Pompey played against Crawley Town away last night at the Checkatrade.com Stadium. Personally, I was not impressed by the ground. As you can see from the picture above, the roof of one stand is held up by pillars every ten metres. This massively restricted the view I had, with the ball regularly going into ‘blind spots’ behind them. On top of that, much of the ground is safe standing, meaning that it is not particularly comfortable to watch the game. The away end in particular has very few seats. The only available seats are in the East Stand where some away fans can sit, right next to the corner flag. The rest of the away fans must stand behind the goal in the North Stand where it was almost completely full for Pompey and people had very little space to move around.
The ground has a capacity of 6,134, but only 4003 of those seats were filled against Pompey. Although the game was on a Tuesday night, that was a very poor attendance, especially as 1,706 of those were away fans. This was an awful turnout from the home fans, who were very quiet all game and it is simply embarrassing to almost be outnumbered by an away team. Crawley have only recently been promoted from non-league football, which may explain why the facilities seemed to be somewhat lacking. The pitch was in very good condition for the game, although you can’t really read into that because it is very early in the season. The roof of the East Stand was not a permanent structure the way most roofs are. It was somewhat like the covers that are put on pitches to protect them from rain, so waterproof enough but not the most beautiful thing to look at.
Around the ground, the stands were very low with only a small net over the top of them preventing the ball from going out of the ground. Several times during the game balls were lost over the top of the stands, causing stoppages in the game while a new ball was conjured up from somewhere. In terms of how everything was run, there was no serious problem. Besides the standard bag search and pat down that I always find unnecessary, everything worked very smoothly. In the away end the turnstile was operated by a person rather than a machine and there was somebody ensuring that nobody who had paid for a standing ticket went into the seated section of the ground. The speakers in the ground were audible, even if the stadium announcer wasn’t the most coherent person in the world. The only negative about how the stadium was run was that the stewards were placed so that they were blocking the view of people in the front row of the standing section. Although the stewards had to be in position to stop any trouble, it would have been useful if they had been on a stool so they weren’t blocking people’s view.
Despite the fact that Pompey had sold out their allocation of 1,500 tickets and Crawley had 2,000 free tickets, they refused to put tickets on sale to away fans, prompting many Pompey fans to buy tickets in the home end. However, if more tickets had been given to Pompey it could have led to both clubs earning more money from it and the ground being fuller and having a better atmosphere. The stadium was easily accessible by train, with a twenty minute walk between the ground and Crawley station, as well as there being a taxi rank on hand at the station. The food stalls were poorly run, leading to huge queues. There was also a lack of the basic food stuffs in demand by football fans. Although the stall was not lacking for sausage rolls, there wasn’t any hot vegetarian food and they were still waiting for their delivery of chips ten minutes before kick off. The prices were high, but that has come to be expected from football grounds and they were no worse than most other grounds I have been to.
In summary, the Checkatrade.com Stadium was acceptable, but in need of a revamp. For a side that was in League One last season, it is very poor, and the fans do not seem to come in numbers or make a hue amount of noise. It is faily well run and the pitch was in good condition, but it was barely Football League standard. It is easily accessible by train and easy to get in, but the view is restricted and a minimal amount of seating is on offer to away fans. All in all, I was not impressed by the ground and thought it made Fratton Park look like a palace!