Portman Road is an association football stadium in Ipswich, Suffolk, England. It has been the home field of Ipswich Town F.C. since 1884. The stadium has also hosted one senior England friendly international match. It has staged several other sports events including athletics meetings and international hockey matches. The stadium has also held several music concerts, including performances from R.E.M. and Elton John.
The stadium was changed a lot in the early 2000s. This increased the number of people it could hold from 22,600 to 30,311. It is the largest capacity football stadium in East Anglia. The record number of people in the ground of 38,010 was set in an FA Cup match against Leeds United in 1975. The stadium also has conference and food facilities, the "Sir Bobby Robson Suite", "Legends Bar" and a club store selling Ipswich Town souvenirs.
Portman Road has been used by the local cricket team since 1855. In 1884 Ipswich Town F.C. moved from another area of Ipswich to ground. Both teams shared the ground during the summer. The first professional football team to play at the ground was Preston North End in 1892. They played a match against a Suffolk County Football Association team. A temporary bleacher was built for the visit of Aston Villa in 1898. Over 5,000 people watched the match. In 1901, a tobacco factory was built along one side of the pitch.
A wooden bleacher called "The Chicken Run" was built along the side of the pitch in 1906. Four years later, two amateur England international games were played at Portman Road. The First World War led the British Army to use the ground for training. A lot of work had to be done to repair the pitch when they left in 1920. During the 1920s, the ground hosted greyhound races to raise money. In 1936, when Ipswich Town F.C. turned professional, the cricket club left the ground.
Portman Road was home to Ipswich Town's first Football League match on 27 August 1938. Ipswich won 4–2 against Southend United in front of more than 19,000 spectators. The fans helped pay for more improvements like concrete bleachers in 1952 which meant the ground could hold over 29,000 people. Floodlights were built in 1960, and Ipswich's first televised match was held two years later.
The "Portman Stand" was built in 1971. This increased the ground's capacity to over 37,000. After the Hillsborough disaster, all bleachers had to be all-seater by law. This meant all terraces had to be converted and the capacity was reduced to about 22,000. Statues of previous Ipswich Town managers Bobby Robson and Sir Alf Ramsey were put outside the stadium in the 1990s. After Ipswich were promoted in 2000 to the Premier League, the ground was expanded to its current capacity of just over 30,000.
Structure and facilities
The pitch is surrounded by four all-seater bleachers: the Sir Bobby Robson Stand (North), the Cobbold Stand, the Sir Alf Ramsey Stand (formerly the South Stand) and the East of England Co-operative Stand Stand. The main section of Cobbold Stand, which used to be called the Portman Stand, was built in 1971. The East of England Co-operative Stand was built in 1952 as a concrete seating area. It was updated in 1990. The North Stand was completely rebuilt in 2001 and has a capacity of around 7,500.
The current groundsman, Alan Ferguson, has been given several awards. They include both Premiership and Championship Groundsman of the Year. The pitch was voted the best in the Championship for two consecutive seasons in 2004 and 2005.
The East of England Co-operative Stand, with turnstiles
Sir Bobby Robson Stand (North Stand) with club store
Sir Alf Ramsey Stand (South Stand)
On 20 August 2003, Portman Road hosted its only senior England match. It was a friendly against Croatia, which finished 3–1 to England in front of 28,700 people. The stadium has been used by England youth teams several times. The first time was on 24 November 1971. The England U23 team drew 1–1 with Switzerland.
The stadium has also hosted several music concerts, including performances by Elton John, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Rod Stewart. In March 2005, around 8,000 Christians went to the stadium. This was the largest act of Christian worship in Suffolk since American evangelist Billy Graham used Portman Road on part of his tour in 1984.
The most people to watch a football match at Portman Road is 38,010 for a match against Leeds United in the FA Cup sixth round on 8 March 1975. The record modern (all-seated) attendance is 30,152, set on 21 December 2003 against Norwich City in the Football League Championship. The largest ever crowd for a non-competitive game at the ground was 23,284 for Bobby Robson's testimonial match where Ipswich, including George Best, played against an England XI.
The highest seasonal average at the stadium since Ipswich turned professional was 26,431 in the 1976–77 season. The lowest average attendance at Portman Road was 8,741 in the club's first professional season, the 1936–37 season. The highest total seasonal attendance was in the 1980–81 season when the total was more than 814,000.
Portman Road hosted Ipswich Town's first appearance in European football competition when they defeated Floriana of Malta 10–0 in the European Cup in 1962. Since then, Ipswich Town remain undefeated at Portman Road in all European competitions. They have played a total of 31 matches over 40 years, a world record until it was beaten by AZ Alkmaar in December 2007.