away support and the photo below is the main West Stand, the only seated part of the ground.
Below is the east side of the ground with 900 standing spaces, no toilets or refreshment facilities. Indeed the nearest facilities are where the west stand joins the south terrace. If you have a weak bladder or a hunger do not stand in the north east corner of the ground.
There are plans for a new stand on the east side of the ground. This should be built by the end of the season. The club have a simple structure for the stand and it will increase capacity by around 1200 spaces and provide over 2,000 seats.
The pitch itself had far more sand than Brighton beach! In fact I did wonder if Crawley were trying to emulate Blackpool beach
The game itself was an interesting affair. Bristol City of the Championship were definitely second best to Crawley throughout the game. In fact ex England keeper David James was saved twice from embarrassment by the woodwork. However, the highlight of the first half was the pie and chips from the refreshment kiosk.
Normally I do not buy food in football grounds, but as I had been cycling in the morning and not had any breakfast and lunch so I indulged myself. Well that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. The food was the best part of the day.
The second half of the game was a bit of a non entity until near the end when the inevitable happened and Crawley scored the only goal of the game. Then with 9 minutes left Bristol were reduced to 10 men after a 2nd yellow card was given to one of their players. However by this time the game was effectively over and it was a matter of playing out the time.
It was funny to see the panic in the home fans when the 4th official announced there were 4 minutes of added time to play. Its not funny when it is your side though.
So what do I make of Crawley Town?
Well, the ground will look a lot better when they have the new stand built. Facilities were limited in the ground. It is a ground for a non league club. The food was great and the staff in the bar and at the refreshment stand were very friendly.
Mind you at £22 to stand on a terrace, I expected silver service and someone to cheer for me. Mind you Steve Evans probably needs the money to pay back the tax he fraudulently failed to pay whilst at Boston
A nice little club with a horrid criminal as a manager