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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Internet Football Ground Guide

Duncan Adams provides a resource you never thought you would need: a Internet Football Ground Guide to the football grounds of England, Scotland, and Wales, including a retrospective list of stands and grounds now destroyed or abandoned. Adams includes some excellent pictures and helpful comments, including the seat allocations for away fans (most stadiums are segregated for Football League games), the availability of alcohol at the game, the location of friendly and safe pubs in the vicinity (and whether they serve away fans), and the overall attractiveness of the atmosphere. He lets you know if the bar in the stadium will allow access by away fans, the number of spaces in the car park, and the directions from local train stations and public transportation. Adams also takes a moment to note which areas are safe for visiting fans and where you have to hide your colors.

I most enjoyed the details of the smaller grounds, those currently in the Second Division and Conference. While the football probably isn’t as good (though as an American schooled in American Football and ice hockey I doubt I could the tell the difference), and the grounds aren’t as modern or stylish, Adam’s descriptions make it sound like going to one of the smaller towns is a much more enjoyable way to spend a Saturday afternoon than braving one of the large, dangerous cities. Indeed, it’s only in the small towns where the descriptions includes the notes that fans there are friendly, even jovial, and the games can be enjoyed in relative security and comfort. It may be cold and it may rain, but if the acoustics are good, visiting fans can still have a good time and make a lot of noise for their team.

The only domestic experience I can compare to this is the one time I went to a Minnesota Vikings game at the H.H. Metrodome. My sister and I arrived in downtown Minneapolis two hours before game time, which was at 12:00 PM locally. We went to a supporter’s bar that was fully decked out in Vikings gear, thick with smoke, and loud with drunken revelry at 10:00 AM. Almost without pause to breathe, very large Midwestern people were shoving cheap beer, greasy food, and cigarettes in their faces while declaiming the virtues of the home team. One half hour before gamtime, like clockwork, the place emptied out and everyone walked over the stadium, a huge stream of people shuffling along in the cold, as all the other bars emptied out as well. Luckily, the Vikings weren’t playing the Lions so I was dressed as a neutral and not subject to any harassment.

I’ve also got to get my hands on a Chicken Balti Pie (only £2.20). Apparently Shire Foods, U.K., supplies this particular local delicacy freshly baked to most League games every Saturday morning.

Also, even the smallest teams have two or three internet fan 'zines. Some even sell copies of fan programs at the games for a price that rivels the official program.

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