Photos by Chris Tuck, Stadium Journey
Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.57
Stade de la Licorne
25, Rue du Chapitre
Amiens 80000, France
Year Opened: 1999 Capacity: 12,097
Groundhopping in the Somme
It took Amiens Sporting Club 116 years to reach the top flight of French football. They finally achieved their dream in 2017, finishing as runners-up in Ligue 2 (a 96th-minute winner in their final game confirmed promotion). Boss Christophe Pelissier went down in history and the move to their sparkling new stadium in 1999 was vindicated.
Previously, a single Couple De France final appearance in 2001 had been their peak, a 5-4 defeat on penalties to Strasbourg was hard to take. It was RC Strasbourg again providing the opposition for our visit on a cold November evening.
The Stade de la Licorne, 3k to the west of the city, is a striking structure, small in capacity but a giant in character. The transparent roof which peers inward over the pitch is an impressive and innovative feature, particularly imposing at night. The stadium, which opened in 1999, has a sponsorship naming rights deal with ‘Credit Agricole’ a network of French co-operatives.
Fierce WW1 battles and German occupation in WW2 catapulted Amiens (capital of the Somme region) into the world’s psyche. Before that author Jules Verne lived and worked in Amiens and in latter times current French president Emmanuel Macron was born here. With civic pride dented by factory closures and public sector cuts, right on cue, their football team has risen to life.
Editor's Note: Amien SC is currently in Ligue 2.
Food & Beverage 3
Sustenance options in the immediate locality and around the perimeter of the stadium are limited. Eat and drink in town or inside the stadium. Once in the ground, there are temporary structures selling drinks and hot and cold snacks.
Pay 1 Euro for a branded reusable cup and a beer costs 3 or 5 Euros (small or large). The ‘huts’ also sell soft drinks at 2.50 Euros and snacks including crisps and chocolate bars. The grandly titled ‘Les Arts de la Fete’ behind the south stand sells hot food including Frites for 3 Euros, Frites plus Saucisse, merguez ou piluet for 6 Euros, or baguettes.
Despite being open for 20 years (the inaugural match was a champions trophy match in July 1999 between Nantes and Bordeaux) the place still feels fresh and new. The current capacity of 12,097 could be developed to 20,000 in the future should it be needed. The highest attendance so far saw 12,737 squeezed in for a match v Olympique Marseilles.
The stands are almost identical on three sides with a larger version including a second tier forming the main stand. The leg room is excellent, and all seats are comfortable with an element of cover from the curved roof but this would not necessarily be enough to stop a soaking. Two scoreboards, one at each end keep supporters up to date with club news. (Watch a brief clip of the inside of the ground here.)
The views, too, are superb. The intimacy of the venue together with the bright white seats and curved glass backdrop ensures a real wow factor as you enter the arena.
As with most out-of-town venues, there is little to see in the immediate surrounding area. Centrally, the old town is worth staying for, with the 800-year-old cathedral the centerpiece. This UNESCO 13th-century gothic monolith towers over the old town and inside it is simply magnificent.
Starting slightly north of the cathedral there is the Quartier Saint-Leu, a fashionable area where the old textile mills were once based. This is an excellent area to eat, with a collection of restaurants nestled on the banks of the Somme River.
Our recommendation though is in the middle of town, an English-style bar called Au Bureau. There’s a great menu and a seat upstairs provides some great views over the pedestrianised shopping area.
A couple of streets away, the pub Le Charleston has sporting themes on the walls and serves blonde Leffe, a must when in northern Europe.
After the game back near the station, ‘Le Towers’ the Irish bar has friendly staff and a good range of beers.
Other central attractions include Maison De Jules Verne, the house where Verne lived, renovated (but with various parts of the interior preserved) now a museum, and the Belfry d’Amiens. Climb the tower and enjoy the views for just 4 Euros. Two memorials to the wars can be found along Rue de Noyon just opposite the station.
Whilst the city does not have the feel of a footballing hotbed, the fans here love Les Licornes (The Unicorns). Recent average attendances include 2017/18 (9,521), 2018/19 (11,043), and 2019/20 (currently 12,134). Rivals include Lens, Lille, and Strasbourg.
No printed programme or team sheet for fans is a disappointment, whilst not a surprise in mainline Europe it’s a missed opportunity to connect with fans and visitors.
The most vociferous fans are based at the north end of the ground. The north and south stand behind each goal and also have special sections for diehard fans with flags and scarves etc. Away fans are in the corner of the south stand and enjoyed themselves on our visit as Strasbourg ran out 4-0 winners.
Amiens is situated in the industrial north of France in the Hauts-de-France department, a two-hour drive from Paris. Arriving on the Eurotunnel into Calais it’s just a 90-minute drive if you are happy to pay 11 Euros each way on tolls. From Paris or Calais it’s the A16 that will get you to the city. There is a large car park at the stadium.
The main train station is Gare de Amiens where you can take an ER service to Paris Gare du Nord in just over an hour or it’s just 80 minutes from Lille. Alternatively, the Gare de Saint Roche which is closer to the stadium has TER (a regional brand on SCNCF) services to Albert, Abbeville, and Calais.
The nearest airports are Paris Beauvais Airport (60 km) & Roissy Airport (160 km).
Once in the centre of Amiens, it’s a long walk, taxi, or bus out to the ground. Take the bus (N4 or 16) from Rue au Lin, opposite the Belfry, just up the road from Le Charleston. The bus takes around 15 minutes to the Hippodrome next to the stadium.
Match tickets can be purchased easily through the club website. Book early however as most Ligue 1 games are close to sellouts each match day. Reductions were available on our visit. Category 1 – 6 tickets normally 17.50-32.50 reduced to 10 Euros to 17 Euros.
Return on Investment 4
Visiting from the UK, Eurotunnel single tickets can be purchased for as little as £30 each way. Then, petrol money, hotel, beers, and reduced-price match tickets mean the visit can be done on a tight budget.
The clubs’ social media is excellent with the Twitter account @AmiensSC in particular very good. A treasure hunt in the city centre organised a few days before the game is just one example of some innovative work.
There is a club shop in the city centre selling all the usual merchandise. Replica shirts are quite expensive as is normally the case, a scarf at 15 Euros is perhaps a more affordable souvenir.
Amiens previous home Stade Moulonguet in the south of the city has not been demolished and can still be visited. It is now the home of their second team (Amiens SC 2) who play in the National 3 league.
If you love your history and your eclectic football stadia, then put this one on your groundhopping list. The city of Amiens is small enough to explore in a day and if you visit whilst the Christmas market is on, the old town feels almost magical. The Somme region is rich in wartime history and so it’s a good place to base yourself if you want to take in the battlefields and monuments in the area.
The stadium design has to be seen, it has the feel of some Middle Eastern grounds and our recommendation is to visit for a night game. By day it looks fairly ordinary, like an old shopping centre but when the lights come on, like the football club itself, this fine stadium comes to life.