Here we take a look at the phenomenon of groundhopping which has swept across Europe in recent decades. This is the pastime of visiting as many stadia as possible, particularly football grounds.
Are you a groundhopper? Or maybe there’s a groundhopper in all of us?
For the hardcore groundhoppers of the world however, this is certainly a hobby that takes a lot of commitment, of not only time, but of money for fuel, train tickets, time off work etc.
This writer has never been a big admirer of away trips, although being a League of Ireland supporter has it’s perks compared to other countries around Europe. The geographical size of Ireland reduces travelling distances for the majority of away trips considerably when compared against the European average.
But where is this activity most prevalent one wonders? Apparently the craze is quite popular all over Europe, with Germany and Britain seemingly the epicentres of ground hopping activity on the continent.
In England, one of the most organised groundhopping groups calling themselves ‘The 92 Club’ are a set of football fans who have visited all 92 football league grounds or in other words, the top four divisions of the English footballing pyramid.
The club was formally founded in 1978 with the objective of it’s members visiting every ground in the Premier League, Championship, League One and League Two.
Although one may be mistaken for thinking ground hopping is a casual pastime, this group of groundhoppers appear to set the standard for groundhoppers the world over. The 92 Club emerge as very well organised and there are even rules for members to abide by. Some of the basics of a 92 ground groundhopper are as follows…
Any stadium visited in which the first team is playing, as long as it’s a competitive fixture, counts as a hop. Internationals and inter-league matches also suffice as a legitimate visit to each ground.
Every year there are two clubs promoted into League Two from the Conference Premier and this is where things get a little tricky. Members are expected to visit the two new grounds, unless of course they have already been there.
Although it is expected that members visit these grounds, The 92 Club’s website states that,
“It is hoped that existing Members will visit these grounds in accordance with the spirit of the Club. However, the Club has yet to expel an existing Member for not visiting a new ground.”
On reading this club’s rules, this writer would not consider himself much of a groundhopper, however occasionally a long away trip can be appealing, with going into the unknown being the main incentive to ‘groundhop’.
This video on FIFA’s official website shows just how far some groundhoppers will go to see a new team, and in particular a new venue. In the video, the groundhoppers visit ten different grounds over four days in the leagues of South Wales and Western England which are definitely not going to break any records attendance wise, or broaden their horizons quality wise. So it begs the question – why go to all the effort?
Maybe it’s nostalgia, maybe it’s the love of football, maybe it’s just boredom. It’s quite difficult for us uncommitted to this pastime, or passion for many that do it, to understand but it certainly is a way of enhancing one’s knowledge of the footballing landscape around them. Football clubs, and in particular football grounds are littered with history and sentimentality. Maybe that is what draws out the groundhoppers.
After all they do say travel broadens the mind, maybe ground hopping broadens one’s footballing knowledge…
Rob Lyons, Pundit Arena
Featured image by Kenneth Yarham [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons