The Stand – A Brief History



  1. have or maintain an upright position, supported by one’s feet.
  2. (of an object, building, or settlement) be situated in a particular place or position.


  1. a rack, base, or piece of furniture for holding, supporting, or displaying something

When you buy a ticket for a football fixture the piece of paper we once obtained in return for the transaction – ‘the ticket’ – is generally no longer.

These days, more often that not, its an electronic missive stored to a android mobile phone App that is what you get. It is scanned at point of entry allowing access to whatever stand you have bought access to.

The ticket whether in paper form or electronic tells you where you are sitting, the row, the section, the block and the number of the seat.

Then there is the Grandstand – the special designated space and place from where you watch proceedings and which forms part of the larger stadium or sports ground. And in some grounds there are stands of all types from those fit for only a welcome to VIP’s (enclosure Royale) to the simple construct where from the common fan watches on.

The cheap seats. Curva Nord, Curva Sud, Railway End, Jail End, School End the names are countless.

Early Days

Although much of ancient Roman life revolved around negotium (work and business), there was also time available for otium (leisure). Various forms of entertainment were enjoyed by Romans in ancient times and the idea of watching on was not that much different from that which exists today.

Rome’s most famous amphitheater, the Colosseum was effectively a stand that could accommodate up to 50,000 spectators. It was a place that hosted people in sections – people whom wanted to watch a spectacle or event.

The Greeks brought us the horseshoe-styled stadium so it is fair to say that it was generally the Greek and Roman civilizations who started it all.

Various other ancient civilizations in Asia and South America must have built stadia of a type. The concept of the Royal Box existed in 1600’s but it was a stand fit purely for Kings or Queens or via royal patronage only.

During the middle ages and up to the mid 1880’s very few sports stadia or arenas were constructed.

Spectator sport that existed was an open air event even up to early 1870’s or something that only the rich or privileged i.e. from the Royal Box could enjoy such as horse racing or cricket.

Lord’s Cricket Ground in London started taking shape in 1787 but a grandstand of 30ft high did not take shape until 1867. This in effect was a Royal Box for the privileged complete with a private box for the Prince of Wales.

1872 Hamilton Crescent

The very first football international in Glasgow held in November 1872 was watched by many upper echelons of society – academics, medical practitioners and lawyers but most of the fans stood being a rope that was wrapped around the perimeters of the playing field.

However this game was not even played at a football stadium. Hamilton Crescent was home to the West of Scotland Cricket Club – a cricket ground.

What ‘stands’ existed at Hamilton Crescent were in effect grassy banks that provided an elevated view of the field.

It is fair to say then that the stands that we know today have roots in cricket or horse racing watching.

Pavilions were where players changed and got ready were cricket concepts. Once the participants were ready those watching moved in using the pavilion for shelter and warmth.

Royal enclosures – the ‘posh seats’ came about as a result of horse racing.

The first football grounds with stands emerged out of cricket pitches. Businesses also quickly realized that early stands – wooden constructions – could be used to house fans whom could be charged an entry fee namely the ticket.

Moreover, the sides of stands (largely wooden) could be used to advertise business.

The first major development in purpose built stands came about in England and in Greece.

With large numbers of people increasingly watching football in the Victorian era constructs had to be built to host. Likewise in Greece a modern revival of the previous Panathenaic Stadium was created for the Olympic Games of 1896.

Design was meeting business.

By the 1900’s the existence of stands was common place at sports venues.

The first 50 years of the 20th Century saw a combination of materials start to be used to bring shape to stadium construction. These materials included wood, concrete, quarried stone and steel.

As stadiums became bigger so did then did the need for more complex stands.

The distinct delineation between luxury seats for those who govern and ‘the rest’ started in ancient Rome and has never really gone away.

Before the modern era the greatest single boom to stadium development occurred in the 1950’s.

With attendances reaching unprecedented levels so new building projects emerged as did design ideation. Large stands began to be built and while piece meal design and patching up was the norm long term strategic planning was not that far away.

Today, many new stadiums are simply not located in the locations of yesterday. The railway has ceased to become as important to the presence of stands as it once did. Its more likely a new stadium will be adjacent to an airport or a retail park or a dual carriageway rather than a railway station.

It is often the case that that most successful stadiums have the least spectacular architecture and the most basic of stands. Spectacular roofs and lighting systems are all well and good in this technology age but most clubs simply cannot afford to build them.

The small, compact and purpose built is still the norm.

The concept of the football stadium as a community sports hub is becoming more and more common each passing decade.

With the advancement of technology sliding doors, sliding roofs, retractable pitches and moving stands have went from being conceptual ideas to reality.

But the simple still exists just like it did in more ancient times.