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Official Review by Jeremy Inson, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Swansea City’s rise through the English football leagues from near extinction in 2003 to establishing themselves in the Premiership, winning the League Cup in 2013 and playing in Europe is one of the most gratifying stories in recent years.
At the same time they have left their cozy, but rundown former home of the Vetch Field to move to the purpose-built, council-owned 22,500 Liberty Stadium that they share with local rugby team The Ospreys.
Despite being the smallest capacity in the Premier League, it is a compact, comfortable, and clean stadium that more than suits the needs of the highest place supporter-owned club in the English League pyramid.
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".
The Liberty Stadium supplies the usual standard grub of beer, soda, hot dogs, meat pies, chocolate, and chips; combinations of the above come in special £5 ($8) combo deals.
For something more exotic there are a few curry outlets providing a tasty and not too spicy chicken curry and rice for £6 ($9).
Swansea's rise through the leagues has been built on a possession-based passing game. Despite changing managers during their rise, their owners have insisted on maintaining the quick passing style that has won them friends and plaudits galore and brought comparisons to Spain and Barcelona's tikka-takka style.
As such, the fans demand good football and respond vocally when it occurs. The Liberty fills up quickly and thanks to clever ticketing policies it is rare that the attendance isn't close to capacity. As such, there is usually a rollicking good atmosphere, with the very best coming when their South Wales rivals Cardiff City make the short trip along the coast.
Across the road from the stadium is where the real action takes place; Rossi's Fish and Chip Bar. The family-run business was already well-known in the area, but bought new premises in 2005. A few weeks later the new stadium opened across the road and business has boomed ever since. A good sized piece of fish and all the chips you can eat to take away will set you back £7 ($11), though it is slightly more to eat in at the 48-seat restaurant.
For more sophisticated dining try La Parrilla down at the restored Swansea Bay Docks selling all manner of Mediterranean inspired dishes; a main with starter or dessert plus wine will work out at about £25 ($41) per head.
For post-match festivities head to Wind Street in the centre of town which is jam-packed with pubs and nightclubs that stay open late into the night and do a roaring trade on Friday and Saturday nights.
As with most new-built stadiums there isn't a great deal to do around the stadium apart from the odd shop and fast food restaurant. While it is neither salubrious nor dangerous, it is just lacking any real options for something to do.
Much better to jump in a taxi (£7, $11) or catch a bus and head back into town to find something going on; on a good day the seafront provides a great option to stretch the legs or go for the dip, or there is the well-known picturesque village of Mumbles a few miles round the coast to enjoy.
Swansea City fans are appreciative of the good football that they play and are well aware of how close to going over the edge they came. As such, they are very friendly and always up for some good-natured banter with opposing fans, though Cardiff City are the one set of supporters that can stir their ire.
Furthermore, as a supporter-run club, they are looked after by their own and as such their needs and wants are listened to by those in power and acted upon. In all it makes up for a very good fan experience.
Swansea train station is on the main west line out of London and a 10-minute ride in a taxi from there to the Liberty Stadium will set you back about £7 ($11). Trains from London take about three hours and a return costs around £60 ($98), but make sure you book up early as prices rise steeply.
Numerous buses also run from the city centre, with the 4, 120, 125, and X20 the best options.
If driving, Swansea is off junction 45 of the M4 motorway that runs west from London and takes about three and a half hours on a good day. Once off the motorway, follow the A4067 towards the city centre and then follow the signs. Parking is available but limited both in the stadium car parks at £6 ($9) and the nearby streets.
Ticket prices are about average for the Premier League and come in two bands.
Category A matches are priced at £45 ($73) for adults and £22.50 ($38) for concessions (over-60s, U16s and students). They include the fixtures against Manchester City, Manchester United, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur.
Category B games come priced at £35 ($57) adult and £17.50 ($28).
The local rugby team, The Ospreys, compete in the Heineken European Cup and the Pro 12, a league featuring clubs from Ireland, Italy and Scotland. They feature a number of Welsh internationals and have a reputation for entertaining rugby; tickets cost £28 ($46) for adults and £20 ($32) for concessions.
As ever there is a club shop which features all the usual paraphernalia of both Swansea City and the Ospreys. Keep an eye out for the discount rail where last season's gear has been knocked down to more affordable prices.
There are also tours available of the Liberty Stadium, check the website for details.
There is talk of the stadium being extended to 30,000 seats, and plans for the extension were submitted in April 2013. When they complete the work there will be little doubt, if they are in the Premier League, that Swansea City will fill it.
However, they are becoming victims of their own success; players and managers who have helped them through the leagues are being enticed away to more fashionable clubs and it remains to be seen how long their strict wage structure and clever purchasing can continue to thrive, though most neutrals have great respect for what they have done and would probably admit that they wished their own clubs had the heart and soul of Swansea City.
Swansea City fans have known what it is like to have suffered through the years and now they are enjoying their moment in the sun and the Liberty Stadium is providing a fitting symbol for their continuing rise.
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