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Official Review by Matt Rees, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
Ewood Park is home to Northern English club Blackburn Rovers. The stadium itself was opened way back in 1882, but the Rovers moved there in 1890 and now has a capacity of 31,367. In 1992, plans were approved by the local council to improve the stadium into one of the best in England (at the time). By 1994, all the new developments were completed and, as a result, saw the Blackburn and Darwen End transformed into new two tier stands.
Recently, it’s been a complete and utter mess at Blackburn, all because of new owners, the Venky’s. When they took over in 2010, Rovers were a mediocre Premier League club, looking to move forward. It was seen as a great move by most fans having the Venky’s as owners hoping to excel the club forward. However, they soon changed their tune. No “huge” signings were made by the Venky’s, and as a result, the team ended an eleven-year stay in the top flight. During the 2012–13 season, three managers were sacked within the space of six months, which nearly resulted in relegation to League One.
In the last twenty years, Blackburn have arguably seen their most successful period. They are one of only five teams to have won the Premier League, when they did so back in 1995. In addition to this, they won the League Cup in 2002, and have had good cup runs in the FA Cup, being semi finalists in 2005 and 2007.
(Note: all exchange rates are current as of the time of this posting, August 2013.)
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Don't expect a wide range of continental cuisine when visiting Ewood Park. Like all other English football stadiums, the quality is decent, but the prices are high. The traditional stadium burger is priced at £3.00 ($4.60), and you pay the same for a stadium hot dog. As for the other options, pies and pastries are all priced at £2.30 ($3.50), which isn't that bad. You can buy beer inside the stadium, and (depending on what you buy) the prices range from £3.40 to £3.80 ($5.20 to $5.80) for a pint, which is very expensive. However, a pie 'n' pint offer is available for £5.50 ($8.40).
All the noise - of what is actually made - is very negative and weirdly depressing. The fans are always having a punt at their own players and very rarely do you hear songs cheering the team on. The chants that are normally sung are pre/post game about how much they hate the owners or latest manager. Ewood Park just isn't a fortress.
It's extremely rare to see the stadium full, and it's come to a point where it's unusual to see the stadium half full. As a result of this, no noise is generated. As an away supporter at the game, you just never feel timid, and the travelling supporters (nine times out of ten) will make all the noise. A drum is constantly played by one Blackburn fan and it just annoys every supporter in the stadium. It just drowns out all the way through the game and creates no suspense to the game whatsoever. The only time I have seen Ewood Park "rocking" was when they beat Chelsea a few years ago. Even when local rivals Bolton and big teams like Manchester United (when they were in the Premier League) come to town, the atmosphere is as flat as a pancake!
I'm being brutally honest when I say this, but Blackburn is one of the roughest towns in England. It's definitely one of those away trips where you think, "Let's make a weekend of this...not." Outside the stadium, there are two main car parks, some terrace housing, and just some desolate green. When you arrive and see the stadium, it's just terribly grim. As an away fan, you do not feel at all welcome. When you see the ground, you don't get that pre-match buzz, and that just isn't right as a football fan.
The only reason why I have not given the fans one-star is because of the current situation at the club. When the club were in the Premier League, fans just didn't come in recognizable numbers - even when the top four were in town! However, the fans turn up in great numbers when there is a protest about how badly run the club is. Let's not forget the club, not so long ago, were a force in the Premier League.
As I mentioned earlier, the fans don't get behind their team enough, which is what the players need to push onto victory. When I visited Ewood Park, it shocked me at how little the fans cheered for a good tackle, corner, or anything like that. During the 2012-13 campaign, Rovers came third-worst in the Championship attendance table for percentage of stadium full, with 47.7%. But let's be honest, the standard of football in that season was pretty shocking, so you have to feel sorry for the fans that turn up week-in and week-out.
Getting to Blackburn is fine, though the stadium is terribly signposted and, as a result, we got lost. When travelling to Ewood Park, set off with plenty of time in advance, because the roads around the stadium shut thirty minutes prior to the game. Parking wise, though, it's fine. A couple of official car parks are just outside the ground, and there are a lot of private ones, mostly priced at £5.00 ($7.60). If travelling by train, the nearest station is Mill Hill, and from there it's a fifteen-minute walk to the ground.
Although the team isn't very successful at the moment, there are a few top quality youngsters which are very exciting to watch. The owners have aspirations of reaching the Premier League next season, so expect to see a few very good players on show. In addition to this, the high paced, tough tackling quality of Championship football is very high and can arguably be more exciting than the Premier League at times. Let's not forget that Blackburn were recently a top-flight club and still have that quality inside them. When they finally have a stable manager, it will be entertaining to go and watch Blackburn play. For league games, an adult is £25 ($38.20), senior £15 ($22.90), and junior £7 ($10.70), though these prices will differ for cup games. The prices are reasonable, but I'm still not sure if you get your money's worth.
As always, the club has a programme on sale for £3.00 ($4.60) at every home game. The history is also a key extra. Why? Because it's one of the oldest grounds in the country, and you can say that you have been to the home of former Premier League champions. However, the main feature at Ewood Park is the statue of Jack Walker. Walker was a former, "fans' favourite" chairman at the club. He was the man who pushed the stadium developments forward and made Rovers Premier League giants during the early 1990s. Finally, Blackburn striker Jordan Rhodes is a fine talent and goal scoring machine - like that of former legend Alan Shearer. He is bright spark in a mediocre Blackburn side, and he is really worth watching.
The club is a complete mess at the moment. There are a lot of things that need improving at the club. A good manager needs to be given time to work with his players, and the fans need to be more supportive of their team. Oh, and the Venky's need to get a grip. Once this is all done, Blackburn may return to the Premier League and hopefully the stadium experience will improve.
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