Those of you who follow and are subscribed to this channel will be well-aware of my love of football stadiums – or stadia – but what you’re likely unaware of is my fascination with abandoned places. I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of looking at ghost towns and abandoned cities online for many more hours than anyone really ought to, so today’s video is sort of a happy coming together of two things that I have long been interested in.
At the time of recording this video, this channel is vanishingly close to reaching 200,000 subscribers, and indeed I suppose it’s possible it will have eclipsed that number once this video comes out. I said I would do a Q&A when the channel hits 200,000, and I do still intend to do that, although I don’t actually own a camera. I will soon, or may already have stuck up a post on the YouTube community page and on Twitter where you can send in any questions you’ve ever wanted to ask me over the last couple of years, and I’ll do my best to answer them. So if the channel hasn’t yet hit 200,000 subscribers, now is the time to subscribe, and even if it has, do still subscribe – I’d quite like one of those big plaques you get at one million subscribers some day.
To be clear, this video is about currently abandoned football stadiums. To qualify, the stadiums primary use must have been to host association football matches when it was in action, it must no longer have an active occupant – and I include training and reserve team uses in that. For that exact reason, stadiums like the Great Strahov Stadium in Prague, which is now just a training centre for Sparta Prague, or the Estadio Nacional Mane Garrincha, which is now virtually out of use but does still have two very small teams playing there cannot feature. I want entirely abandoned stadiums and I settled for nothing less during my research for you, the good people of YouTube…
Here are my 7 fascinating abandoned football stadiums:
7. Landhof Stadion
We start this seven in Switzerland; a land of chocolate, cheese fondue and tax-dodging billionaires. Switzerland is also the home of FC Basel, who are based in Switzerland’s third most populous city of Basel. Some of you may know that FC Basel have played at the 38,000 seater St. Jakob Park since 2001. St Jakob Park was built on the site of their old home St. Jakob Stadium, which was the most used ground when the Swiss hosted the 1954 World Cup.
Clearly, St. Jakob Stadium is no more then, but Basel’s previous home ground, known as ‘Landhof Stadion’, is remarkably still standing. The Landhof Stadion opened in November 1893, the same month FC Basel were founded, and it remained the club’s home up until 1967 – when FC Basel began playing at St. Jakob Stadium. Basel kept using the Landhof as a training ground up until the early 1990’s, but the stadium has had no official use since then.
As not just Basel’s first home but also the first national stadium of the Swiss national team, the Landhof holds a special historical significance in Switzerland. Even those without an interest in football have protested plans to knock down the ground in favour of property developments though, since it represents an incredibly rare slice of green in what is now an almost entirely built-up Basel city centre. This is one abandoned stadium that could be here to stay.
6. Cathkin Park
Queen’s Park featured in my video on 7 small football clubs playing in huge stadiums, with the fourth tier side still playing at the 50,000+ Hampden Park for now. The current Hampden Park, which opened in 1903, is actually the third Hampden Park that Queen’s Park have played at. The first and the original Hampden Park opened in 1873 as the first enclosed football stadium in the United Kingdom with turnstiles, but it closed in 1883 and is long gone now, occupied by railway lines and a lawn bowling club in 2019.
The second Hampden Park, however, which is the one we’re dealing with here, opened in 1884, and would host football for considerably longer. Queen’s Park only actually spent 19 years at their second Hampden before moving onto their third in 1903, at which point Third Lanark Athletic Club took over at the ground. They renamed the stadium Cathkin Park, and played there from 1903 up until the club faced financial hardship and ultimately liquidation in 1967.
By pure coincidence, that means that our sixth-placed stadium Cathkin Park has actually been out of use since the exact same year as our seventh-placed stadium the Landhof Stadion, in terms of first team football at least. The ground has gradually fallen deeper and deeper into disrepair since the 1960’s, as one might expect, but the three terraces of the ground are still very much visible to this day. In 2017, newly-formed amateur outfit Third Lanark AFC unveiled plans for a £5 million project to return Cathkin Park to its former glory, but it’s unclear how serious this plan was and whether any movement has been made on that front. As things stand, Cathkin Park is a fascinating and well-worthy inclusion in this list of abandoned football grounds.
5. Avanhard Stadium
There have been six stadiums named the Avanhard Stadium in Ukraine, and quite incredibly three of them could be described as abandoned right now. That is to say, three of them are still standing with no official occupants. In fifth place in this seven though, I am of course referring to Avanhard Stadium based in the evacuated Ukrainian city of Pripyat.
For those of you that don’t know, Pripyat was a short-lived city named after the nearby Pripyat River that was both created because of and evacuated due to the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. Founded in 1970, Pripyat was the ninth Soviet nuclear city, and at the time of the disaster in 1986 it had a population of 50,000 people. 50,000 people need a football team, and fourth tier FC Stroitel Pripyat found home in the 5,000 capacity Avanhard Stadium.
In April 1986, a catastrophic power increase at Chernobyl’s reactor number four led to the worst nuclear power accident in history, and over 300,000 people would eventually have to be evacuated from the region. Pripyat remains entirely evacuated, although tourists are allowed to visit the city on guided tours. Around 100 people do live within the Chernobyl exclusion zone, almost all in their 70’s and 80’s, and a few more have returned to the villages surrounding Chernobyl.
The city of Slavutych, 50km from Pripyat, was rapidly built in 1986 to provide homes for many of those who had worked at the plant, and FC Slavutych were formed in 1987 as FC Stroitel Pripyat’s short-lived replacements. The Avanhard Stadium in Pripyat is now surely the most abandoned still-standing football stadium on Earth. The terraces of the ground still remain, but entirely overgrown, and it’s impossible to mark out the pitch which is now dense forestry. The Avanhard Stadium is one of the most photographed landmarks in Pripyat, along with the nearby ferris wheel and Azure Swimming Pool.
4. Ordos Dongsheng Stadium
The Ordos Dongsheng Stadium is very different from all the other stadiums in this seven, not least because it only opened in 2011. You may or may not know that the Chinese government has funded the design and construction of countless modern new cities around the country in anticipation of the vast number of Chinese people who are constantly moving into the middle class and the many more expected to do so in the coming years. These projects have varied in success, and the city of Ordos in Inner Mongolia has often been described by western media as one of the least successful.
Originally built to house one million people, Ordos struggled to attract residence, and even after multiple schemes to change this, the current population is estimated to be around 150,000. All this means Ordos has a very quiet and eerie feel, like a number of these new Chinese cities, which the government are confident will one day be filled. The Ordos Dongsheng Stadium is a monumental arena, with a supposed capacity of somewhere between 35 and 80,000, but most commonly reported as 60,000.
After opening in 2011, the stadium hosted the 2012 Miss World pageant, which was won by Chinese contestant Yu Wenxia. The stadium has an enormous arch spanning over it, said to span 330 metres, which would make it the largest arch in the world ahead of Wembley Stadium. Sadly, the ground has no regular occupant, and has essentially been unused since hosting its first major event in 2012. Ordos is sometimes inaccurately referred to as an abandoned city, which isn’t quite true, but the Ordos Stadium – it would seem – has been largely abandoned.
3. Ewood Bridge
We like to jump from one extreme to the other here at HITC Sevens, so following on from a Chinese ghost mega-stadium is a tiny little single-stand ground in Greater Manchester. Ewood Bridge played host to two different clubs whilst in operation, firstly Haslingden FC, and later Stand Athletic FC.
It’s unclear quite when Haslingden first began playing, or indeed first began playing at Ewood Bridge, but we do know they were out of the ground by 2000. Meanwhile, Stand Athletic FC was a football club that operated in the north-west of England from 1969 to 2009, and they moved into Ewood Bridge in the year 2000 with a seven-year lease. They would enjoy success on the pitch but not off it, and they only saw out two of the seven years of the lease they signed off on.
The Ewood Bridge ground, which comes with a run-down two-storey clubhouse complete with viewing balcony, two large changing rooms, a function room with a lounge and dance floor, a floodlit, overgrown football pitch, an outdoor synthetic training pitch, one stand, and even one turnstile has been left dilapidated since 2002. The stadium went up for auction in 2007 with an optimistic guide price of £750,000, but a category three flood warning may have put any potential suitors off bidding.
2. Bezigrad Stadium
The likes of Zinedine Zidane, Robert Pires and Thierry Henry were strutting their stuff at the Bezigrad Stadium in the beautiful city of Ljubljana as recently as 2003, along with the likes of Metallica and Depeche Mode who hosted sold out concerts at the arena. Opened in 1935 with construction having begun in 1925, the Bezigrad Stadium – or Bezigrad Central Stadium – is the oldest football stadium in Ljubljana.
The stadium was primarily home to NK Olimpija Ljubljana from 1945 to 2005. Olimpija were the second most successful club in Slovenia when they folded in 2005, and their phoenix club played at the Bezigrad from 2005 to 2007, but built their own Stožice Stadium in 2010, ending any hopes of seeing the Bezigrad return to its former glories.
The stadium was also where the Slovenia national team played their home fixtures between 1995 and 2004, but it has laid abandoned since early 2008. This once great footballing arena, which had a maximum capacity of 10,000 people, now lies largely in ruins. The terraces still stand, turning gradually greener as the months and years pass by, as do a couple of club houses, but any proposals to turn the Bezigrad into a suitable stadium for football once again now seem far-fetched.
1. Stadion Za Lužánkami
Clearly this seven is in no particular order, but I still put the Stadion Za Luzankami top for a couple of reasons. An enormous stadium in the Czech Republic’s second city of Brno, the Luzankami took four years to build, hosting football for the first time in 1953. For more than a decade, it was the largest stadium in Czechoslovakia due to a new grandstand that was built in the 1960’s, and it still holds the record for the highest attendance ever recorded in the Czech First League.
Czechoslovakia played multiple games at the ground between the 1950’s and 1990’s, and the Czech Republic played there once in 1995 after gaining independence. FC Zbrojovka Brno played at the ground from its opening up until 2001, when the Czech league and FIFA ruled that the ground was no longer fit for purpose. Zbrojovka Brno moved to the much smaller Městský fotbalový stadion Srbská, and it has now been 18 years since the Luzankami had an occupant.
Left to rot, the stadium began to fall into a state of disrepair. The pitch was no longer distinguishable, as trees sprouted up inside the ground, and homeless people sought refuge in the stands. In 2014, local-born striker Petr Švancara stated his intentions to play his farewell game at the old ground. A huge community effort was made to clear the pitch and make the ground safe and playable for its first fixture in 14 years in 2015. They were successful, and 23,000 fans packed into the old ground for one last time.
Sadly, the stadium has once again been left to rot since then. Regeneration projects were proposed in 2008 and again in 2016, sometimes halted by land disputes, sometimes by the exorbitant costs. The Stadion Za Luzankami is arguably the world’s greatest abandoned footballing venue.