Leigh Centurions
Leigh Sports Village

Ground No. 13
Visited - Sunday 1st February 2009
Result - Leigh Centurions 0-32 Wigan Warriors
Competition - Pre-Season Friendly
Attendance - 6476

Opened at the end of 2008, even in such a short period, Leigh Sports Village has attracted an abundance of controversy, particularly so from the football club, Leigh Genesis, who were due to move there at the start of the 2008/09 season. The delays and prohibitive costs have helped threaten their future, but for co-tenants Leigh Centurions, then the move has been a mostly positive one, even if the new ground didn’t help win the Super League franchise they hoped it would.

Situated just south of the town centre, the village boasts a brand new 12,700 capacity stadium as its centrepiece, but it’s also a lot more than that, with facilities for athletics and swimming amongst other sports, and with a hotel, new housing, a campus for Leigh College, new facilities for Leigh East ARLFC, then it really is a huge development for the town as a whole as opposed just the two principal clubs that use the stadium.

Centurions and Genesis (or RMI as they were known) are no strangers to ground sharing, both having played at Hilton Park before the move. It was a ground I’d visited a few years previously, albeit only for the Rugby, to see the Lancashire side triumph over Workington in the Northern Rail Cup semi-final. Whilst most people seemed to love the old ground, claiming it to have a real traditional feel to it, it hadn’t been quite to my tastes, so I was looking forward to see if their new home left a better impression, circling the stadiums official opening fixture against Wigan Warriors to be the game to go to.

Making my way up by train, I’d managed to arrive in Wigan with relative ease, but with Leigh having no station of its own, then I’d needed to catch a bus to the town. Simple enough, I’d bought a ticket that allowed bus travel as well, except after stepping on the bus the driver refused to let me on because “he’d never seen anything like that before”. It left me fuming, although ten minutes later, hearing him get a telling off over the radio from GMPTE’s station staff lifted my spirits a bit! but it still meant that I was bit later getting there than planned, having to get the next service which didn’t arrive for half an hour. It’s only a ten minute walk from the centre, and as soon as you arrive at the site, then you can tell the stadium, as with most similar council funded facilities, has been built to a good standard. The Main Stand of course attracts the most attention with a nice design to it, and unusually it has a video screen on the outside above the main entrance.

After going in, I’d chosen to sit with the Wigan fans in the South Stand. This and the East Stand are identical designs, of medium height, and all-seated. The North Stand opposite is practically the same, except it’s a terrace whilst the Main Stand to the left has a slightly smaller lower tier of seating, and executive boxes above that, with the roof slightly higher than the other three sides. 

As expected, Wigan had bought a big following, making up at least half of the 6476 crowd, and it seemed that this was the match that the stewards (who had been barely noticeable at Hilton Park) would take the opportunity to be as annoying as possible, constantly hassling fans throughout, despite this being a friendly and no air of trouble (as with most Rugby League games). The ground had already seen two matches previously, Salford in the first game and Oldham the week before, but this was the big one for Leigh, not only the official opening of the stadium, but a local derby that was all too infrequent following their relegations in 1994 and 2005. However even if the programme had built it up to be a grudge tie for the home side, then apparently no one told the team that! Wigan were 6-0 up within two minutes when Pat Richards went over in the corner, before converting the kick. The tries kept coming, Paleaaesina powering over in characteristic style on 14 minutes and Andy Coley made it 16-0 at the break. After the interval, despite Leigh looking more lively, Wigan killed the game within 8 minutes, first thanks to a clever try from Thomas Leuluai and secondly from Sean O’Loughlin who both raced under the sticks to give Pat Richards two easy kicks. Phil Bailey wrapped it up when he made it 32-0, although Richards couldn’t add the extras this time.

Halfway through was the unusual sight of Rugby League in the snow, after a blizzard had hit the town on a bitterly cold afternoon, but thankfully it stopped before the final whistle, and I was able to make my way home without any trouble, glad to have come.

Overall, bus drivers and stewards aside, it had been a fairly good trip. The new ground is a major improvement on Hilton Park, and in my opinion has a bit more character, even if it is in a similar style to the stadiums built recently at Shrewsbury and Colchester. One major difference though compared to those two, is that it has other buildings built immediately around it, which as with the HJ Stadium in Warrington, perhaps makes it feel part of something, unlike most developments stuck out in the middle of nowhere, quietly away from the clubs community, so the LSV does seem to be a bit better, and on another point, is classic evidence that seat patterns can really help make a ground, the white vertical lines near the gangways really breaking up the red seating that could otherwise perhaps make it look a little dull. It’s also nice to see a terrace built at a new ground and begs the question why can’t football have them, but concentrating on the Rugby, then the ground is a fantastic addition to the game, and come 2012 might just see the club get a place in Super League if other clubs can’t come through with the promises of new grounds that they’ve made.

Overview of the Sports Village Site

Rear of the Main Stand

The Main Entrance

The Club Shop

Rear of the North Stand

Rear of the East Stand

Rear of the South Stand

The Main Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

The South Stand

The Main Stand

The North Stand

The East Stand

Leigh Sports Village

Leigh Sports Village Panoramic 1

Leigh Sports Village Panoramic 2


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