Fulham’s Craven Cottage, The Oldest Football Stand in the World

 the oldest football stand
To the casual European soccer fan, only Chelsea and Arsenal might come to mind for catching a “football” match in London. But tickets to watch London’s 2 most successful teams are pricey and harder to come by. And if you’re only in London a few days, it’s possible that neither team will be in town anyway. A fantastic alternative to catching Arsenal at the posh new Emirates Stadium or Chelsea at historic, but also large, Stamford Bridge, is to watch Fulham FC at the oldest football stand, Craven Cottage.

Any sports fan should plan to catch a football match while in the United Kingdom for the cheers, jeers, vibrant crowds, chanting and flares. And yes, there is flare but I mean actual flares occasionally lighting off in the stands after an important goal. It’s an atmosphere you just won’t find at any NFL stadium.

 the oldest football stand

 the oldest football stand
Emirates Stadium holds over 60,000 spectators, Stamford Bridge over 41,000, but Craven Cottage holds just 24,000, meaning every seat in the house offers an intimate view. An added perk is that tickets can be had for as little as £20-£30 ($32-$48) and you can sit in the oldest active football stand on Earth, the Johnny Haynes Stand.

 the oldest football stand
The Johnny Haynes stand dates back to 1905 and amazingly, many of the original wooden seats remain today. The section is designated for home fans, and they don’t play around in the English Premier League. They prefer not to have brawls in the stands so wearing away colors in the Johnny Haynes stand will cause you to be tossed out of the Craven Cottage immediately.

 the oldest football stand
I attended a match here in October 2010 and the opponent was English Premier League cellar dweller Wigan. It was lucky I bought the tickets a couple weeks in advance because the game sold out a week prior. You should definitely plan to book ahead, and far ahead if the opponent is a top tier team. You can book tickets on their official website.

 the oldest football stand
You can buy beer from the concession stands at Craven Cottage, but you cannot take it on “the pitch.” Obviously they do not want beer flung at players. So halftime was a log jam to get beers because people do not leave their seats during the action as there are no real breaks during play asides from when a serious injury occurs. Again, this is a major departure from American sports where constant breaks in action allows for continuous shuffling in the stands.

The day I attended, American star mid-fielder Clint Dempsey, who now plays for Tottenham Hotspur, scored the only 2 goals over lowly Wigan in a raucous 2-0 home victory for Fulham FC. It was a great day to attend as an American with a few scattered emphatic chants of “USA USA” bouncing around amid all the other noise.

 the oldest football stand
Craven Cottage is a throwback in time, sitting in the old wooden seats makes you feel like you could be watching a game in the 1940’s. I certainly didn’t feel like I missed out on a world class football experience, despite poor Wigan being the opponent.

5 thoughts on “Fulham’s Craven Cottage, The Oldest Football Stand in the World

  1. I’ve managed to see “football” matches in Sweden, Germany, Netherlands and Australia, but just could’t seem to make it work for the UK, so I’m very jealous.

    In Australia (going back about 5-6 years now, so it might have changed), they used to have a pretty decent bag search going on, but flares would still find their way in.

    I’m enjoying the writing and hopefully we’ll catch up sometime! (Probably in Melbourne? My next — and probably last for a very long time — trip to Europe is for less than 100 hours, and I’ll be sleeping most of that 🙂 )

    1. That’s cool you’ve seen football matches in so many countries Nicole. I’m also at 4. I saw a couple Olympic matches in the US in 1996, a couple matches in the Netherlands (including a champions league match), and a match in Spain over a decade ago in their Olympic stadium (though seeing FC Barcelona at Nou Campe would have been way cooler).

      We should be in Australia this spring so we’ll definitely catch up when we are there next! I saw Geelong-Carlton at the MCG last time, such a great venue. Went to the Australian Open tennis many years ago which was about the most fun I’ve ever had at a sporting event because of the company. Maybe I’ll shoot for a soccer match this time.

      Take it your coming back to Europe to defend your thesis. Best of luck with that! Wow, such a long ways to come for just 4 days. Anyways, look forward to catching you down unda!! 🙂

  2. Actually, thus is not the oldest surviving football stand. The football stand at Great Yarmouth football club in Wellesley Road was built in 1892.

    1. Thanks for clarifying, Michael. The Great Yarmouth stadium is just 3,600 seats though. Craven Cottage is over 24,000 these days. Upon publishing, Fulham was in the Premier League but have since been relegated. At the time, “oldest major football stand” may have been more appropriate to write.

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