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Manchester City: a First Class Club with a First Class Atmosphere?

Are City fans being denied a true match day experience?

Are City fans being denied a true match day experience?

Fair play to Manchester City, Carlos Tevez, and manager Mark Hughes for a fluid performance against West Ham United at Eastlands on Monday evening. Their 3-1 victory inched the Blues ever closer to the pinnacle of the Premier League table, as City are now only three points away from pole position. Tevez not only showed his quality in front of goal, but the striker also exhibited grace towards his former fan base after scoring before West Ham’s supporters. The Argentine front man held his hands apologetically in the air towards the Hammer faithful in response to his controversial stay in east London. This rare act of humility is a stark contrast to Emmanuel Adebayor’s  disgraceful celebration in front of his old employers two weeks prior. Credit to Hughes for pulling all of these big personalities together and allowing City to play free-flowing and adventurous football. Yet despite all of these positive remarks, there is one glaring deficiency with the Blue Moon match day experience.

When approaching the City of Manchester Stadium the modern architecture and luxurious amenities appear suitable for one of the world’s wealthiest football clubs. Yet it was not all that long ago that this same side was playing in a historic and dilapidated ground. Before the likes of Thaskin Shinawatra and Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Manchester City were a club mired in tumult and volatility. Nevertheless, this was part of City’s charm, and the supporters never abandoned the side – even when the Blues tumbled down the English football pyramid to League One.

While yesterday’s Premier League action against West Ham United was spirited, the change in atmosphere at Eastlands is disturbing when contrasted against the club’s time at Maine Road. Now I know what you are all thinking; this is just another bland article about ‘true’ fans being priced out of the game and the soulless nature of big-money football. Much has been made of the latter, and telling that story again would do little to stimulate conversation.

Instead I would like to focus on the physical configuration of contemporary football and how new stadiums are negatively impacting England’s national past time. Last week I watched Man City take on Fulham in the Carling Cup at Eastlands and was amazed at how different the atmosphere was from Maine Road. Yes, this was a Carling Cup match. Typically the least important competition for Premier League sides, the League Cup holds neither the prestige of the FA Cup nor the glitz of the Premier League.

Players warm up for Man City v Fulham Carling Cup match

Fulham's lack of away support not withstanding, the Eastlands atmosphere is a far cry from the Kippax

Nevertheless, every fixture maintained an electric atmosphere amid the grittiness of Maine Road, and this attribute was noticeably absent at Eastlands. I am not having a go at City supporters. They are one of the best sets of fans in Europe and deserve their due. Rather, the way in which Manchester City Football Club has arranged the stadium seating has ruined the club’s famed atmosphere. Traditionally, each football ground has a stronghold of their most vociferous supporters behind a particular goal. These Kop ends are etched into the history of the English game. Anfield will forever be associated with the Spion Kop, Villa Park with the Holte End, and Chelsea with the Shed End.

At Maine Road the word “Kippax” held a powerful connotation with City supporters and away fans alike. Unlike most clubs that build their Kops at the end of the pitch, the Kippax was a massive stand that ran parallel to the touchline. It was undeniably intimidating, and housed some of the most passionate football fans in the sport’s history. The Kippax could generate an overwhelming amount of noise that promptly quieted any away support. Moss Side was an incredibly dodgy place to visit, and Maine Road was the crown jewel of this notorious district.

Obviously the new-look City has been rebranded for the financially booming Premier League. Hillsborough and the Taylor Report changed the manner in which fans of the English game observed football forever. However, many of the top grounds in the country retained their atmospheres even after the tragic events of April 15, 1989. Maine Road was among these venues, begging the question, what exactly changed when the Blues relocated to Eastlands?

City's famed Kippax Stand

City's famed Kippax Stand

The answer is startlingly simple. Rather than reestablishing the girth and reputation of the Kippax stand, City opted for new age stadium configuration. If you go to Eastlands today to take in a match you will find that there is no traditional Kop end. Instead the supporters that grew up on the Kippax have been relocated to the corner section between the Colin Bell Stand and the North Stand. This leaves City’s most energetic fans sandwiched against the main stand and the opposing side’s supporters. Instead of the cross-pitch banter that takes place between two sets of fans in most grounds, Eastlands creates an indiscernible din from the northwest corner. Additionally, the security of this setting is questionable, as during high-profile encounters both sets of supporters attempt to get at one another across the police line. This has proven to be problematic in the Manchester derby and against the likes of PSG in the UEFA Cup.

Unfortunately this type of maneuver is becoming too common with new English stadiums, as grounds like the Riverside, Pride Park, and the Stadium of Light are now devoid of a traditional English atmosphere. These grounds lack a proper Kop setting, and while fan bases at these clubs (particularly City) are strong, the charm associated with Maine Road or Roker Park is gone. In its place is a synthetic style of match day experience that provides little sustenance for those of use that remember the rusty roof over the Kippax.

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  1. Iancransonsknees

    September 30, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    “The stadium was designed to be converted into a football ground after the Commonwealth games. ”

    That may be the case but having experienced it they didn’t do a very good job.

  2. Jim Land

    September 29, 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Yes, Tevez’s celebration is to be admired; but he had NOT been racially abused for over an hour by the West Ham fans, or it might have been different.

    • Huh

      September 29, 2009 at 7:15 pm

      He was cheered by them!

  3. leeboy

    September 29, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    “It’s because of the shape of the stadium. It’s a bowl. It used to be an athletics stadium and was never built with the idea of turning it into a football ground.”

    The stadium was designed to be converted into a football ground after the Commonwealth games.

  4. tito

    September 29, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    wow your still wrong!

    Tevez is loved by hammers, he kept them up, why would he do anything different.
    Adebayor was provoked from start to finish, even before the game they were abusing him.

    RVP is allowed to shout expletives at the crowd, carragher threw a coin back at the crowd and was let off, we all saw neville do it twice!

    Adebayor was more than justfied to celebrate infront of arsenal fans for the abuse they gave him, he didnt abuse them, leave the pitch, The fans actions were disgraceful, what right do they have to kick off for a player to celebrate infront of them at his groud.

    • Alex Caulfield

      September 29, 2009 at 4:41 pm


      Thank you for your response, but you clearly seem to be missing my point. Whether or not Adebayor (or you) felt justified by the celebration is irrelevant. He is a professional footballer, and it is irresponsible on his part to incite the wrath of the Arsenal supporters. Simply stated: it was dangerous both to himself and the fans in the away end. I am not condoning racist abuse, nor do I condone the actions of Carragher, Van Persie, et al. These are all irresponsible acts.

      • Huh

        September 29, 2009 at 7:12 pm

        Surely you see the point he’s making Alex? Or are you saying if the City fans rioted and threw things at Neville, or the fans Carragher threw the coin at did the same this would be different? Because the only difference is the fans were not axxxhxles, is this the player’s fault? Are Neville and Carragher not also professionals inciting the Wrath of the fans? They both received a lot less fuss and in Neville’s case practically nothing at all, what would have happened if the City fans behaved like the Arsenal fans, I think u know the answer, they would have been the biggest scum on the face of the earth filling front and back pages of the rags! So if Ade doe’s get a ban you could do an article on the injustice of these huge double standards (I’ll not hold my breath though lol).The only difference is the FANS!!!! Why cannot people get that?

        • Alex Caulfield

          September 29, 2009 at 9:24 pm

          Well said, and you are absolutely right. ALL of these players were in the wrong, and if Adebayor gets a ban I will be there first one to protest a lack of unilateral punishment by the FA.

  5. Alex Caulfield

    September 29, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    The reference to the Pompey owner was a mistake in the first draft that was amended, but for some unknown reason it went up with the first posting. It has since been corrected, so my apologies for the inaccuracy.

    In regards to Adebayor’s celebration, the primary reason I consider it disgraceful is that such a demonstrative act (yes, running the length of the pitch to gloat is indeed demonstrative) is dangerous and could have incited mass crowd trouble. No one here is condoning racial abuse in any manner, but the celebration was still extremely controversial, therefore fair play to Tevez for handling his situation in the opposite manner.

    Fair points on developing an atmosphere over time at a new ground, but as someone who sat in the middle of the south stand, there was certainly no noise coming from that section. Again, it may have been down to the Carling Cup draw, but despite the action on the pitch the fans in this section were fairly withdrawn. However, I do agree that there is a lot of potential for this ground and with the team playing the way that they currently are, I look forward to seeing what Eastlands will look and sound like towards the business end of the season.

  6. John

    September 29, 2009 at 12:33 pm

    New Man City team song should be an oasis tune. “Live Forever” perhaps…

  7. Gary

    September 29, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Don’t know if it’s been mentioned before, but I guess the writer wasn’t there for the Arsenal game? Best atmosphere I have ever experienced at Eastlands or Maine Road, aside from some of the Derbies.

  8. SouthStand

    September 29, 2009 at 11:47 am

    the banter is far better when the fans are closer, seeing the facial expressions when youve just scored your 4th, Stretford end, Kop, werever else are just as quiet as citys ‘now north stand’ the old north stand is basically the south stand now, and the kippax hasent changed much, apart from alot of new fans joiing in and around the old fans, meaning the singing and atmosphere has been split up. Maine Road will never be beaten, for any city fan, but eastlands atmosphere is improving 10x every week, and can only get better, every person around me is a season ticket holder (South Stand Block 117) and i have seen them for that past few seasons at every game, the other 3/4 of the ground have been a thorn in our side for the atmosphere, apart from the singing corner.

  9. jon

    September 29, 2009 at 9:55 am

    i blame my friend roys dad.70 years ago he took roy &ito maine rd to watch such luminaries as frank swift,bert sproston,billy macadam & jimmy heale.i was hooked.boys entrance,platt lane stand,a whole new experience.what agreat atmosphere–grumbles groans -never watching this lot again,but we always did ;just occasionally elated more often dejacted .we became fans—-once ablue you know the rest _now my grandsons are blue but they can never know the joy of platt lane.

  10. Alex Bishop

    September 29, 2009 at 9:17 am

    Rubbish article with many incorrect “facts” that some have already corrected. And there is liitle difference in reality between “the Swamp” and CoMS. But I think you’ll also find that the atmosphere at Maine Road wasn’t always great. In fact it could be pretty quiet at times.

    Same problem in all new stadiums that something is generally lost, atmosphere wise when clubs move. In the old ones, the most vocal fans found their own area and the other areas tend to be quiet. Also with standing it was easier for groups of fans to congregate together. Now we have all seater stadiums. The club has taken steps to improve the situation by setting up a “singing section” in the East Stand but replicating the old stadium will take time plus some will rarely sing anyway. The atmosphere will always depend on the importance of the game and the opposition; the one at the recent Arsenal game was quite superb and the Hamburg game last season eclipsed anything at Maine Road.

  11. Johnno

    September 29, 2009 at 8:13 am

    To be fair the new Kippax stand at Maine Road also took away much of the atmosphere and noise. Football should be enjoyed stood up not sitting and then you’ll get more noise. Standing on the kippax in the early and mid 70’s as a teenager was the highlight of the week and a sensory treat, especially when the away fans were brought in behind the segregation fence. They do safe standing in Germany, why not here?

  12. The Gaffer

    September 29, 2009 at 7:44 am

    It’s because of the shape of the stadium. It’s a bowl. It used to be an athletics stadium and was never built with the idea of turning it into a football ground.

    Take a look at City’s cross-town rivals, Manchester United and their Old Trafford ground which — in contrast — is built like a cauldron with the seats pretty close to the pitch.

    Just like Emirates Stadium has little atmosphere because it’s a bowl shape, the City Of Manchester Stadium is the same. Those type of grounds suck all the life out of a stadium and are not ideal for football supporters.

    The Gaffer

  13. Till I die or even later?

    September 29, 2009 at 6:36 am

    Anomalies of true fact apart – I sort of agree with the author.
    I sit in the East Stand level with the 18 yard box near to the North Stand. There is very little noise made by anyone at this end of the ground. It could be – just look at the Hamburg game last season – magnificent support that night. Every game should be like that and the team would do even better than they are at the moment.
    There is something wrong though – I think people are too embarrassed to shout and sing their heads off and I think the songs we do sing are, on the whole, pretty rubbish! Blue Moon is a pathetic song to have as our club song – it doesn’t lend itself to cheering the team on and nobody knows the words anyway! Don’t get me wrong – I can’t think of one to take its place but somebody out there must be able to!
    I think to myself virtually every game that the atmosphere is pretty crap and the Fulham game was unbelievably bad – you could hear the players shouting to each other across the pitch – it was like watching a Sunday league game in the park!
    It is OUR fault that the atmosphere is not there, so is up to US to improve it.

  14. roger haigh

    September 29, 2009 at 6:10 am

    When we moved form Maine Road the lower tier of the Kippax was moved en-masse to the lower tier of the new east stand. I sat among all the same people as before but the atmosphere was never the same and people who had been noisy supporters suddenly seemed to be struck dumb.

    One problem at CoMS is the location of the away fans. They have a prime position behind one of the goals – contrast this with the appalling seats at Newcastle miles away from the pitch. Last night there were far more empty seats than supportes in the WHU section. I’m sure there are a lot of City fans who would buy tickets for that area of the ground but won’t sit in the rear rows of the top tier. These are the “noisy” supporters who create the atmoshere at any ground. The area the away fans have is much more central than the area they had at Maine Road. The old North Stand support has been split up – some are in the new South Stand, who knows where the rest went.

    The location of the visiting seats has been explained away as a security consideration. the access to that part of the ground is easiest from the road network and it’s easier to get the away fans to the coaches and on the road home. I’m sure there’s a reluctance too to have home fans either above or below visiting fans in a two tier stand so if the visiting team sells most of the seats in the lower tier the upper tier can’t be used for home fans. Perhaps the solution is to move the visiting fans round so they have seats in the corner of the ground and free up some decent seats for City supporters.

  15. Ray in The South Stand

    September 29, 2009 at 5:58 am

    Is one fact in this article correct?
    Even the name of the owner? (I think you’ll find he owns Portsmouth!!!)
    Out of all the new stadia, the South Stand at Eastlands creates the most noise and that includes the famous Kop at Anfield – where the hardcore fans HAVE been priced out.
    Lets not let the facts get in the way of a good story though eh?

    • Alex Caulfield

      September 29, 2009 at 3:04 pm

      As you will see in my post towards the bottom, Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s name is included in the article. The Pompey’s owner’s name was a misprint that was amended in the first draft, but for whatever reason the updated version was not immediately transferred to the online posting.

      I sat in the south stand, and there was absolutely no noise coming from that section. Again, this may have been because City were playing Fulham in the third round of the League Cup, but if the south stand ‘creates the most noise’ then there really shouldn’t be an off night should there?

      • Huh

        September 29, 2009 at 6:36 pm


        The game against Fulham, unlike at Utd and others City season ticket holders are not forced to pay for the cup matches, therefore the crowd of people is very different and less to that of a league match. It was the same at the PSG match these are very bad examples to use. How many Fulham fans would you say there were 60-80 max?(one coach in the car park!) Your Picture is right, the small group in the middle of the blue seats are Fulham fans they’re entitled to 1/4 of the ground about 12,000 seats if they want (no offence to them though, who wants to travel 250 miles on a Monday night for a cup game that no ones bothered about). Do you think this helped the atmosphere? As I’ve said bad examples.

        The Kippax was ruined when it was made all seater (halving its capacity), a lot of those fans moved to the north stand, and the kippax was finished, no longer the hot bed it once was they put in to many executive boxes and the moaning brigade moved in (attracted to the spanking new stand) telling people to sit down etc (if you stood for 2 secs!). The acoustics at CoMS are as good as any, if not better the game against Hamburg was one of the loudest I can recall. I don’t see any problem, but it is a sad fact that football grounds have in general become much quieter than they once were pre 1989. Also don’t forget that football has become much more family orientated, you didn’t see many women, kids and come to think of it ethnic groups in the 70’s/80’s or early 90’s, so maybe there’s good and a bad sides to the changes.

  16. jay

    September 29, 2009 at 5:55 am

    Anfield is the worst ground in the country, the kop is shite.

  17. Cityfan2513

    September 29, 2009 at 5:43 am

    Agreed, but these things are created over time. Stands like the Kop have had the atmospheres generated over decades and passed onto to new generations. You can’t just move into a new stadium and expect a new ‘kippax’ to come straight to the fore. Some of your information is incorrect – the most noise tends to come from the south stand and the immediate surrounding sections of the east stand that are next to the away fans – for obvious reasons, they can look the travelling support in the eye! Also, as I understood it, much of the old Kippax was transferred to the new East stand, as ‘equivalently’ as possible. I believe the main problem with generating an atmosphere at stadiums such as Eastlands is the way the 3rd tiers in the side stands are effectively separated from the rest – and chants never seem to spread across the boundaries.

  18. Mick

    September 29, 2009 at 5:43 am

    “the supporters that grew up on the Kippax have been relocated to the corner section between the Colin Bell Stand and the North Stand.”

    No, they haven’t. There is a singing section in the corner between the away fans in the South Stand and the East Stand, and an unofficial singing section in the South Stand between the away fans and the Colin Bell stand. Many blues would prefer to have an end to ourselves, and stick the away fans in a corner, so to that extent your point stands, but it would have more force if it was correctly described.

    The comparison between Tevez and Adebayour’s celebrations is specious. The WHU fans showed their appreciation for Tevez, Arsenal fans spent all last season booing Adebayour when he was still their player, and treated him to dog’s abuse during the game at CoMS. I think it’s important to get the facts, all of the facts, correct – don’t you?

  19. Mr Bluesky

    September 29, 2009 at 5:41 am

    Everything regarding Man City is changing. The atmosphere and expectation to win games whoever we are playing is serious now. Many dare’nt say (but I will) Top 4 this season is a very real possibility and we proved that against Arsenal and Man United (neither will face a harder challenge this season). The whole set-up from the quality of the squad to the ground, training ground, new clerical offices etc. etc. etc. is gearing up for the big time. Man City have now become the new team everybody seems to love to hate which is fantastic – it’s called jealousy.

  20. Andrew

    September 29, 2009 at 5:21 am

    No. Just no.
    Never say class with city again.

    They are the new chelski.


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