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fans getting wet with umbrellas at football stadium without a roof

Bring Your Brolly: Stadiums Without Roofs

Nowadays, the majority of football fans who attend games in the top few tiers of the English game would expect to be able to do so without getting soaking wet as they sit and watch their team play. In the United Kingdom, both supporters and players accept that there won’t be a roof over the pitch, but most people would imagine that where they sit will be covered.

This isn’t always the case when it comes to the lower leagues, especially if you’ve found yourself in one of the numerous terraces that exist in non-league football, but in the likes of the Premier League and Championship you’d be disappointed if there wasn’t a roof over your head.

Cantilevered Roofs

At the majority of football grounds, especially those built in the modern era, the roofs are cantilevered. This means that there are no supporting posts on offer, keeping the view as clear as possible for those sitting and watching the game. The downside of a cantilevered roof is that they don’t necessarily do what they’re supposed to do when it rains, which is to say that struggle to keep you dry.

In order to stop rain or snow gathering on the roof and causing structural issues, cantilevered roofs are usually either tilted upwards or downwards so as to allow the water to drain off in a manner that is going to be as safe as possible.

For the spectator, though, this isn’t necessarily good news. A roof pointing upwards will allow rain to make it in and soak those below it, especially if it’s coming in at an angle. A roof pointed downwards would see the water drain off to the front, thereby potentially soaking those underneath it.

Your view might be good, but if you’re in attendance when the weather is less than favourable then it is extremely likely that you’ll need to take an umbrella or rain coat with you in order to ensure that you don’t get soaked to the bone. Only stadiums with retractable roofs avoid this, but they are few and far between in the UK.

Portman Road

portman road ipswich town fc showing three stands and roofs
James Cracknell, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Perhaps one of the best examples of a stadium that does what it can to look after supporters but is far from perfect is Portman Road. It is where Ipswich Town play their matches and has four stands on offer. The West Stand is the biggest and has three tiers, whilst the Sir Bobby Robson Stand is where a lot of the club’s more vociferous supporters are located on a match day.

The Sir Alf Ramsey Stand tends to be where a lot of children tend to watch the game with their families. It is the Cobbold Stand that we’re most interested in in terms of this article, however. Even the club’s website acknowledges that it isn’t ideal, saying:

“This stand…also has a designated family area. If you would like to watch the match from this stand, the whole of the lower tier is a designated family area, although they are permitted in the upper tier too. Two points of note in this stand are firstly, the visiting supporters sit at one end of the upper tier of this stand, and also if you choose to sit in the lower tier and it rains, you will get wet!”

European Stadiums

Perhaps understandably, many of the stadiums on the continent do not have any sort of cover. The likes of Spanish and Portuguese stadia are mostly uncovered, looking to take advantage of the good weather that the countries often benefit from.

Whilst rain is a lot less common in the Iberian countries than it is in the United Kingdom, it does still rain from time to time. When it does, supporters in the uncovered stands at the football grounds there are, unfortunately, doomed to get soaking wet. There are some stadiums that have a cover for one or two of the stands and leave others wide open to the elements.

This is also true in countries such as Italy and France, depending on which part of the country you find yourself. In fairness, it is good to be uncovered a lot of the time as it means that you can take advantage of the warmer weather and the blistering sunshine, but when that isn’t the case you are liable to be in an entirely unattractive situation.

Whether supporters like it or not, it is expensive to build roofs and so a lot of clubs decide not to do so if they feel as though the weather is going to be good enough for the majority of the year. There are also some roofs on the continent that cover some seats but not all of them.

When Carlisle Made the News

welcome sign at brunton park home of carlisle united
Jameboy, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 2018, Carlisle were playing host to Morecambe when Storm Callum was hitting the United Kingdom. There was a disabled Morecambe supporter who attended the game with their carer and Carlisle put them in disabled area for away fans. The problem was that this was at pitch-level and was entirely uncovered, resulting in the pair of them getting completely soaked.

The Morecambe supporters attempted to persuade stewards to bring them into the covered away section, but the stewards refused on safety grounds. The home disabled supporters, meanwhile, were under cover, thanks to the presence of two former Newcastle United dugouts.

Photos of the two Morecambe supporters being pelted by rain and barely protected by an umbrella began to circle amongst the club’s fans thanks to message boards. Soon it made the news, with BBC Radio Five Live sending a tweet about it (shown above) that said, “Is this photo a fair reflection of what it’s like to be a disabled football fan? This picture was taken at Carlisle United v Morecambe – right in the middle of Storm Callum. Carlisle say they’ll fit a shelter in the next few weeks.”

It was both a reflection of how disabled fans are treated and also the way in which some football clubs simply don’t have the facilities to stop fans getting wet.