Book Review – British Football’s Greatest Grounds: One Hundred Must-See Football Venues by Mike Bayly

Although published at the end of 2020, this book started its journey way back in 2013 emanating from an idea by Mike Bayly, who wanted to create, as he outlines in the Introduction, “a bucket list, a holy grail…of the top 100 British football grounds to visit”. He decided that the best way to determine this was to put the vote out to the general public via a blog, that was publicised by amongst others, The FA and the Football Supporters’ Federation as well as countless publications and podcasts.

The voting closed in January 2014 with the blog receiving nearly 16,000 visits from across the globe, eliciting nominations for over 300 grounds, from which the hundred must popular was formed. Bayly’s next task, and no mean feat given it was all done on public transport, was to visit the venues, which took him six years. This saw the self-confessed “football ground  enthusiast” travel across Britain, from the depths of south-west England, through the valleys of South Wales, to the extremities of north-east Scotland, taking in modern Premier League stadiums and amateur venues alike.

From these visits, and countless miles in all weathers, the author has created the text which accompany each chapter. These words provide an insight into the grounds history as well details about the club or clubs that played at the venue. This content is then complemented by page after page of stunning images of the venues from a range of photographers.

Griffin Park, former home of Brentford FC

However, this is not some ‘coffee-table book’ merely for decoration, this is an important work which records both a snapshot of a point in time, as well as a change in football venues as the game itself continues to evolve. This is acknowledged by the fact that in addition to the one hundred venues, there is a ‘ghost’ section, which details stadiums that were in use back in 2013 (and voted into the top 100), but have subsequently been decommissioned, including the former homes of Boston United, Brentford, West Ham United and York City. These wonderfully atmospheric, but now ‘lost’ grounds, illustrate the pressures that have come to bear on clubs and will continue to do so.

Nostalgia is no longer enough to ensure that clubs remain at a particular venue or retain historic stands and features, with economics now often at the heart of many decisions. For those non-league clubs either in the National League System pyramid or hoping to move into it, ground grading dictates what is needed, which can cause clubs to have to drastically modernise their facilities or in some cases even require a move from their historic home. Premier League clubs are not exempt either, as clubs trying to compete with those in larger stadiums and generating greater matchday revenue, look to increase their stadium capacity and update facilities, again either requiring major surgery to exiting venues or a move away.

So, savour while you can the venues listed.

This is a book to be enjoyed and absorbed – one that will have you eagerly turning the pages in anticipation, as each gem of a venue is uncovered. Whether your club is listed or not, this is a publication you will want to get hold of, to appreciate the varied glory of the most rudimentary venues through to the most modern facilities that there is to offer.


(Pitch Publishing Ltd. November 2020. Hardback 290 pages)


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Posted January 20, 2021 by Editor in category "Reviews

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