When you consider football teams and their grounds, you usually think of big names. Anfield is the home of Liverpool. The Emirates Stadium is the home of Arsenal. Old Trafford hosts Manchester United. Those are all Premier League teams, and having such status means that they have big money. This means that they can afford to secure a massive venue as their home ground. Yet what about smaller teams which don’t get such an influx of cash?
Well, some of them have to become part of a groundshare setup. This is the principle of sharing a stadium between two local teams. Without a doubt, this occurs with the principal purpose of reducing costs. Sometimes, you may even find intersport groundshares. For example, a football team could share a ground with a rugby team. North American indoor arenas often feature both basketball and ice hockey teams sharing.
In this guide, we’ll look at the UK football teams currently sharing grounds. There may even be one or two looks back in history at previous groundshares between teams.
Heritage Park – Bishop Auckland and Darlington
Darlington played games at its own ground for a long time, starting back in 1883. Growing crowd figures saw the home stadium expand, although a fire broke out in 1960. This completely gutted the West stand, requiring a rebuild. The East stand was rebuilt in 1997, although its cost was a huge impact on club finances. The ground, Feethams, saw its last Darlington match on May 3, 2003. A 25,000-seat Reynolds Arena opened the same year. Now known as Darlington Arena, its capacity stands at 10,000. Unfortunately, attendance never exceeded 3,000. Darlington Mowden Park R.F.C bought it in 2012.
Between the years of 1886 and 2001, Bishop Auckland played home match at Kingsway. That was a ground it shared with the town’s cricket club. It moved out of that ground with the plan in place to build a stadium at Tindale Crescent. It submitted plans in 2008 and received planning permission. Bishop Auckland moved into the 2,004-capacity ground in 2010. This is what now goes by the name of Heritage Park.
Darlington, after its stadium’s 2012 sale, was to groundshare with Shildon at first. Yet arrangements were instead made to use Heritage Park from the start of the 2012-13 season. The team then hoped to move to Darlington RFC’s ground at Blackwell Meadows for the 2016-17 season. This never came about though, and the groundshare remains in place.
Maine Road – Manchester City and Manchester United (1945 – 1949)
We’re going back in history to a time when the two Manchester teams were a lot friendlier. Maine Road was a football stadium in Moss Side. It operated as the home ground of Manchester City from 1923 through to 2003. The highest ever attendance at the ground was 84,659 at an FA Cup sixth round game in 1934.
After the Second World War, a groundshare began between Manchester United and Manchester City. Old Trafford, the former team’s ground, had suffered damage during the Manchester Blitz. In 1941, the German Luftwaffe dropped a bomb onto it. The aim was to hit the industrial complex of Trafford Park. Yet the ground suffered the most damage, with the pitch wrecked and the stands destroyed. The stadium thus had to go through a rebuild after the war. Man United paid City £5,000 per season, plus a share of gate receipts to play there. It was during this period that the highest attendance for a league game at Maine Road occurred. Man U played Arsenal in 1948, drawing in 83,260 people. That remains as a national record for a league game, too.
Moss Rose – Macclesfield Town and Chester City (1990 – 1992)
We’re going back in time once again. Back to a time when Chester City existed as a football club. In May of 2010, Chester City FC became Chester FC, which remains in action. Yet in 1990, the team existed in its previous incarnation. The ground of Moss Rose first hosted EFL games when Chester played home games there. This took place while the club was moving from Sealand Road to the Deva Stadium. That move occurred between 1990 and 1992.
At the time, Macclesfield Town was a non-league side. As a result, fixtures were set up so that Chester could play at home while Macclesfield was away. The same occurred in a vice versa format. The Moss Rose ground hosted over 50 first-team matches per season from the two teams.
In a difficult twist, Macclesfield Town was unable to gain entry to the EFL in 1995. That was despite the team winning the Football Conference. Unfortunately, stadium requirements for EFL teams had become a lot stricter by then. Chester did offer to host Macclesfield at the Deva Stadium so that adjustments could take place. Yet the league also rejected that idea. It was two years later before Macclesfield had an apt stadium and once again won the Conference. This signified their opportunity to finally become a part of the EFL. Macclesfield Town wound-up in 2020 before a local businessman established Macclesfield FC.
Selhurst Park – Crystal Palace and Charlton Athletic/Wimbledon (1985 – 1991) (1991 – 2003)
Crystal Palace has played all its home games at Selhurst Park since 1924. At the time of opening, only a single stand existed there. It remained a low-level ground until 1969 when Palace gained promotion to Division One. That was the highest tier of English football at the time. It then went through renovations to bring it up to par.
Charlton Athletic moved into the stadium as temporary tenants back in 1985. This marked the first time league clubs in England had agreed to such a ground-sharing scheme. Charlton had made the decision to move after its former ground fell into a state of disrepair. The stadium (known as The Valley) saw its East Terrace closed down by authorities. This occurred following the Bradford City stadium fire. The ground’s owner also wanted to utilise part of The Valley for housing. Thus, Charlton made the decision to groundshare with Palace. The move proved to be very unpopular with supporters. In 1991, the team finished their tenancy, and then moved to Upton Park. The team finally returned to The Valley in December 1992.
Wimbledon FC replaced Charlton as ground-sharing tenant at Selhurst Park in 1992. Following the Hillsborough disaster of 1989, football authorities had to make changes. They introduced stricter safety rules. Top-flight clubs had a deadline to meet in redeveloping their grounds or building new stadiums. The board of Wimbledon decided that Plough Lane could not meet requirements. Thus, it began its ground-share with Crystal Palace. That arrangement remained for 12 years. It was in 2003 that Wimbledon moved to the National Hockey Stadium in Milton Keynes. They remained there for four years, before moving to the new Stadium MK in 2007.