The Estadio Benito Villamarin is the home ground of Spanish club Real Betis Balompié. A stadium resplendant in green and white, the proud colours of the club are symbolic of the the current flag of Andalusia which was adopted in 1918.
Real Betis were the product of a merger between two clubs in 1914 – Sevilla Balompie who had been formed in 1907 and Betis who came into being in 1909 following a split amongst members of Sevilla FC. The name Betis came about as a pointer to the Romans who invaded the region during the 2nd century BC. Baetis had been the Roman name for the Guadalquivir River when the settlement was known as Hispalis rather than the Seville we know today.
Home ground of Betis largely since its completion in 1929 the Benito Villamarin was originally known as El Estadio de Heliopolis. Over the years it has been through several name changes from Estadio de la Exposicion to the noted Estadio de Heliopolis and also the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera. In its earliest form it was an 18,000 capacity venue inaugurated with an international challenge match for Spain against Portugal on 17th March 1929.
In 1935 Betis won the championship title under ‘Don Patricio‘ its then manager Patrick O’Connell. Between 1931 and 1935 O’Connell managed Real Betis, at the time known as Betis Balompie. After leading them to the Segunda División title in 1932 he then guided Betis to their one and only La Liga title.
A street in the city centre of Seville is named after the club’s legendary manager and since 2017 a bust of the manager has existed within the stadium. But after the title win the Spanish Civil War left the club in turmoil and O’Connell left. By 1947 they were a Third Division team.
However, resurrection came thanks largely to President Benito Villamarin who reigned from 1957-1965 and masterminded the club’s purchase of the Heliopolis ground in 1961. Several refurbishments of the ground have occured and plans for the hosting the 1982 World Cup tournament in Seville began during the reign of Villarmarin in 1966. It was in this year that Spain was chosen as the host nation for the 1982 edition of the tournament by a FIFA committee in London, England.
During the 1970’s Betis shared the Sanchez Pizjuan with Sevilla while a new pitch was laid and new lighting was installed on the new tall, imposing triple decker main stand. Subsequently in 1982 two Group 6 world cup matches were hosted at the Betis stadium. These were the memorable Brazil v Scotland clash as well as Brazil v New Zealand.
After Espana 1982 the Estadio Benito Villamarin remained pretty much the same until Real Betis decided in 1998 to almost completely rebuilt the stadium. New stands were built on the north and eastern sides of the stadium which complemented the already three-tiered West Stand.
At the same time, the stadium was renamed the Estadio Manuel Ruiz de Lopera, after the then-owner of the club. Works, however stalled and the remaining single-tiered South Stand was left single-tiered. Like the Sanchez Pizjuan of Sevilla roofs were never installed.
After President Ruiz de Lopera had left the club in 2010, fans voted to reinstall the old Estadio Benito Villamarin title.
In 2015, a board decision was made to tear down the single-tiered South Stand and replace it with a new three-tiered stand to bring the ground in line with the rest of the stadium shape wise. Works started during the summer of 2016 and were completed in the summer of 2017. This raised the capacity to just over 60,000 seats.
With a capacity for 52,500 spectators it is the ninth-largest stadium in all of Spain and the second-largest in Andalusia, just behind the Olimpico de La Cartuja stadium. The legendary game between Spain and Malta, that ended in a 12-1 win and resulted in the Spanish team’s classification for the 1984 European Championships, was played in the stadium.
In 2005 the stadium hosted Champions League football with Betis as competitors.
Today the Benito Villarmarin both inside and out is vibrant with Andalusian identity and colour. Pointers to the city’s historic past and the evolution of the ground since the 1970’s remain. Meanwhile the route to the stadium shows evidence of the Iberian-American exhibition of the 30’s while facing the main stand across the car park on Calle Doctor Fleming are rows of typically Sevillian villas.
The Estadio Benito Villamarin is located in the south of the city of Seville, about 3 kilometres from the historic city centre. The stadium lies on the Avenida la Palmera, a large avenue which connects the stadium in one straight line with the central historic zone.