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The five biggest football stadiums outside of England's top flight

The five biggest football stadiums outside of England's top flight

The Premier League is the gem in England's footballing crown but don't forget that the lower leagues boast an array of historic clubs too. Some of them have stadiums that wouldn't look out of place in the top tier either. Here we look at the top five ranked by capacity. ​

Number 5. Pride Park – Derby County – Seats 33,597​

Pride Park is one of very few stadiums that can actually claim to have had a full house; it's record attendance being 33,597 when England beat Mexico 4-0 in a friendly match as Wembley was going through its rebuild. It's been home to the Rams since 1997 having cost £28m to build and was the first football stadium in history to be officially opened by the Queen. Unfortunately, for Derby that is about as Royal things have got at Pride Park.

The club have won promotion to the Premier League since playing their games there but they were brutally relegated with a record low points tally. If sustained Premier League football does come their way again in future then they have plans in place to expand to north of 40,000 seats, which would be the case now had England been successful in their bids for the 2018 and/or 2022 World Cups.​

Number 4. Riverside Stadium – Middlesbrough – Seats 34,000​

Middlesbrough's Riverside stadium, which sits on the river Tees, will celebrate its 25th anniversary in August. It was built to replace Boro's old ground - Ayresome Park - that would have only allowed for a maximum capacity of 20,000 when forced to go fully seated. At the time of its development the decision to opt for no restricted view seats was largely innovative.

The first season at the Riverside was a rollercoaster with the team excelling in both cup competitions - albeit without winning one - but the less said about the league campaign the better. It's been used as an international venue on several occasions. Predominantly, those games have been under 21 matches but a Euro 2004 qualifier saw England beat Slovakia whilst two 2012 Olympic warm up games featuring the men and women Team GB were also played at the Riverside.

The team are not in the position they currently desire but their stadium has seen some good times including being a contributing factor in their 2004 League Cup success and their run to the 2006 UEFA Cup final.

Number 3. Hillsborough – Sheffield Wednesday – Seats 39,732​

Okay, so the official capacity of Hillsborough is 39,732 but it's currently operating at a reduced limit due to safety regulations hence it's third on our list. It's been home to the Owls since just before the 20th century and was used for World Cup matches in 1966 and was developed for Euro 96.

On top of that, the historic ground was part of the FA's bid for the 2018 and/or 2022 World Cup. Of course, the thoughts provoked to most on hearing Hillsborough though will not be of any of this with the Hillsborough disaster, which saw the tragic loss of 96 supporters, the lasting images for most.

Number 2. Elland Road – Leeds United – Seats 37,890​

Elland Road is one of the most iconic stadiums in England, Premier League or not, but its original occupiers were actually Holbeck Rugby Club with Leeds United not becoming tenants until 22 years later when Leeds City disbanded.

The ground, which has gone through no fewer than nine extensions, hosted two rugby matches at the 2015 World Cup and formed part of the Euro 96 package. It's also been used as a neutral venue for domestic semi-finals. The stadium boasts statues of Billy Bremner – who was captain during the club's greatest years – and FA Cup winning manager Don Revie.

There was talk of a relocation around the time of the millennium but financial struggles killed that talk; of course, prior to the coronavirus outbreak Leeds had looked odds on to make it back to the promised land and a long stay at that level might see talks resurface but any move looks a way off.​

Number 1. Stadium of Light – Sunderland - Seats 49,000​

The Stadium of Light is currently ranked ninth in the UK with a 49,000 capacity – some 4.5 times bigger than Bournemouth's ground – but they're only averaging 30,000 whilst playing their football in League One.

The ground was originally developed as a 42,000 capacity back in 1996 but was designed with the foresight to naturally grow without the need to mass rebuilding or relocation.

The maximum it could hold on existing plans is 63,000 – a figure that would put it third on the UK's list behind Wembley and Old Trafford. With the current situation of Sunderland, probably the only way they could get so much people inside the stadium would be by hosting a horse race like the Kentucky Derby or a rock concert.

We suspect that expansion won't happen for a while!

There you have it, five stadiums that wouldn't look out of place in the Premier League and, who knows, one day they might all be back there.

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