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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
Newport County AFC are a Welsh soccer team who play in the English Football League Division 2 rather than their own national league. The club has shared the Rodney Parade stadium with Rugby Union side Newport Gwent Dragons since 2012. The historic stadium was built in 1877, and has a capacity of 9,097 for rugby and 7,850 for soccer. It is not an all-seater as there are standing sections.
The recently built Bisley Stand is the more modern part of the stadium and houses the majority of the venue’s facilities including 2,500 seats. The much older Hazzel Stand on the opposite side is a classic old gem containing seats at the back and a terraced paddock in front. The small spiralling staircases inside are classic. The floodlight pylons lighting are a novelty, protruding through the roof of the stand.
The far end of the stadium has open air seating and is where the away supporters are located for soccer games. The entrance to the stadium is through the turnstiles located at the end of the complex that is open air terracing.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
There are food vans inside the ground serving hot and cold drinks in addition to hot food. This includes hot dogs, burgers, and chips. The food offerings are a good value. Being a traditional rugby venue, the social club at the stadium's entrance serves up excellent cooked meals in addition to local Welsh ales. This is an excellent place for your pre match entertainment.
The return to a traditional venue from their years at the soulless Spytty Park is a major step forward with regards to watching football for Newport County supporters. The make-up of Rodney Parade gives the venue its own atmospheric feeling. The most vocal of the home supporters can be found in the paddock under the Hazzel Stand.
The club's original Somerton Park ground was demolished many years ago and possessed its own unique atmosphere. Some of that appears to have transcended to Rodney Parade.
Newport is an industrial town located on the River Usk around 12 miles from the Welsh capital of Cardiff, at the Welsh end of the Seven Bridge that connects Wales to England. Although the town has little to offer, its surrounding Welsh Valleys and countryside are certainly worth a visit.
The stadium is a short walk from the town centre where there are plenty of pubs and fast food outlets. The best hotels are in neighbouring Cardiff, although the Crossover House Bed and Breakfast on the other side of the Seven Bridge in Almondsbury is highly recommended.
Newport County AFC supporters have had a tortuous last 25 years. The original club who played European football on many occasions went to the wall having lost their Football League status and reformed in 1989. Football politics made life difficult for the newly reformed club as they wished to remain in the English pyramid system and not become part of the then newly formed League of Wales. This meant that home games were played in English Cotswold Town of Moreton in Marsh some 70 miles away before the club were allowed to play at Spytty Park in Newport. Even at the lower levels of English non league football and not being allowed to play in their own town, County had a strong hardcore support base and their efforts have been rewarded with the club regaining their Football League status. Local rivals are Cardiff City, Swansea City, and Merthyr Tydfil.
Rodney Parade is reached by road by exiting at any of the Newport junctions before or after the Seven Bridge crossing of the M4 motorway. The ground is located close to the centre of town on the banks of the River Usk. There is only street parking around the stadium, but there are many town centre car parks nearby. Newport Railway Station is well served by trains from both Cardiff and Bristol.
Ticket prices range between £16 and £20 depending on which part of the stadium you wish to sit or stand. Take your pick of old or new stands. Compared to some other lower tier stadiums in the Football League, Rodney Parade is not lavish. However it is a thoroughly enjoyable place to watch your football, and away supporters love going there.
The stadium may not possess extravagant electronic scoreboards and lush concourses, but the friendliness of the club officials and stewards more than make up for that. The football club has a small club shop at the main entrance and a decent match day programme sells for £3.50. For those of you that smoke, the stewards let you out at halftime to enable you to have your fix.
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