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Tangled up in Blue

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Which stadiums have a capacity greater than their location's populations?We track down the world's most disproportionately large grounds; plus Leeds players wearing different strips for a final
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Paolo Bandini guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 13 January 2010 00.10 GMT Article history
Liechenstein's Rheinpark Stadion. Photograph: Martin Godwin

"After checking out your guide to England's proposed venues for the 2018 World Cup, I noticed that Plymouth are planning a 45,000 capacity stadium for a population of 252,800, meaning 18% of the city could attend a game if they desired. Then I noticed Sunderland has 49,000 seats for 178,000 people (28%)," writes Mark Ireland. "Is there a ground which has a higher capacity than the location it is based in, so that 100% of the population could fit into the ground if they really wanted? If not, who has the highest percentage?"


Given the torrent of emails received in response to Mark's question we had little choice but to turn this into another Knowledge special. Among the many difficulties answering such a question is the fact that populations have a way of changing over time and not all towns can provide an up-to-date census. While efforts have been made to ensure that calculations are as accurate as possible, therefore, the percentages given are indicative, rather than precise figures.


55% Michael Haughey kicks us off, starting his search in an eminently sensible manner by looking at little towns and finding out if they had a football team. "The smallest town in the UK to have a senior side is Brechin, with a population of 7,199 according to the UK census," he says. "Glebe Park, their wonderful ground with a hedge along one side of the pitch, holds a comparatively whopping 3,960. That's 55% of the town you could fit in for a game."


80% That, though, was never going to be hard to top. Georg Meovold pointed us in the direction of Norwegian side Sogndal Fotbal's Fosshaugane Campus home, which has a capacity of 5,402 and can hence accommodate more than 80% of the municipality's 6,700 souls.


86% Hoffenheim's 30,164 capacity Rhein-Neckar Arena is based in Hoffenheim, which was a village in its own right but formally became a suburb of the neighbouring Sinsheim in 1972. The population of Hoffenheim itself is just under 3,300, giving the stadium more than nine seats to each resident. The population of Sinsheim, however, is over 35,000, meaning the stadium could only hold roughly 86% of residents of the city in which it is officially based.


101% Benjamin Mendel was the first reader to smash the 100% barrier. "Sporting Clube Campomaiorense, for whom Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink briefly starred, made it all the way to the top tier of Portuguese football in 1995 and played there until 2001. They played in the town of Campo Maior, with has a population of 7,900, but their stadium, the Estádio Capitão César Correia, had a capacity of 8,000. Sadly the team have since folded, but the stadium remains."


114% Moving over to France, Patrick Bruce was one of a number of readers to note that Lens's Stade Félix Bollaert has a capacity of 41,233, while Lens itself had a population of just 36,257 according to the 2008 census. "I make that it would hold 100% of the population and 4,976 of their cousins Nicole," chortles Patrick.


118% Those of you who have read Joe McGinniss's thoroughly enjoyable book about the team's 1996-97 season in Italy's Serie B will already know that the expansion of Castel di Sangro's stadium was no straightforward affair, but one way or another the Stadio Teofilo Patini can now hold 7,220 fans. The town had a population of 6,109 at the time of the 2008 census.


126% We can do better than all the examples listed above, however, without even leaving the UK. "Ross County's Victoria Park, which has a capacity of 6,310, could easily accommodate every resident of the town of Dingwall in which it is located," points out Jay Mansfield. "Dingwall's population was 5,026 at the time of the 2001 census, giving it a percentage of more than 125%."


153% "The obvious place to look is Liechtenstein," declares Liam McGuigan. "The national Rheinpark Stadion has a capacity of 7,838, whilst its home city of Vaduz has merely 5,109 inhabitants, meaning that an excellent 153% of its population could go to see the game. Among the other stadiums in Liechtenstein is Eschen's 6,000 capacity Sportpark Eschen-Mauren. Eschen has a population of about 4,000, meaning a percentage of 150% to rival its near neighbour."


224% Heading back to France, Alexander Britton noted Guingamp's unnecessarily large Stade de Roudourou, which boasts a capacity of 18,040 - over twice the population of Guingamp itself (8,040).


256% While the obvious approach to a problem such as this might be to seek out large stadiums in relatively small towns, Philip Mayall apparently set out looking for small stadiums in really small towns. "FK Chmel Blsany of the Czech Republic, who played in the Gambrinus Liga from 1998 to 2006 but now languish in the fourth tier, have a stadium capacity of 2,300 at the Stadion FK Chmel Blšany," he explains. The village they play in, Blsany, has a population of just 900.


296% "Estadio El Cobre in the town of El Salvador, Chile is host to Cobresal football club," explains Iain Pearson. "When they reached the Copa Libertadores in 1986 they chose to upgrade the stadium to reach the required minimum for the competition and as a result they now have a capacity of 20,752. Since the heady days of the mid-80s, however, the copper mine that justified the town has closed down and the population has now declined to around 7,000."


304% Our winner, for now at least, is the unimaginatively named Drnovice stadium in, you guessed it, the Czech town Drnovice. "With a population of around 2,300 and a seating capacity of 7,000, the stadium provides over three seats for every man, woman and child in town," offers Tim Dockery. "The stadium saw top-flight football in the 1990s and 2000s with my beloved FC Gera Drnovice [who have since folded] and has hosted the national side's friendlies on occasion."
 
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