Ground: Park Avenue
Capacity 5500 (600 seated)
Nickname: Black and greens/Seasiders
Admission: £5 adults, £3 students/OAP, £1 Children (free for under 11s)
Aberystwyth is a small sea-side town (population 13,500) in the county of Ceredigion (population 75,000) on the west coast of Wales. Situated towards the centre of the crescent of Cardigan Bay, Aberystwyth’s harbour is fed by the confluence of the rivers Ystwyth and Rheidol.
The town is huddled between three hills and is focused around a seafront with two gritty beaches, some castle ruins, a pier and a harbour. Of the three hills: Pendinas to the south has visible remains of an iron-age fort and a monument to Wellington. To the north is Constitution Hill with a cliff railway for those not up to the 110m ascent up the zigzagged path to the summit. Apart from the amazing views of Cardigan Bay the reward for your climb (during the summer) is a small café and the camera obscura. Rising more gently to the east is Penglais Hill, hosting the hospital, the National Library of Wales and the main Aberystwyth University Campus including an Arts Centre. Just over the crest of the hill is Penglais School, one of the two secondary schools in town and the “science” park. Almost everything in Aberystwyth can be reached by a 10/15 minute walk from the centre of town.
Aberystwyth originated as a garrison town to help the Normans subjugate the local population. Since then it has been a mining town (silver and lead), and for a while, through fishing and transporting ore, it was the 2nd busiest port in Wales. From the 1870’s to the 1950’s it had a thriving tourism industry. Now Aberystwyth is a University town which adds over 7,000 students to the local population.
Most of the town’s economy is based around: repairing broken shop windows, alcohol, tourism, education, retail, local government and the service sector for the rural neighbourhood. Once the summer’s over the students return and take over the accommodation, bar stools and supermarket queues that the tourists vacate. Unlike many small sea-side towns, businesses in Aberystwyth manage to stay open all year. An important feature of the town is that nearly 1/3 of its population is transitory, with the students here for 27 weeks and the main tourist season being 6-to-8 weeks.
For hundreds of years Aber’s had an inordinate number of pubs – over 50 at the moment. It’s a dipsomaniac’s dream town. The compact town centre has led to a particular form of the ‘art’ called the ‘crawl’ – where revellers have a drink in one pub and then move on to the next pub. For three or four evenings a week the town centre is a vibrant throng ‘crawling’ between pubs. The extra bright street lighting (an aid to the new network of CCTV cameras) adds a surreal quality to the night scene.
How to Get There
Almost all football visitors will enter via the main roundabout in Llanbadarn. Simply follow the sign for Aberystwyth. The football club is signposted from here as is the turning left to the actual ground about three quarters of a mile towards town just beyond Kwik Save supermarket, simplicity itself.
Map to Park Avenue
At present Aber have an end of the ground called the railway end. Historically many football grounds across the UK have The Railway End stand, including Stockport County and Birmingham City. Aberystwyth however has historically at one time had two railway ends! The Vale Of Rheidol line, before its demolition, once crossed Park Avenue, looping as far as the football club’s current car park entrance. In the car park closest to the Rheidol river defence walls lay an old engine shed or two. Since then the club has also lost the Crossville End in favour of the vastly appreciated and well dedicated Dias Stand. The old Vale Of Rheidol line used to run where the Devil’s Bridge Trail cyclepath follows the club past the new astroturf site.
Aberystwyth Town v Haverfordwest County, Park Avenue, Friday 15th September 2006
Aberystwyth Town are fortunate enough to have several sites to park, adjacent to the ground there is a pay and display car park, which for night games is free, further down Park Avenue in the direction of Llanbadarn there is ample car parking within a 3-5 minute walk and even a free park and ride facility at the car park just a minute further down should you want to visit the town and save expense.
Approaching the ground through the Park Avenue car park, it is completely enclosed with no possibility of free viewing. The impressive new stand behind the goal at the town end adds to securing the already excellent perimeter wall, a real football ground. Entry through the turnstile is fast and efficient and programmes are available immediately on entry.
First Impression Inside
Park Avenue is neither old or new, but a charming combination of both. The covered new stand behind the goal is very pleasing to the eye and the seats provided good leg room and comfort as well as excellent viewing. This stand is called the Dias stand and is 7 rows deep.
Running along part of one touchline is the Aberystwyth Town AFC social club leading on to the Main stand. This is the oldest stand in Park Avenue It is an elevated construction with an initial 10 steep steps to the front row and a further 16 steps to the rear. Cover is good, as is leg room. The view is good but is obstructed somewhat by supporting vertical pillars and looking sideways by lined Perspex type material that fill in the sides for weather protection. Completing this side of the ground is a small open terrace which is slightly elevated.
Behind the goal at the Llanbadarn end is an undeveloped grass area and along the Park Avenue side the same, apart from an impressive improvement in the old covered terrace which has now been developed into a new uncovered stand. Leg room here was good, as was the view. This stand is 7 rows deep and, as all the others, presented in club colours of green and black.
Corporate Hospitality and Media
Regarding the media, this club is probably the envy of many of similar standing; it has a television gantry on the undeveloped side of the ground. Underneath the gantry is a glass fronted room that has a perfect elevated view of the pitch that is used for hospitality when required. Also, near the corner flag is a television studio that is used for live transmissions, giving good access to support vehicles parked outside.
The single temporary food stand is one of the best in Wales; typical football fare, but good, plenty of it, a good choice and all reasonably priced.
Pre-match music was good, the clarity of all announcements superb and clearly audible from all parts of the ground, the announcer kept everything factual and to the point. Excellent.
Within the confines of the Clubhouse, clean and tidy consisting of a large urinal, 2 toilets and 2 wash hand basins with soap. Opposite on the Park Avenue side, a single toilet with wash hand basin, basic but adequate.
Produced on good quality glossy paper I feel that the programme provided the information that football fans like; information on the players mainly, along with some history and away game information. It cost £1 and was well worth it.
Overall impression of a Game at Aberystwyth Town
Atmospheric, a real football ground, great atmosphere and I would be tempted to even say feisty. The Aberystwyth fans are a passionate crowd, maybe due to the fair sized student support in the Dias stand and are not shy in venting opinions. One thing that I did notice was that there were no obvious stewards in high visibility jackets seen inside the ground. I hope that this simple and cheap way of recognising club personnel is rectified.
To end on some constructive criticism, I saw no evidence of the ground being disable friendly and this needs to be addressed. Thank you Aber, you are a true football institution.
Ground review from the Groundhopper section of the official Welsh Premier league website
Rivals: TNS, Bangor City, Newtown, Caersws, UWA
Although Aberystwyth Town FC was formed in 1884, the club probably existed in the 1870s in an earlier incarnation – the re-establishment of a “town” club is recorded in 1876. Their early days were marked by friendly matches and it was not until 1896 that the club first joined a league – the Welsh League.
Welsh Cup Winners
After only one season they reverted to playing friendly matches but were firmly on the map in 1900, convincingly beating fancied Druids 3-0 in the Welsh Cup final and becoming the first team from mid-Wales to take the trophy. But this Welsh Cup victory almost proved to be their downfall as they hit a massive financial crisis and a mass exodus of players.
Welsh Cup winners 1899/1900
Aber’s league career has a nomadic flavour, as they have been members of various leagues since they entered the first competition, the Welsh League, in 1896.
That foray lasted only one season and they returned to playing friendly fixtures but did enter the English FA Cup on a few occasions. With interest in the club rekindled, they joined the “Combination” but again for only one term, probably because of the expense of travelling.
Four Feet Higher
In 1919/20, the club closed for 2 years to allow the ground level to be supported by foundations. This drastic work would ensure a defence against flooding from Afan Rheidol. The pitch level was raised by four feet using 100,000 tons of rubble, taken from the old sewerage works and the Aber Infirmary.
The Successful Twenties
Aber were members of the Montgomeryshire & District League from 1904, winning several championships, and with the advent of the Welsh National League in 1921 joined the Central Section. The club was very successful in the 1920s – achieving six title wins – and took the Mid-Wales League title in 1933 and 1950.
The ground was originally known as Smithfield Road until the renaming of Smithfield Road to Park Avenue in October 1934.
More Cup Success
Aber won the Welsh Amateur Cup in 1931 and 1933 and were finalists in 1935 and 1972.
The club began a long stay in the Welsh League (South) in 1951, although they continued to also field a team in the Mid-Wales League, and for a time in the Cambrian Coast League. They eventually returned to mid-Wales competition in 1963 but did not win the league championship until 1984, after finishing as runners-up on six occasions. They retained the title the following season.
The League of Wales
Aber were, by then, firmly established as one of the premier clubs in mid-Wales and in 1987 they returned to the Welsh League (South). They were three times runners-up before their inclusion as founder members of the League of Wales. Aber achieved their best LoW position – 3rd – in their first season and the club’s administrative and social set up are now well established.
After struggling for a few seasons in the League, and flirting with relegation in 1996/7, it took until February for the Black & Greens to gain a home win. Aberystwyth at last found some success in 1998/9 when they qualified to represent Wales in the UEFA InterToto cup competition. They did this by virtue of finishing fourth in the league on 57 points behind Barry on 76, Inter Cable-Tel on 63 and Cwmbran who took third place on goal difference.
Manager, Meirion Appleton made way for former Wolves, Derby County and Coventry City midfielder Barry Powell part-way through the season as a result of Aber crashing 5-0 at home to Caersws in a league game. Powell took over the reins of the club and led the Black & Greens into European competition for the first time. It was a memorable event with Aberystwyth narrowly losing 3-4 over two legs against Floriana of Malta.
The Dias Stand
The success of European qualification brought many changes to Park Avenue. A new BBC studio and TV gantry, followed by the new “Dias” stand which brought the number of seats in the two stands up to nearly 600. The “Dias” stand being named after club legend David “Dias” Williams who holds the club scoring record of 476 goals in only 433 games between 1966 and 1983.
The pressures of maintaining the standards achieved in 1999, and the ongoing upgrading of the stadium left the club financially stretched in the 2000/2001 season. Consequently they were unable to repeat the feat of attaining a European berth, just missing out by three points, although the club gained entry to the FAW Premier cup competition for the third year running. They managed to progress to the quarter-finals twice.
Barry Powell paid the price for his failure to qualify for Europe, and left the club by mutual consent.
Powell was replaced at the beginning of the 2001/2 season by Frank Gregan. Frank had a very impressive background in English non-league football and was unanimously voted into the job as new manager prior to the start of the season. He was responsible for bringing in several players with extensive experience in the English pyramid, but it took too long for him to produce any kind of consistency on the field of play. When Gregan was linked with the Dr Martens League Western division club, Weston-super-Mare – and the team suffered an ignominious home exit from the Welsh Cup at the hands of CC Sports league Aberaman Athletic in October 2001 – the writing was on the wall for Mr Gregan. This was combined with a poor away record and an exit from the lucrative latter stages of the FAW Premier cup at the hands of Caersws.
The Finley Years
Gary Finley took over as player/manager immediately after Gregan departed for Weston. There was an instant improvement in form and with minimal additions to the squad despite most of Gregan’s signings departing, a top eight finish looked possible. The club just missed out on the FAW Premier cup ending up in ninth place in the league on 51 points which was seven points adrift of the UEFA InterToto cup spot claimed by Caersws. They elected to play their home tie in the competition at Park Avenue, and like Carmarthen Town did the year before, Park Avenue witnessed the third undefeated Euro performance in four seasons, as Caersws drew 1-1.
Finley took the club to equal its best-ever finish of fourth in 2003/4 and again qualify for Europe, via the Uefa InterToto Cup, but following a policy decision to base the team on more local players, Finley departed with the Merseyside contingent and David Burrows took over as player/manager.
The change of strategy produced a worsening of results in 2004/5, but the club’s management decided to stick with the Ceredigion player policy despite seeing Park Avenue attendances slump by nearly 40%.
The club also received a further set-back in December 2004 when a serious fire destroyed much of the social club’s facilities, ruling out the ground for the staging of cup finals until the new John Charles lounge was opened in 2005.
UEFA Intertoto Cup participants: 1999, 2004
Welsh Cup winners: 1899-00
Welsh Amateur Cup winners: 1930-31, 1932-33, 1969-70
Welsh Amateur Cup runners up: 1906-07, 19238-29, 1934-35
Welsh Intermediate Cup: 1985-86, 1987-88
Welsh Intermediate Cup runners up: 1988-89
MidWales/Central League winners: 1922-23, 1923-24, 1925-26, 1927-28, 1929-30, 1932-33, 1948-49, 1949-50, 1958-59, 1983-1984, 2003-04
Central Wales Challenge Cup winners: 1975-76, 1981-1982, 1982-83
Central Wales Floodlight Cup winners: 2003-04
Park Avenue, 31 Maesgogerddan, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, SY23 2EY
Tel: 01970 617 939