Stadium of Light
Tyne and Wear,
Capacity: 49,000 (All-Seater)
A beautiful football ground both inside and out. The Stadium of Light is not only one of England’s largest, but also one of England’s finest.
Built between 1996 and 1997, it has been the home of Sunderland Association Football Club since it first opened.
Sunderland had previously played at Roker Park since 1898 but following the release of the Taylor Report in 1990, it became compulsory for all stadiums in the top two tiers of English football to be all-seater. The capacity of Roker Park would be significantly reduced if its large terracing areas were changed to seating areas, and so the proposal for a new stadium was drafted instead.
After an initial site had been rejected, Sunderland had plans approved for the construction of the current stadium, just a few hundred yards from Roker Park.
The Stadium of Light gets its name from the coal mining heritage of the region. Miners at the Wearmouth Colliery which the ground is built on used to carry a Davy lamp with them as part of their working lives. These consist of a wick lamp enclosed inside a mesh screen and are suitable for use in flammable atmospheres.
The stadium’s name reflects this tradition and allows the image of this light to shine forever.
Location and Getting There
The Stadium of Light is located in Monkwearmouth on the north bank of the River Wear and less than one mile north of Sunderland City Centre. The River Wear swings round the stadium’s western and southern sides, and heading due East eventually brings you to Roker Beach and Roker Pier.
The nearby A1018 bridge allows both vehicles and pedestrians to get from the north bank to the south bank and vice versa.
The stadium has a very good number of car parking spaces around its exterior, but finding free parking can be a bit more of a challenge.
It's unlikely that you will find space in the Sheepfolds Industrial Estate south of the ground, and the retail park to the east has parking restrictions in place.
Your best bet would likely be to head north and look for parking spaces there. Picking one of the many streets within Roker would be my personal recommendation.
Public transport is a much simpler option.
Sunderland Station is on the south side of the River Wear, about 20 minutes walk across the A1018 bridge and up to the stadium.
An alternative option is to take the Green Line of Sunderland’s Metro System, getting off at one of two stops. Depending on which way you are coming from, you can either get off at St Peters, around 10 minutes walk south of the ground, or Stadium of Light, around 15 minutes north of the ground.
Outside the Stadium
The Stadium of Light’s exterior follows a very similar design to other stadiums in the northeast of England. The ground has a really nice balance to it and a white cantilever roof that runs the whole way around.
Most fans will tend to approach the stadium from its East Stand, which has a bright coloured brickwork base and white corrugated iron in its upper levels, with the cantilever roof sat on top. The way that the upper part of the stand protrudes out further than the area underneath makes it look like the hull of a ship.
Turnstiles 37-50 are spread very evenly along the East Stand’s exterior, and the stadium’s largest car park is out beyond it.
A little way from the East Stand is a large brick building known as the Black Cat House. It contains Sunderland’s Main Ticket Office, and in the middle of the roundabout beyond that is a large model of a Davy Lamp, the same one which influenced the Stadium of Light’s name.
Continuing round in a clockwise direction brings you to the South Stand, better known as the Roker End.
Its design and height mirrors that of the East Stand, with brickwork at the base, corrugated iron in the upper parts and the cantilever roof on top.
Turnstiles are spread evenly along the exterior. Turnstiles 51-54 are at the stadium's southeast corner, Turnstiles 55-67 are along the southern side of the stadium, and Turnstiles 1-8 are at the stadium's southwest corner.
Sunderland often have a small merchandise shop set up beyond the stadium’s southeast corner, and in front of that is a statue of Bob Stokoe.
Born in Mickley on 21st September 1930, Stokoe played as a centre-half for Newcastle United and Bury before becoming player-manager whilst with the Shakers in 1961. Sunderland’s manager over two spells, Stokoe won the Second Division Title with the Black Cats in 1976, but most famously the FA Cup in 1973, when second-tier Sunderland beat Don Revie’s Leeds United 1-0 in the Final.
He passed away on 1st February 2004 at the age of 73.
Stokoe is remembered for his jubilant celebration at full-time in that FA Cup Final, running down the pitch in a mackintosh and trilby hat as he celebrated the victory with goalkeeper Jim Montgomery. That image of him is recreated in the statue, and many Sunderland fans believe that rubbing one of the statue’s feet will bring the team good luck on a matchday.
The West Stand is the Main Stand at the Stadium of Light and is much larger than both the East Stand and Roker End. It still maintains a similar exterior design though, with brickwork leading up to the cantilever roof at the very top. Sections of brickwork along the base are engraved with the names of Sunderland supporters past and present.
Turnstiles into the stand can be found next to and underneath the brick building that protrudes out of the stand. They are numbers 1-8 and 17-24 for the West Stand and numbers 9-16 for the Premier Concourse higher up. Sunderland’s Main Entrance for Players and Officials can be found here, as well as the Main Reception, with several rows of car parking out beyond it. It’s worth stepping back into the car park and taking a good look at the West Stand from a distance away as it is a spectacular sight.
On either side of the Main Entrance are two sets of black gates with the Sunderland Association Football Club Badge and the words ‘Into the Light’ written on them. Sunderland's Stadium Store is through the northernmost gates.
The North Stand is the same height as the adjacent West Stand.
There is more corrugated iron and glass windows on the exterior here than brickwork, but you still have the cantilever roof up at the top and the turnstiles into the North Stand are along the path underneath. Sections of brickwork along the base are engraved with the names of Sunderland supporters past and present.
Turnstiles 17-24 are for the lower tiers of the northwest corner and Turnstiles 63-68 are for the upper tier of the northwest corner. Turnstiles 25-32 are for the lower tiers of the North Stand and Turnstiles 69-74 are for the upper tier of the North Stand. Turnstiles 33-36 are for the stadium's northeast corner.
Vaux Brewery Way runs along the North Stand and on the opposite side of that road is the Sunderland Aquatic Centre, with the Foundation of Light out beyond it
Once you reach the northeast corner, the exterior returns back to the ship’s-hull-like design of the East Stand and Roker End.
Inside the Stadium
The East Stand is made up of two tiers of red seating, though you can freely get between the lower tier and upper tier.
Sunderland’s Club Badge is made out of red, white and black seating along the upper tier, and below that are the letters SUNDERLAND A.F.C. spelt out using white seating along the lower tier blocks.
Right at the very back of the East Stand are a row of small pillars, but these are in line with staircases and gaps in the seating blocks. As a result, your view of the action on the pitch is perfectly clear from any seat, and that includes both the northeast and southeast corners as well, which are made up of two tiers of white seating rather than red seating.
The Roker End is also made up of two tiers of red seating, but there are no letters or images made out across the blocks.
Like the East Stand, there is a row of small pillars that run partway along the very back, but these do no restrict your view of the action.
The stadium’s control room is also based at the back of the Roker End and close to the southwest corner, which is coloured white like the northeast and southeast corners.
Hanging down from the roof of the Roker End is a large electronic scoreboard.
The West Stand is divided into three levels.
The same two-tiered lower section that you find in the East Stand and Roker End is included, but there is an additional third tier of red seating high up above this, with a row of executive boxes separating it from the lower levels. This third tier is known as the Premier Concourse.
Sunderland’s executive seating blocks are in the centre of the middle tier, with the press box just down below this and the area holding the matchday camera just above. You can also find the changing rooms, dugouts and tunnel down the front of the West Stand.
There are no supporting pillars coming down from the roof and as a result your view is perfectly clear from any seat.
The North Stand copies the three-levelled design of the West Stand, with the same row of executive boxes dividing the top tier from the rest of the stand. The letters HA’WAY are spelt out in white across the middle tier blocks, and the letters THE LADS are spelt out in white across the lower tier blocks. There are no letters at all spelt out in the upper tier blocks, but given that there is seating in the northwest corner, the upper tier forms a continuous red strip along both the western and northern sides of the Stadium of Light.
There is a large electronic scoreboard attached to the roof of the North Stand, but much like the West Stand there are no supporting pillars coming down and so your view of the pitch is perfectly clear.
One thing worth noting however is that if you are in the back rows of the North Stand’s top tier, you may have to crouch down in order to the see the scoreboard hanging from the Roker End on the opposite side of the stadium.
The middle and bottom tiers of the northwest corner are coloured white, and what this forms is an alternating red and white stripe design, similar to what you would find on Sunderland’s home shirt.
Away fans are housed in the top tier of the North Stand.
Depending on the allocation, just a couple of blocks, usually the ones nearest to the northeast corner, are made available for travelling fans. Larger crowds take up more blocks and the biggest away attendances will use up the entire North Stand top tier.
Sunderland home fans are given all of the tiers below this, and you will only find the West Stand top tier in use on games when the Stadium of Light is expected to be completely sold out.
Of course, getting up to the very top tier of the Stadium of Light requires many flights of stairs, but I do like how Sunderland have included quotes on the walls as you work your way up.
Some of the best lines include "Nine small steps for man...One normal step for Peter Crouch" and "They think it's all over...It is now".
Pubs available to supporters on a matchday include:
-The Albion (Victor Street, SR6 0EN) (Away Supporters Welcome)
-The Avenue (26 Zetland Square, SR6 0EQ) (Away Supporters Welcome)
-Chaplins (40 Stockton Road, SR1 3NR) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near to Sunderland Station and Sunderland City Centre)
-The Colliery Tavern (12 Southwick Road, SR5 1EQ) (Predominantly Home Supporters) (Located near to the Stadium of Light itself)
-The Peacock (287 High Street West, SR1 3ES) (Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near to Sunderland Station and Sunderland City Centre)
-The Wheatsheaf (207 Roker Avenue, SR6 0BN) (Away Supporters Welcome) (Located near to the Stadium of Light itself)
-The William Jameson (30-32 Fawcett Street, SR1 1RH) (A JD Wetherspoon Pub, Typically Home and Away Supporters) (Located near to Sunderland Station and Sunderland City Centre)
The Stadium of Light is a truly beautiful football ground. It has fantastic balance and consistency both inside and out, with its West Stand exterior a spectacular sight.
Sunderland’s home is one of the largest in the whole United Kingdom, and it's fitting that it is also one of the best looking as well.
You simply have the Stadium of Light on your football ground bucket list. It would be ridiculous not to.