The second stop of our Venue series sees us travel north of the West Pennine Moors to the Industrial town of Blackburn. The former textiles mill town is home to one of the seven teams to win the Premier League, Blackburn Rovers.
Many will know Rovers as the club that Jack Walker built, the club that Jack Walker took to the heights of English football in the early 90s. However, its history runs much deeper and richer than that. Let’s go back to the beginning in 1875…
The story starts in the St. Leger Hotel on King William Street and a meeting between John Lewis and Arthur Constantine. Seventeen people were at the meeting in total, most from Blackburn Grammar School. The purpose of the meeting? To discuss the possibility of forming a football club to play under association rules. The club’s first game was played on December 11th 1875, a 1-1 draw against the Church club.
Rovers and the cotton industry were synonymous for a number of years. With the town full of cotton mills, there were a vast amount of wealthy and educated middle class people to run the club. This also meant the club had a huge pool of fans from the mills as association football continued to grow.
As the club continued to grow, the FA Cup became their favourite competition. They are the only team still in existence to have won the trophy in three consecutive years. They’ve gone on to win it a total of six times. In 1888, they became a founding member of The Football League.
In 1890, they found their home. One that still serves them to this very day, Ewood Park. Sitting in the south of the town, it was originally an all-purpose sports ground that hosted football, athletics, dog racing and trotting. Their initial rent was £60 per year, or just over £8,500 in today’s money.
During the women’s suffrage movement in the early 1900s, the Suffragette’s attempted to burn down Ewood Park’s grandstand in November 1913 as part of their bombing and arson campaign. Male sports had become targets in order to protest against male dominance with the suffragettes successfully burning down Arsenal’s stadium.
The Ewood Park you see today is mainly down to one man, Jack Walker. He took full control of the club in January of 1991 and set about taking Rovers back to the heights which he felt the club belonged at. The ground is an all-seater venue that holds 31,367 fans.
The biggest stand in the ground, the Jack Walker Stand, is home to 11,000 supporters and is one of three Stands that were redeveloped in the early 90s.
Housing the home and away dressing rooms, media facilities and hospitality suites, it is also home to a very special piece of history. When Blackburn Rovers won the Premier League in the 1994-95 season, as with every team, they were given a replica trophy to keep. However, Blackburn are the last team to receive a full-size version.
The rest of the ground is made up of the Ronnie Clayton Blackburn End, the Riverside Stand and the Bryan Douglas Darwen End. All Stands are two-tiered apart from the Riverside Stand which is currently the oldest part of the ground and has the Rovers name spelt out in the seats.
Over recent years, Blackburn Rovers have been doing a tremendous amount of work to bring their local community closer to the club. The town is made up of a multicultural demographic and the club have made a conscious effort to make all parts of Blackburn’s society feel welcome. Earlier this year, they became the first UK football club to host Eid prayers on their pitch. The work Rovers are doing is a reminder that football should be accessible to all.
‘Arte et Labore’ is the club motto, it’s Latin for ‘By skill and hard work’ and it seems to be a really fitting way to describe Rovers, their history and the work they’re doing right now with their community. Things haven’t always been easy, but by skill and hard work they’re still here today.
When the international break finishes, Blackburn host Milwall on 1 October at 3pm. You can purchase match tickets here.
Thank you to Fraser and the team at Blackburn Rovers for inviting us to check out Ewood Park. If there are places you would love to see us visit, tweet us @BehindSport and let us know!
Let’s take a walk around Ewood Park, the home of @Blackburn Rovers 👣 #fyp #venue #stadium #stadia #rovers #blackburn #blackburnrovers
You can read more from our Insight series here.