Leicester Tigers' Welford Road stadium celebrates 125th anniversary

Martin Johnson walks through the fans to get to the pitch Image copyright David Rogers/Getty Images
Image caption Teams walk on to the Welford Road pitch flanked by fans on the terrace

One of the "defining grounds" in the history of English rugby union, has celebrated its 125th anniversary as 2017 comes to a close.

Leicester Tigers, one Europe's most successful club rugby teams, first played rugby at Welford Road in 1892.

It is the biggest purpose-built club rugby union stadium in the UK.

The venue has also played host to a number of internationals, including matches at the 1991 and 1999 Rugby World Cups.

Leicester Tigers moved to Welford Road after years of "nomadic existence" around the city.

Image copyright Leicester Tigers
Image caption Princess Anne visited Welford Road in April 2000 to see Leicester Tigers beat Gloucester 24-13

As an amateur club, Tigers played on the Belgrave Cricket and Cycle Ground and the council-owned Victoria Park.

The move to Welford Road was because the club wanted to be based the city centre and be able to charge people for entry, which it could not do on council-owned property.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Welford Road hosted New Zealand and Italy at the 1991 Rugby World Cup

"It's well up there [as a venue] in terms of club rugby," the club's historian Stuart Farmer says.

"Certainly Tigers, along with Kingsholm in Gloucester...they are probably two of the defining grounds that remain with us".

"It is synonymous with rugby union over the years.

"They've played World Cup games there and many, many big representative games there against the likes of the All Blacks and South Africans".

Image copyright Leicester Tigers
Image caption Just one Premiership match at Welford Road has ever been postponed due to the weather

Tigers have won the Premiership ten times, a domestic record, and have also won the European Cup twice.

Sam Peters, a rugby reporter for The Sunday Times, believes Welford Road and its atmosphere are a crucial part of that success.

"If you get the combination of an outstanding team, an outstanding stadium, combined with passionate supporters it is a potent combination.

"Down the years Leicester have found that combination".

Welford Road in numbers

Image copyright Matthew Lewis
  • Leicester Tigers initially invested £1,100 in 1892 to transform the land into a playing area
  • The first match at the ground was a 17-0 victory over a Leicestershire XV
  • The ground's current capacity is 25,849
  • Tigers' biggest win at Welford Road was 100-0 against Liverpool St Helens in 1992
  • The club's worst defeat at home was the 43-0 loss in last season's European Champions Cup against Glasgow

Source: Leicester Tigers/Stuart Farmer

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