Elland Road has been home to 'league' football in Leeds from the beginning in 1905 and has been much a
part of the ups and downs of our great club than anything else. Elland Road has seen many changes over the
years and collected a few records of its own along the way. Known originally as the Old Peacock Ground
on account of the Old Peacock public house that faced the playing field. Elland Road, before becoming a
league football ground was home to Holbeck Rugby Club who bought the ground off of Bentleys brewery. The
first football game played there between Hunslet and Harrogate in the West Yorkshire Cup Final
saw an attendance of 3,400 people. Since, Elland Road has hosted and witnessed some memorable days and
nights. The ground has a long and proud history. Elland Road is not the biggest, or the most attractive
but certainly is one of the best.
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A Brief History |
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...The open grass field in Beeston, Leeds 11, situated at the side of the main road to the
neighbouring town of Elland, was owned by Bentley's Brewery and originally called the Old Peacock ground,
after the Old Peacock pub which faced the land. In 1897 Holbeck Rugby Club bought the ground from Bentley's
for £1,100, under the condition that it remained a football ground for at least seven years and that all
the catering rights should be held by Bentley's. Holbeck RC, despite a lack of labour, were able to build a
new stand for the upcoming season. Rugby was the dominant sport throughout the West Riding at the time,
but it didn't take long before association football, came a knocking at the doors of the ground, which by
now was known as simply Elland Road.|
23rd April 1898, saw an attendance of 3,400 watch Hunslet beat Harrogate 1-0 in the West Yorkshire Cup
Final at Elland Road. This proved to local football supporters and to the delighted football administrators,
that there was an appetite for football in the city of Leeds. By the season of 1902-03 the local side Leeds
Woodville of the Leeds League shared the ground with Holbeck. In 1904 however Holbeck went under due to losing
a play off against St Helens, which if they had won would have granted them a place
in division one of the Northern Union. As a result Elland Road was
put on the market.
It was in August of that year that a number of football supporters and other interested parties held a meeting
at the Griffin Hotel in Leeds. A number of these men had been behind the disbanded Hunslet Football Club. The
consequence of the meeting was that a new club should be formed and to be called Leeds City Association Football
Club and agreed that Elland Road should be rented to house the new Leeds City for the coming season. The lease
was signed on 13 October 1904 for a rent of £75 per year. The club had an option to buy the ground for £5,000
in March of 1905. Although when the lease was signed fully in November the price was reduced to £4,500.
Only 48 hours after the lease was signed, Leeds City played their first game at Elland Road on the 15th October.
Playing Hull in a friendly, City lost the game 2-0 but Elland Road had been christened. The City officials
were in a hurry to get things moving at Elland Road. They wanted league football and after some high profile
friendlies and City floated on the market, the football league granted them entry on 29 May 1905. After their
first season in the football league the Leeds officials built a new stand at Elland Road for £1,050. A
covered stand to hold 5,000 spectators was built on the West side of Elland Road.
Football was becoming the sport of choice for the people of Leeds. Leeds RL's gates had fallen by 50% in that
very first season, while Elland Road attendances were steadily rising. Over 22,500 crammed into Elland Road to
watch the local derby with Bradford on 30 December 1905, bringing in £487 worth of gate receipts. The expansion
continued. The club's directors made sure to build on this initial success and employed a ground committee to
oversee development of Elland Road. In February 1906 some 3,961 square yards of land on the Churwell and Geldard
Road side of the ground was bought from the Monk's Bridge Iron Company at a cost of £420, where the commitee
had plans to buld a Grand Stand. On 17 November the Lord Mayor, Joseph Hepworth opened the Grand Stand before
the Chelsea game. Costing £3,000 and seating 4,000 with over half a mile of steel used for the girders. It had a
training track for the players that ran the length of the stand, dressing rooms and officials rooms complete
with a motor garage. Even drainage work had been carried out on the turf to help cope with water logged
pitches. Elland Road had arrived. Four years later Elland Road held its first FA Cup Semi Final between between
Barnsley and Everton. Around 36,000 people were stuffed in Elland Road that day, too many people for an Elland
Road still in its early days.
In 1912 after City experienced financial hardships the reciever was called in after the bank decided to call in
a £7,000 overdraft. The clubs and Elland Road's future was cast in doubt. City treaded water until August 1914
when a syndicate of Leeds sportsmen stepped in. An offer of £1,000 plus a yearly £250 rent for Elland Road was
Even during the Great War, Elland Road had a part to play being used for army drilling and shooting
practice. The war ended in 1918 ready for the 1919-20 season, it was this season though when Leeds City were
expelled from the football league bringing more concerns for our Elland Road. Some business folk even had designs
on turning Elland Road into a brickyard. Making use of the rich clay deposits below the top soil of the pitch.
To this day there are wells sunk beneath the West Stand and Kop. But Yorkshire Amateurs who played there before
the creation of Leeds United saved the club from this. Keeping the ground exclusive to football until the
arrival of Leeds United.
The advent of Leeds United brought with it big changes for Elland Road. During the 1920's The Elland Road
terrace was covered with a wooden barrel shaped roof that stretched the length of the stand, called the Scratching Shed, now popularly known as the South Stand. Another stand was built on the terracing that ran the entire
length of the pitch down the East side of the ground, called The Lowfields, now known as the East Stand and
to the North of the Scratching Shed behind the goal stood a huge terrace known as the Spion Kop. The name
coming from a hill in South Africa. During the Boer War 322 British soldiers lost their lives on the hill
and many football teams named their stands after Spion Kop hill in tribute to the fallen men. Many fans still
refer to the end as 'The Kop' but the name was officially changed and called The Revie Stand, in honour of
Don Revie Leeds United's greatest ever manager.
Further into the 1920's and Elland Road was certainly making an impression, the football association had
decided it was good enough to stage further England trial games. Previously football administrators had
chosen Elland Road to stage an England trial match in 1906 and an amateur international against Ireland in
1909, as a reward to Leeds for making an impression in rugby dominated West Yorkshire. Unfortunately though
on 19 February 1923 one of the scheduled games had to be called off because the pitch was under six inches
Into the 1930s and 40's and no significant changes were made to the structures at Elland Road. Although it did
see some significant attendances. In 1938 Elland Road was chosen to host the Rugby Championship Final between
Leeds and Hunslet, where a crowd of 54,112 watched the game. It was six years previous though when a record
was set that would last for 35 years. Leeds United took on Arsenal at Elland Road on 27 December 1932 watched
by an attendance of 56,796. Ironically the last game of that season saw Leeds play Middlesborough at Elland
Road and the crowd was just 9,006.
Into the 1950's and it kicked off with Leeds acting as charitable neighbours, after Huddersfield Town's main
stand was destroyed by fire. Huddersfield played two games at Elland Road over the Easter period attracting
a crowd of 37,700 for the second. Unbelievably it was in the same decade when Leeds United suffered the same
fate. It was on 18 September 1956, when a huge fire swept through the West Stand at Elland Road, with such a
ferocity that it scorched large sections of the Elland Road Pitch. The fire had started in the early hours
and consumed the entire structure, taking with it the offices, kits, the club records, physio equipment,
the dressing rooms, directors' rooms and press box. Just a black skeleton of twisted metal was all
that remained of the West Stand. The local fish and chip shop owner Arnold Price first rasied the alarm
but it was too late, nothing at all could be saved. The roofing had already collapsed into the seats before
the fire brigade arrived. The damage was estimated at £100,000 and the clubs insurance at the time wasn't
enough to cover costs. After the rubble was cleared it was evident the stand was not salvageable. It was
decided after a meeting that the directors, would launch an appeal to build a new stand, with added assistance
from the Leeds City Council. Ultimately £60,000 was raised by the appeal and at the start of season 1957-58
a new West Stand, at a cost of £180,000, was ready for the new season. The new West Stand had 4,000 seats
mounted behind a paddock which could house a further 6,000 standing. Tickets for the seated area went for
7s 6d each and it was money well spent as Leeds beat Liecester 2-1, a fine way to break the new stand in.
Lightning almost struck twice, when two years later, after the Central League game with Preston, another
fire started at Elland Road and again in the West Stand. Luckily this time Cyril Williamson the club secretary
and several several directors did the job of firemen putting the fire out early, with hoses. No significant
damage was done.
Also in the 50's saw the first floodlit game at Elland Road. On 9 November 1953 Hibernian visited Elland Road
in a friendly, a game that saw the turn on, of the most expensive floodlights in the league. The floodlights
cost Leeds £7,000.
The sixties saw the arrival of Don Revie as manager and with that success, bigger attendances and more
revenue for Leeds United. Great advances were made on the stadium during Revie's reign and also an attendance
record which still stands today. On the 15 Mar 1967 Leeds played Sunderland in a fifth round replay of the
FA Cup. The game was played after only four days of the initial tie at Roker Park, which didn't give enough
time for any tickets to be printed and distributed and so the game was not officially recognised as an all
ticket game. This resulted in a crowd of 57,892, some 5,000 over a normal all ticket capacity. Also thousands
of fans were locked outside and some even climbed on to the roofs of the stands, to try and catch a
glimpse of the action. Inside the ground and near disastor,
as one of the steel and concrete crush barriers situated on the Lowfields, gave way under the pressure. Around
1,000 spectators spilled on to the pitch, as the police and ambulance crew on duty, tended to the injured. 32
people were rushed to hospital but thankfully no one was seriously injured.
It was in the sixties when
Elland Road hosted its first ever televised game. On 20 March 1965 Leeds played Everton in the league beating
them 4-1. A game later that evening that was enjoyed by millions, who tuned into the BBC's Match Of The Day,
football highlights programme.
Towards the end of April in 1968 the old Spion Kop terracing was stripped away, in no less than six weeks and in
its place was built the new Kop complete with roof. The new Kop known as the
Gelderd End cost Leeds £250,000 and when completed it left around 60 feet of spare land behind the goal. The
commitee simply ordered the land to be turfed and with that the Elland Road pitch moved 30 feet North.
Since football began at Elland Road there had been little attention paid to the playing area. Apart from the
regular maintenance of the groundsman, which although was up to scratch was not enough to stop the pitch
turning into a mud bath after every bad, wet weather period. In November 1969 the Leeds officials considered
using a tentative pitch cover. This idea was scrapped however and later Leeds employed the services of the
Sports Turf Research Institute from Bingley. The pitch was reseeded and the playing area progressed to be one
of the finest pitch surfaces in the country. Even more pitch improvements was made later with the installation
of underground heating. Installed in a fight against bad weather which would result in games getting called off.
No less than 59 miles of piping are circling under the Elland Road pitch as a result. Keeping turf in prime
condition, throughout most bad weather periods. It is said now that only a blizzard, fog or flood could get a
game called off at Elland Road. There is a well under Elland Road, which means Leeds can, if needed, pump their
own water and later a pumping system was installed under the South Stand
Further imprvements in 1970 included the coupling of the West Stand and the Kop with a £200,000 corner stand
simply known as the North West corner and to compliment that an almost identical corner stand in the North
East saw another corner stand built. This linked the Lowfields and the Kop, coming in at another £200,000.
Don Revie who was rather superstitious, went one further on his badge changing exercise. In 1971 he acquired the
services of a gypsy to lift a curse from Elland Road. Revie was convinced there must be some sort of curse on
Elland Road, probably that had been laid on the ground before football was played there. Leeds United had
been suffering from some cruel tricks of fortune and Revie thought he had the answer.
Leeds stepped further into the commercial world in 1972 when the well stocked Leeds United Sports and Souvenir
Shop was opened that at a later date would feature a generously stocked programme collection.
1974 saw the dismantling of the old but popular Scratching Shed and was replaced by the South Stand for £500,000.
The South Stand at the time was state of the art, with a standing paddock at the front capable of
holding 4,000 fans. Above that an all seater stand housed 3,500 seats. There was plans to link the South Stand
with the Lowfields as well, but this commission was cut short when Leeds ran out of money. Also in 1974 saw
a feature that made Elland Road one of the easiest places to find. The old floodlights were replaced by
the highest floodlights in Europe, constructed at a whopping 260 feet tall. Initially three floodlights were erected. Two at either side of the
Kop and the other in the South West corner. The other was put up four years later. The diamond shaped lights
could have been seen for miles around and each housed 55 lamps.
The late seventies saw Elland Road go through an unpleasant period. Crowd trouble during a FA Cup game with Manchester City
in 1978, was bad enough to force the FA to ban Leeds from staging an FA Cup tie at Elland Road,
a ban that lasted three years. And in 1979 the South
Stand was closed down for a period due to missiles thrown on the pitch in a match against Manchester City.
Later the same season the Kop is closed down for two games after objects were thrown on the pitch in a match
against Nottingham Forest.
Into the 80's with Elland Road and Leeds recieved record reciepts of £346,483 for the FA Cup semi final between
West Ham United and Everton on 10 April 1980. The record game involving Leeds was against Barcelona,
in the European Cup semi-final, in April 1975, fetching £90,000. The record European attendance at Elland Road was the fixture
between Leeds and Rangers in the 1968 Fairs Cup quarter-final. 50,498 packed into Elland Road for that one.
Football and indeed sport was not exclusive to Elland Road. It was in 1982 that the supergroup Queen played at
Elland Road in front of a packed audience. Three years later and the first game televised live from Elland Road
is played. 4 January 1985 saw the current FA Cup holders Everton take on Leeds with a television audience of
millions watching the action as it happened.
It was in the summer of 1985 when Leeds sold the ground to the council for £2.5m, with the council granting the
club a 125 year lease. Ambitious plans to improve the stadium and neighbouring sporting facilities followed.
In 1987 a Newcastle based firm of architects, estimated costs between £50 million and £75 million to re-build
the Lowfields with a 7,500 all seater stand and construct a peripheral 2,000 all seated sports stadium, that
would sit at the side of the stand. Other plans for the stadium complex also included a shopping centre, ice
rink, cricket hall, cinema, nightclub, café, restaurant, water park, leisure centre and shops. Though none of
the designs were acted on and that particular development proposal became a thing of the past.
The eighties was also the decade that Rugby League made a return
to Elland Road. New Hunslet's ground at the nearby greyhound stadium had been demolished and for some time,
New Hunslet shared Elland Road with Leeds. Complete with their flag waving above the gates, outside the South
West corner and even locating their own souvenier shop in an office space that was attached to the West Stand.
American Football also made a brief appearance when The Leeds Cougars, members of the British American Football
League switched from thier old ground of Bramley to play at Elland Road in May 1986. The very next year though
they had to move off, because extra work needed doing to the ground. Another rock concert in 1987 at Elland Road,
when U2 played to a packed house. The singer Bono actually called himself a Leeds fan during the concert.
Two weeks after that saw 15,000 Jehovah's Witnesses make their way to Elland Road for a three day convention.
In 1988-89 the South Stand was improved further where an additional 16 executive boxes were built, attached
to a restaraunt and the Lowfields and South Stand terracing was linked which provided a section for visiting
Finally in September 1991 The South East corner was built attaching the South Stand and the Lowfields Stand
together. This provided a full corner stand for the away support. It was also used as the family stand for a
time, but the member swell proved to big for the stand so they found a new home in the East stand at a later
corner stand stands out today because of the yellow seats. It is now commonly known as the cheese wedge. 1992
saw the bulldozers drive up to Elland Road, to help make way for the biggest development ever at Elland Road.
The Lowfields was to be replaced by the new East Stand. A mammoth all seated stand with two tiers. When completed
in 1993 at a cost of £5.5m, it boasted 25 extra Executive Boxes, a 10,000 all seated bottom tier to house
the Family Stand members with a total capacity of over 17,000 all seated and another record for Elland Road
as the East Stand is the biggest cantilever stand in the world. In the close season of 1994 saw 7,000 seats
added to the Kop, making Elland Road an all seated stadium, as directed by the Justice Taylor Report. The new
look Kop was officially opened in October by the President of the club, Lord Harewood and Mrs E Revie the late
Don Revie's widow. The Gelderd End was renamed after the great manager himself and the stand is now known as
the Revie Stand. Another record broken, Elland Road hosts another FA Cup semi with Tottenham playing Everton on
9 April, bringing in a new record of gate receipts worth £1,006,000.
1996 and Euro 96 came to Leeds, as Elland Road was chosen to stage Group B of the qualifying
rounds, hosting Spain, Romania, France and Bulgaria. With that came changes around the ground, including
vast parking improvements and greater availablity to bus shelters.
Sadly the late nineties also saw the death of one Leeds United's all time greats. If not the greatest. It was
in December 1997 when Billy Bremner died after a heart attack. The club in honour of Bremner erected a statue
outside Elland Road at the South East corner.
It was in 1998 when Leeds got the ground
back. The new owners Leeds Sporting agreed to pay £10m to buy back the stadium from Leeds City Council.
In 2001 a concentrated effort by Leeds Sporting (PLC) was made, to either move the club from Elland Road or
stay and refurbish the existing Elland Road. In August 2001 the PLC to help decide the decision sent out a
letter explaining their plan and a ballot, to all current season ticket holders and shareholders.
It is hardly surprising
that the fans voted to move from Elland Road. The letter by no means neutral, suggested that if we stayed
at Elland Road we would lose money, that any improvements at Elland Road would be 'piecemeal' and finally
that it would be less costly to move, than to stay and refurbish Elland Road. Next came the carrot, with the
promise of a brand new 50,000 state of the art stadium, which could be built without interfering with David
O'Leary's (the then manager) transfer funds. Just over 13% of us voted to stay at Elland Road.
Of the 18,500 club shareholders and ticket holders who voted, 87.6% were in favour of the move.
"I am overwhelmed by the amount of people who are in favour of this move. I thought it would be a lot closer
than that," said Ridsdale.
Luckily for us
and for Elland Road the plans never came to fruition. Ridsdale the figurehad of the PLC resigned in 2003
leaving his 'dream' in financial tatters and the PLC were soon to follow in March 2004. Taking with them the
crooks that nearly brought Leeds United to an end.
Unfortunately the legacy they left, was a Leeds United that was on the brink of financial ruin. Adulent Force
who although helped save the club from administration, still found it necessary to again sell Elland Road and
this time the Thorpe Arch training ground as well. To lease back in another sell and lease arrangement.
Leeds had no alternative but to use their most bankable asset, Elland Road, to save the club.
After February 2004, when one of the great legends of the game and Leeds star John Charles died, the fans
demanded a tribute to the man. The West Stand was re-named The John Charles Stand in his honour.
In the Summer of 2006 the South Stand undergoes re-development which forces the club to close the stand
to fans for the first few games of the 2006-07 season. The refurb includes new sidings that box in the former
concrete columns and alcoves giving the stand a more modern exterior. An overhall of the kitchen concourse
area, a new mezzanine level office area, a total modernisation of the corporate facilities above and
the Billy's Bar And Brasserie, named after Billy Bremner which is open to the public seven days a week.
A brand new big screen was installed at the South West Corner fresh for the start of the 2009-10 season. The screen is a Phillips Vidiwall and is sponsored by Ringways it provides pre-match entertainment including interviews, highlights from previous seasons, team news, replays, the score, score time and post match highlights of the days game.
March 2011 and work started on a multi million five phase redevelopment of the East Stand. The redevelopment once finished will include 24 new executive boxes, three new hospitality suites, a brand new reception area and lifts, New dining and kitchen facilities, a general spectator upper concourse, a reception area and a Leeds Unite Museum.
February 2012 and thousands of United fans turn up at Elland Road to see Don Revie return home. An eight foot bronze statue of the Don was unveiled and situated opposite the East Stand. The statue created by sculptor Graham Ibbeson was a result of a tremendous fundraising effort by Leeds United fans throughout the world.
Up to present, this is just about where Elland Road is today. Not the biggest, indeed not the most
but certainly one of the best.