With bidding wars between broadcasters, competing for the rights to air major football matches, generating increasingly larger sums of money, coupled with the rising sums that major brands and companies are willing to hand over in sponsorship deals, it seems that just about every major club has decided that it’s time to move into a new home.
A hulking metal structure that stands out even in the skyscraper-laden skyline of a major city, a few hundred panes of glass to fill the gaps and some blinding, bright lights to make sure nobody misses it. Welcome to the modern day football stadium.
That isn’t to say that that these newly built stadiums, the likes of Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, for example, aren’t beautiful. Some of them undoubtedly rank among the best stadiums in world football – for now, anyway.
The problem with man-made creations is that they often don’t tend to age very well. Concrete tower blocks were once the future of housing – a modern, spacious alternative to replace the UK’s ageing terraced homes. The Spice Girls were once the UK’s most popular musical act, while nowadays they would be lucky to get a few pity points out of Ireland at the Eurovision Song Contest. Heck, Poltergeist (1982) was once considered to be one of the most terrifying movies of all time.
There will undoubtedly come a time when modern football stadiums are consigned to the pile of outdated eyesores. Yet, there are some teams that will never face such a situation, given that they have avoided the temptation of building a lavish and luxury stadium.
One thing that never goes out of style is nature, and these 7 beautiful football stadiums and pitches have been perfectly blended with the natural world to ensure that they will remain timeless, regardless of what’s ‘in’ or what’s ‘out’.
Hásteinsvöllur Stadium, Iceland
It seems that the European Championship isn’t the only thing that Iceland outdoes England in. They also come out tops when it comes to truly breathtaking venues. This one in particular comes with a looming volcano towering over it. Given that the Eldfell volcano erupted without warning back in 1973, fixtures at this ground must be more nerve-racking than even the biggest of football matches.
This stunning stadium, first opened in 1912, is located in Vestmannaeyjar, Heimaey, a small Icelandic island with a population of just 4,500 people. Incredibly, the Hásteinsvöllur Stadium can hold more than half of the island’s inhabitants, with a total capacity of 2,834, 500 of which is seated.
With such a tiny ground, you would think that the Hásteinsvöllur Stadium is home to some small, amateur team. Yet, it is in fact the home ground of Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja, a popular Icelandic club who has racked up three Úrvalsdeild karla (Icelandic top flight) titles, four Icelandic Cups and One Icelandic League Cup in their time, as well as a handful of appearances in the Europa League and Champions League.
Chances are you have never heard of Íþróttabandalag Vestmannaeyja, but they do have one notable former player that you will know of – former England goalkeeper David James, who turned out 17 times for the club back in 2013.
Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella, Andorra
Sitting at more than 1,000 metres above sea level, matches at the Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella are often played under a blanket of cloud, rather than a retractable roof. The stadium is located in Andorra la Vella, the capital city of Andorra and is surrounded by a mountainous landscape that offers one of the most stunning views in the game.
The stadium was once the home of the Andorra national team and hosted the likes of Fabio Capello’s England at one point, despite seating a maximum capacity of just 1,300 spectators. Even for one of Europe’s smallest nations, that proved to be too small, with Andorra since moving into the 3,300-seater Estadi Nacional, which offers a similarly spectacular view.
However, this remarkable ground isn’t sitting unused. It is still used for many of the matches played in the top two tiers of Andorra’s football league system, the Primera Divisio and Segona Divisio, with all of the games split between the Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella and nearby Camp d’Esports d’Aixovall stadium.
Henningsvær Stadion, Norway
There are some truly incredible football pitches in the world – the Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti, Nou Camp, or Beijing’s Bird’s Nest, for example – but this one is quite possibly the most beautiful football pitch on the planet, regardless of how extraordinarily out of place it is.
The Henningsvær Stadion is situated in a small fishing village known as Henningsvær, which is a collection of several small islands located off of the coast of Norway. With a population of just 444 people, it will come as little surprise that this tiny pitch is used for amateur matches only. The pitch is home to club side Henningsvær IL, who use the pitch to train themselves and the island’s younger population.
While its location means that this stunning pitch probably doesn’t get the use that it deserves, the setting does come with its perks, particularly for spectators – rather than a sea of plastic chairs surrounding the pitch, there is the actual Norwegian Sea. In the same breath, hoofing the ball out of play can’t be much fun for the players.
Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium, Switzerland
If you thought Andorra’s Estadi Comunal d'Andorra la Vella was high up, took a look at the Ottmar Hitzfeld Stadium in Switzerland, which ranks as the highest football pitch in Europe at a whopping 2,000 metres above sea level.
The incredible stadium, located in the small village of Gspon, Switzerland, is carved into the side of the Alps, which offers breathtaking views of snowy-topped mountains from every angle. Yet, while they have one of the best homes in football, the location often proves to be a curse for amateur club FC Gspon, who own the ground. According to a club player, they get through a lot of balls, with an average of 7-10 lost to the mountain side in each game.
Being located nerve-rackingly close to a deadly drop certainly causes problems, but there is little that the club can do about it. The area was the only patch of free space nearby the village that was big enough to accommodate a football pitch. Even then, it still wasn’t big enough to fit a full-sized pitch, meaning that they had to settle for something a little smaller.
Stadion Gospin Dolac, Croatia
Unlike many of the stadiums included in this list, the Stadion Gospin Dolac actually looks like a stadium. Yet, this football arena provides the perfect balance between modern, ergonomic design and natural beauty, with the rows and rows of plastic seating engulfed by the cliffs and greenery that surrounds it. If cliffs aren’t quite your thing, this stadium also offers a brilliant view of the Topana Fortress, which is believed to date back to the 9th century. Better yet, the nearby lake and the picturesque town of Imotski that sit nearby offer an unrivalled aerial view, in which the stadium almost blends into its surroundings.
The stadium was built in 1989 and has hardly aged since. It has served as the home of NK Imotski, who ply their trade in Druga NHL, Croatia’s second division, since the club was created back in 1991. Despite its beauty, the Stadion Gospin Dolac doesn’t quite get the love and use that it deserves, offering space for just 4,000 spectators on match days.
Rheinpark Stadion, Liechtenstein
Situated on the border between Liechtenstein and Switzerland, the Rheinpark Stadion offers a view like no other. This perfectly placed arena doesn’t just have forests, or mountains or huge bodies of water. It has all three. Look one way and you’re welcomed by the countless rows of green trees that surrounds the town of Vaduz, look the other way and you will see the snow covered Alps. Step outside and you’re just a stone’s throw from the Rhine River, which flows through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands.
The stadium serves as the home ground for all of Liechtenstein’s international matches, as well as the home of FC Vaduz. Despite being based on a different country, FC Vaduz actually compete in the Swiss Super League, due to a lack of interest in football in their home country. While the club are one of the weakest in the Swiss top flight, they still manage to fill their 7,500 capacity stadium regularly.
Ko Panyi floating football pitch, Thailand
Admittedly, this one isn’t quite a ‘stadium’, but it is far too impressive to leave out, given that it is situated in the middle of the Andaman Sea, surrounded by towering limestone cliffs.
This floating football pitch is located in the village of Ko Panyi, Thailand, which is well known due to the fact that much of the village sits in the water, kept dry by the stilts that keeps it standing. Unsurprisingly, the village football pitch was constructed much the same way, originally built from splintering scraps of wood and rusted nails by the local children back in 1986, who were inspired by the World Cup tournament that same year. A newer, safer floating pitch has since been constructed, but the old surface (pictured) remains a favourite among tourists visiting the unusual island community.
Unsurprisingly, Ko Panyi has become an iconic destination for football mad tourists, with the hype generated by the floating pitch reportedly earning the island more than £1,000 per day, providing an abundance of jobs for the island’s population.
Extra: Tasiilaq football pitch, Greenland
There are only meant to be seven stadiums on this list, but how could we leave out this incredible scene? This pitch is located in the town of Tasiilaq, which (despite its population of just over 2,000 residents) is the seventh largest town in Greenland.
This is the only football pitch located in the town, which was built in 1960 and remains the largest area of flat land in the Tasiilaq. With a lack of grass and a reduced playing surface, the Tasiilaq football pitch doesn’t offer much in terms of quality, but it is hard to beat when it comes to its lavish scenery, with the traditional greenlandic architecture standing out against the Qimmeertaajaliip Qaqqartivaa mountain that sits behind it.
Who needs comfy seating and floodlights when you have nature?