Football is a game with a deep and rich history. In such a rich game, there are plenty of stories. Knowing these makes fans feel closer to their club. Something as simple as “Why are Manchester United fans called Red Devils?” or “Why do Paris fans say ‘Ici c’est Paris?” are asked millions of times on the internet and in person. One such question is – Why is Southampton’s ground called St Mary’s Stadium?
We take a dive into history, dig through, separate fact from fiction and try to answer this question.
Why is Southampton’s ground called St Mary’s Stadium?
In an era where increasingly rich benefactors bankroll their club, stadium naming right become the first thing to get easy money. In the PL itself, there is Emirates Stadium, Etihad Stadium, and more.
However, some stadiums have such deep history to them that changing their name would cause an uprising from fans. Old Trafford is one, and St Mary’s Stadium of Southampton is similar. The story behind Southampton’s stadium is interesting too.
Southampton was founded at St Mary’s Church on November 21, 1885, by the members of St Mary’s Church of England Young Men’s Association. St Mary’s Church is served many Christians in the area also called St Mary’s, an inner city area of Southampton.
When it was founded, the club was known as “St Mary’s Young Men’s Association”, later shortened to “St Mary’s FC”. It was later changed to Southampton St Mary’s before becoming a limited company in 1896-97. Hence, came the name with which it is known today- Southampton FC.
Also read: Why is Barcelona’s stadium called Camp Nou?
Interestingly, however, the club didn’t always play the game at aptly named “St Mary’s Stadium”. Till 2001, Southampton’s home games were played at the stadium known simply as “The Dell”.
The club’s move to St Mary’s Stadium in 2001 was christened as the team moving back to its home. Furthermore, the ground was not always named St Mary’s. When it opened, it had sponsor naming rights, being called “The Friends Provident St Mary’s Stadium”.
Fan engagement was critical here as they wanted to preserve their identity, refusing to name the stadium purely after sponsors. Post 2006, when new sponsor Flybe refused to purchase the naming rights, the final name of the stadium came about still in existence today, simply “St Mary’s Stadium”. Southampton FC finally had their pure identity back.
St Mary’s Stadium, an overview
Today, the iconically named stadium holds 32,384 people and has seen the most successful post-2000 era in the club’s history.
As a settled PL team, home to many great players, St Mary’s Stadium is the largest stadium in South East England.
Thursday nights at St Mary's 💫
To the 13,035 of you who came to cheer on our #SaintsFCU18s, thank you ❤️ pic.twitter.com/fND070PzzP
— Southampton FC (@SouthamptonFC) May 20, 2022
Before England’s decision to host all its national games at Wembley, St Mary’s also hosted the men’s football team regularly. However, the honour of hosting the women’s football team still rests with it.
The stadium hosted three UEFA Women’s Euro 2022 matches as the Lionesses won a historic title.
In just over 22 years since its construction, St Mary’s Stadium has been home to countless classic games, legendary moments, and great players. Add to it an interesting story, and it is no wonder St Mary’s Stadium has become one of England’s most iconic venues.