On the third day of Christmas….The best new ground visited

“On the Third Day of Christmas my true love gave to me….a trio of new grounds to see”

This was a toughie.  We saw games in forty new grounds in 2011 and so to pick three was very difficult because all had endeering factors.  Whyteleafe’s Church Road ground was idyllic in the Indian Summer, coupled with an seven goal thriller, but visit it in the dead of winter with a nil-nil draw and it may seem like the worst place on earth.  So we based it on our pure gut instinct of what it would be like all year round. Last year the honours went to Spartak Trnava in Slovakia. This year the winners are:-

3rd – The Bosuilstadion – Royal Antwerp
Antwerp had to be in the top three after one of those post game night’s out when you cannot remember getting home, but you did so with more money than you went out with, a half eaten Marmite crepe by your side and a pair of big girls pants in your pocket.  “We are the great old” they sung at the Bosuilstadion both during the game and in the bar afterwards where the players freely mix with the fans.  A mixture of old and new, old-fashion benches alongside glassed in executive boxes.  Oh, and they serve strong Belgium beer!

2nd – The American Express Community Stadium – Brighton & Hove Albion
This was a tough one not to put top.  My first visit here was as a photographer on a baking hot day in July and so I had an all-access pass.  The stadium is magnificent and first time visitors approaching along the A27 from Brighton will be hard pressed to not swerve off the road when they first see the gleaming roof.  The stadium is perfect in so many ways.  Excellent site lines, a roof that seems to keep the noise of the fans in the stadium, pride in the heritage of the club around the edge of the ground and facilities that encourage fans to hang around after the game for a beer.

1st – Espelunde – BK Avarta
Who?  Where? I hear you say.  The Who is a Danish 2nd Division East side.  The Where is the western suburbs of Copenhagen.  So why has this topped the other thirty nine grounds?  Let me set the scene.  The sun is shining, the beer is cold and the sausages on the grill and sizzling.  The teams run out of an actual tunnel, made out of one of those huge concrete pipes set into the grassy hill. Fans sit on blankets on the grassy knolls watching the game fly by.  Even the home team bench sit on directors chairs, knowing that their ground is a cut above the rest.  See for yourself here.

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