Cricket at the Lane
Bramall Lane opened as a cricket ground in 1855, having been leased by Michael Ellison from the Duke of Norfolk at an annual rent of £70. The site was then away from the town’s industrial area, and relatively free from smoke. It was built to host the matches of local cricket clubs and originally had six clubs playing there. It was managed by an umbrella organisation for these clubs; the Sheffield United Cricket Club.
Bramall Lane opened on 30 April 1855 as a cricket ground with a match between “The Eleven” and “The Twenty Two”, The Eleven, despite being the senior team, lost by an innings and 28 runs.
Although the first county game had been played eight years earlier, the official Yorkshire County Cricket Club was not formed until 1863. The idea came from Ellison, who was using his own finances to support the club, in order to improve Bramall Lane’s financial position as the county’s headquarters. It was the club’s headquarters until 1893, when they moved to Headingley in Leeds.
In 1897, Jack Brown and John Tunnicliffe recorded a first wicket score of 378 against Sussex—a ground record that has never been beaten. Brown’s score of 311 and Yorkshire’s innings of 681 for 5 declared were also records when the cricket ground closed. Other notable scores include the 681–5 declared Yorkshire scored against Sussex in 1897, the 582 for 7 declared they piled up against Surrey in 1935 and the 579 posted against the touring South Africans in 1951. 6 other scores in excess of 500 were made. In contrast there were a host of scores under 100, mainly in the 19th century, although Derbyshire’s paltry total of 20 in 1939 remains the lowest ever score. Nottinghamshire were dismissed for 24 in 1888 but Kent showed the Yorkshire batsmen up in 1865, bowling them out for 30. Many of the low totals were made on rain affected, uncovered wickets.
The ground hosted a single Test match in 1902, against Australia, which England lost by 143 runs. Australia won the game by 143 runs thanks to a century by Clem Hill and the bowling of Saunders and Noble, who both took 5 wickets in England’s first innings of 145 and Noble and Trumble who took 6 and 4 wickets respectively to bowl the home team out for 195 second time around. The defeat was blamed on the poor light at the ground; a product of smoke emitted by local factories. Attendances were poor, and the experiment was never repeated.
In addition Jack Brown’s triple century 10 double centuries were scored on the ground, Sir Len Hutton scored unbeaten two double tons, an 280* against Hampshire in 1939 and 271* against Derbyshire in 1937. W Barber posted 255 against Surrey in 1935 while the great Indian batsman VS Hazare scored 244 not out for the Indian tourists in the first season after World War Two.
Among many notable partnerships W Barber and Maurice Leyland amassed 346 for the second workcet against Middlesex in 1932 and the aforementioned VS Hazare and Vinoo Mankad put on 322 for the Indians against Yorkshire for the 4th wicket in 1946. Only one century was scored in list A one day cricket at Bramall Lane, John Hampshire‘s 108 against Nottinghamshire in 1970 in the Sunday League.
Three bowlers took all ten wickets in an innings at Bramall Lane, the feat being more common in the annals of first class cricket than many imagine. The great Australian leg spinner Clarrie Grimmett took 10 for 37 for the tourists in 1930 while TF Smailes took all 10 for 47 for Yorkshire against Derbyshire in 1939. G Wootton took 10 for 54 for an All England Eleven v Yorkshire in 1865 while 9 other bowlers took 9 wickets in an innings there, including a haul of 9 for 12 by the great Yorkshire slow left armer Hedley Verity.
The best match bowling figures at the ground, 16 for 114, were recorded by G Burton of Middlesex against Yorkshire in 1888 while Hedley Verity took an incredible 15 for 38 against Kent in 1936. Len Braund took 15 for 71 for Somerset in 1902 while the immortal W. G. Grace showed his youthful talent with the ball with a haul of 15 for 79 for Gloucestershire in 1872.
D Hunter of Surrey dismissed caught 5 batsmen and stumped another in one innings in 1891 while Yorkshire stalwart Jimmy Binks completed 5 dismissals in an innings 3 times.
The two ends of the ground were known as the Pavilion End and the Football Ground End. Between 1863 and 1973, Yorkshire played 391 first class matches, including 339 County Championship matches at Bramall Lane. Yorkshire’s last match at the ground took place on 4, 6 and 7 August 1973, a drawn game against Lancashire. The construction of the South Stand began soon after, over the cricket square, finally enclosing the football pitch on all four sides. Yorkshire’s cricket games in Sheffield moved to Abbeydale Park.
Football at the Lane
As Sheffield’s main sporting stadium it held all the most important local matches. The world’s first football tournament, the Youdan Cup, held its final at Bramall Lane in March 1867 with Hallam beating Norfolk. This was followed by the Cromwell Cup a year later, which was won by a newly formed team called The Wednesday. By 1877, a crowd of 8,000 watched The Wednesday beat Hallam in the Sheffield Challenge Cup. Bramall Lane effectively became The Wednesday’s permanent home between 1880 and the opening of their new stadium at Olive Grove in 1887.
The first inter-association match, between the FA (often referred to as the London FA) and Sheffield FA, was also held at Bramall Lane on 2 December 1871. It was won 3-1 by the home side, who also arranged a number of games with other Associations including regular fixtures against Glasgow.
On 22 March 1889, six days after 22,688 people paid to watch the FA Cup semi-final between Preston North End and West Bromwich Albion, it was decided to create a home football team to play at Bramall Lane. It was named Sheffield United after the cricket team.
Bramall Lane was regularly used for international matches before the construction of a national stadium in London. The worlds first ever floodlit football match took place at Bramall Lane on 14 October 1878 in front of an attendance of 20,000. England’s match against Scotland on 10 March 1883 was the first match between these two countries outside London or Glasgow. It makes it the oldest football venues still capable of hosting international matches in the world.
|4 October 1883||England||2–3||Scotland||Friendly|
|5 February 1887||England||7–0||Ireland||British Home Championship|
|29 April 1889||England||4–0||Wales||British Home Championship|
|4 April 1903||England||1–2||Scotland||British Home Championship|
|20 October 1930||England||5–1||Ireland||British Home Championship|
- 1855: The ground at Bramall Lane built for cricket.
- 1878: First floodlit game played between “Reds” and “Blues”
- 1896: A new John Street Stand built with room for 6000 both seated and standing.
- 1897: A new Shoreham Street Stand built.
- 1900: A new cricket pavilion built.
- 1901: Cycle track removed.
- 1911: Roof added to the Bramall Lane End.
- 1935: Roof added to the Kop. Running track built in front of John Street Stand.
- 1940: The ground damaged in Sheffield Blitz. John Street was badly affected and the Kop roof damaged.
- 1953: Floodlights installed.
- 1966: Bramall Lane Stand opened.
- 1975: South Stand opened.
- 1981: Cricket pavilion demolished.
- 1991: Seats installed in Kop.
- 1994: John Street demolished. Seats added to lower tier of Bramall Lane End.
- 1995: New pylon-less floodlights installed.
- 1996: New John Street Stand opened.
- 2001: New corner stand holding 1,000 fans opened between shoreham st & John street.
- 2002: Blades Enterprise Centre is built between John Street and Bramall Lane.
- 2005: Wooden seats removed from South Stand.
- 2006: New corner opens between Cherry Street and Bramall Lane. Bramall Lane end cantilevered.
- 2008 : New hotel built on the corner of the south stand and Bramall lane end.
The ground today
The ground has been an all-seater stadium since 1994 and is now made up of four main stands and two corner infill stands in the North-East and South-West corners. The North-West corner (as well as a lot of the land under the John Street Stand) contains the Blades Enterprise Centre, and the South-East corner is still open, although there are plans to fill it with seating as part of the strategy to build a leisure complex at the back of the South Stand.
Bramall Lane Stand
Now sponsored by Halliwell’s, this is the oldest existing stand at Bramall Lane, this two-tiered structure was opened in 1966 behind the goal at the Bramall Lane end, opposite the Kop. From the 2006–2007 Premiership Campaign, the bottom tier is occupied by away fans whilst the upper tier, which links into the South-West corner infill stand, is given to home fans (although part of the upper tier may be offered to away fans for cup fixtures if demand is sufficient). This is in contrast to previous seasons, when away fans had the upper tier (and hence the best view in the ground) much to the annoyance of home fans. During the 2005–2006 season, the outside of the Bramall Lane Stand was reclad in red-and-white, with the stand sponsors and the club crest on the outside of the stand, while the wooden seats of the upper tier were replaced with newer plastic seats with the words “BLADES” written into them. When the corner infill stand was built during the closed season, the roof over the Bramall Lane Stand was extended toward the pitch to provide better cover for the lower tier and to remove the supporting pillars from the upper tier. There are approximately 2700 seats in the upper tier, and 2990 in the lower, giving a total capacity of 5680. This stand has for many years housed a basic LCD scoreboard and clock between the upper and lower tiers, however at the start of the 2006–2007 season both were replaced by a modern colour video scoreboard.
The South Stand
The South Stand is also known as the “Main Stand”, however some fans still refer to it as the “Laver Stand” (after the stand’s long-term sponsors in the 1990s) or even the “New Stand” by many older fans since there was no stand on the South end of the pitch until 1975, where previously it was used as the cricket pitch‘s outfield. Opened in August 1975, the South Stand is situated alongside the pitch and is for home fans who wish to have a side-view when watching the match (the John Street Stand is for families only). During the 2005–2006 season, this stand was renovated, with a re-clad of the outside of the stand and the old wooden seats replaced by newer plastic seats forming an emblem of two swords written. The box-seats were also upgraded, and it was named the Global Windows Stand in a sponsorship deal, although from the season 2007–2008 the club has gained sponsorship from an Australian property development company resulting in this stand being renamed the “Valad stand”. This stand holds approximately 7,500 fans, and most of the ground’s amenities, including the Box office, newly expanded and renovated for the 2006–2007 season Blades Superstore, Platinum Suite, “Legends of the Lane” museum, “1889” award winning restaurant (formerly known as Bosworth’s of Bramall Lane), the former police control centre (now relocated to the Blades Enterprise Centre between the Bramall Lane and John Street Stands), newly refurbished reception, Press box, players entrance, administrative offices and television gantry attached to the roof of the stand.Plans have been made to add a extra tier of 6,000 seats. No time scale has been set.
The Kop Stand
Seated since 1991, this is the area in which the most boisterous home fans sit, such that former assistant manager (1999–2003) and now manager (2008–present) Kevin Blackwell named the noise coming from this stand as the “Bramall Roar” after the 2003 play-off semi-final second-leg against Nottingham Forest, which the Blades won 4–3, coming from 0–2 down. The stand is currently sponsored by Fraser Property and, was formally sponsored by Hallam FM. The stand itself is built into a hillside situated behind the goal, at the east end of the stadium. This places the stand along Shoreham Street, hence the often-heard chant of “Hello! Hello! We are the Shoreham Boys” coming from this stand on matchdays. It has the club’s initials “SUFC” written into the seats, and holds 10,221 fans, making this the largest stand at Bramall Lane. The facilities are of lower quality in the Kop because there is no indoor concourse, although an outdoor bar was completed in September 2007 to complement the fast-food takeaway, but in spite of this it is still a firm favourite amongst the fans, and usually full on matchday. At a Shareholders meeting in November 2007 the club announced that it intends to expand the Kop by 3,500 ( making it the largest ‘kop’ in the country ) and to upgrade all the facilities and cover the concourse areas. Work is now scheduled to start before the Summer of 2010.
John Street Stand
The John Street stand, completed in 1996, is used as a family enclosure for home fans and is situated along the north side of the pitch, boasting great views of the playing action. Sponsored by the Maltese Tourist Board , in a combined stand and shirt sponsorship deal, it has the word “BLADES” written in the seats, and holds just under 7000 fans. This is also where the home disabled supporters may sit. The stand is home to a small club shop as well as the Marstons & Malta Executive Suites and the newly opened “Tunnel Bar”. There is also a row of 31, individual executive boxes with private facilities and their own balconies along the back of the stand.
Also called the Northeast Corner or Evolution Corner after its sponsorship deal, this stand was completed in 2001 and is between the Kop and the John Street stand. It is fully linked to the John Street Stand, and is also used as a family enclosure holding around 900 fans (after the installaton of new restricted-view seats after the 2006–07 campaign. The plans for the redevelopment and extension of the Kop also show a row of executive boxes running behind this corner stand
Westfield Health Stand
Also known as the “new” corner infill, this stand is in the South-West corner of the stadium, between the Bramall Lane Stand and the South Stand and is sponsored by Westfield Health. It is linked to the Bramall Lane stand (upper tier), sharing its facilities, turnstiles and exits. It is always used by home fans, and reputedly has the best views of the ground, although season tickets are not available in this stand. The stand holds approximately 2000 fans.
Blades Enterprise Centre
The North-West corner is filled in by rentable offices, known as the Blades Enterprise Centre, one of many examples of United diversifying their off-the-field activities to maximise income streams. The Enterprise centre provides office space for smaller and new companies in the block between the John Street and Bramall Lane stands, and also underneath the John Street stand itself. Built in 2002, the facility is highly successful, and is the only business location in Sheffield to be signposted from the train station. The club intend to build another much larger business centre in between the Kop stand and South stands with work to begin during the Summer 2008. However this has been delayed.
Current and ongoing work
The stadium has an enviable central location close to the city centre. In order to maximise the earnings potential of the land around the stadium in June 2007 work began to build a 158 bedroomed 4 star Millennium and Copthorne Hotel behind the new Westfield stand. The new hotel is scheduled to open its doors in November 2008.
At the Shareholders meeting in November 2007 the club announced that it intends to extend the back of the Kop stand with an additional 3,200 seats and remove the pillars holding up the roof. As the revised stand capacity is likely to be about 13,400, it will overtake Anfield to become the largest single tiered Kop stand in British football.
The club also plan a major upgrade to the Kop facilities and covering of the concourse areas. The club is conscious of creating non football related income streams therefore they also plan to build student accommodation at the back of the Kop and a large business centre (office block) between the Kop and South stand. A planning application is to be submitted in October 2008 with work scheduled to begin during the back end of the 2008/09 season. However this has been delayed.
In the same meeting the club announced that its long term ambitions are to add an additional 6,000 seats to the main South (Valad) Stand with the intentions of taking the overall stadium capacity to just over 44,000, however this expansion would depend on demand in the Premiership and any potential 2018 World Cup venue bid. United PLC Chairman Kevin McCabe has stated that he would build Bramall Lane’s extensions to any specifications laid down by the FA with a view to the ground hosting matches should England be successful in winning their World Cup bid. However on 16 December 2009, the FA announced that Hillsborough Stadium (home of rivals Sheffield Wednesday) would be Sheffield’s venue in the event that a World Cup is awarded to England and Sheffield is named a host city.
The record attendance stands at 68,287 for the Sheffield United v Leeds United F.A. Cup fifth round tie, played on 15 February 1936.
Average league attendances
- This is the average league attendances stretching back over ten years for Sheffield United home matches at Bramall Lane. Sheffield United away games and any home cup matches are excluded. For more details on this topic, see Sheffield United F.C. seasons.
- 1998–1999: 16,243
- 1999–2000: 13,718
- 2000–2001: 17,211
- 2001–2002: 18,020
- 2002–2003: 20,069
- 2003–2004: 21,646
- 2004–2005: 19,594
- 2005–2006: 23,650
- 2006–2007: 30,684
- 2007–2008: 25,631
- 2008–2009: 26,023 (prior to playoff 2nd leg)