St James’ Park has a capacity of 8,541, and is home to Exeter City. The two stands running along the side of the pitch, the WTS Stand and the Stagecoach Family Stand, are all-seated, but both ends of the ground are safe standing areas. The away end is the St James Road Terrace, while Pompey fans were also given a small number of seats at the end of the WTS Stand. There was an unusually poor atmosphere from the Pompey fans, and it is possible that this was due to the fans being split up.
The pitch looked in good condition, though that is to be expected early in the season. Another reason the pitch looked good is because Exeter didn’t fall victim to the torrential rain seen in other parts of the country, which was just as well seeing as the away end had no roof! Pompey didn’t sell out their whole terrace allocation, with there being around 100 places left, but there was a tight squeeze to get everyone in anyway, so that might have been for the best.
The away end is very old school, and people just stand on a series of steps, with a barrier about 5 yards from the advertising boards to stop fans getting too close to the pitch. Although there did not end up being a problem yesterday, it could be very uncomfortable to pack any more fans into the away end.
Another problem is the number of seats available for away fans. Many older supporters were forced to stand throughout the match, while young mobile supporters enjoyed a seat. Ideally, Exeter could install more seats in the away end to prevent this, but if not then the visiting club should think about letting older or less able fans to have priority for buying seated tickets.
I felt the pricing was slightly steep for seats, with it costing £22 for adults and £9.50 for under 18s. Terrace places, on the other hand, were very reasonable, and it cost £16 for adults and £4.50 for under 18s. The attendance was quite disappointing with their being 4,512 fans there, including 1,215 away supporters. This, however, was higher than the Grecians average attendance of 3,498 this season.
There was no atmosphere to speak of, but that was unsurprising seeing as the ground was just over half full. Also, a more exciting game might have encouraged the fans of both sides to create a better atmosphere.
There is a sports pub owned by the club which all fans are able to use, which shows live football and has about ten screens, allowing everybody to see what is happening. They showed live football both before and after the match, and I thought it was a really good way of diffusing any thoughts supporters might have had of making trouble.
The ground is very well supplied by public transport, with there being several car parks that can be used by supporters in the surrounding area, as well as a supporters’ coach park that has to be pre-booked. This is something that should be utilised by any supporters’ buses because, seeing as Exeter Chiefs rugby club play nearby, the city can be very crowded on Saturdays, and parking can be hard to come by.
There are also two train stations nearby. The stadium has its own station, St James’ Park, which is just five minutes walk away, but it means fans must take an additional train to get back to Exeter Central. The alternative is a 15 minute walk through the city centre, which will probably get fans on a train more quickly, directly to Exeter Central. This allows fans to go straight to Salisbury from Exeter, while allows them to get back to the South Coast. Whichever way fans choose to go, it is probably worth pre-booking their train ticket as buying it in advance can save them around £20.
The journey itself is a lot easier than it seems, as South Coast supporters can take a Southampton Central train to Fareham, change onto a Bristol Temple Meads train to Salisbury, before getting an Exeter St David’s train and getting off at the penultimate stop, Exeter Central. They then have the option of either walking to the ground or taking a train towards Exmouth to St James’ Park.
Overall, St James’ Park is probably one of the worst grounds I have been to in terms of the quality of the facilities, but the club seems to do the best it can with the small budget is has available. The pub, in particular, is a very good addition to the stadium and keeps fans entertained before and after the match.
It is very easy to get to by train, and the only real disappointment is the number of supporters who attend matches. Maybe if Exeter enjoy more success on the pitch their attendances might swell. If the prices for seats were decreased more fans might start to go to matches too. The away end – and the ground as a whole – could certainly do with some improvements but, if those improvements were made, I would definitely want to return there, as Exeter City seems to be a good family club.