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Club News

The Main Stand: 110 Years

13 September 2023

Club News

The Main Stand: 110 Years

13 September 2023

Opening on this day in 1913, the Main Stand at Boundary Park has witnessed a lot: From two World Wars to five promotions, it is a structure steeped in history...

IT IS June 1913, Suffragette Emily Davison has been killed after throwing herself in front of King George V’s horse at the Epsom Derby, John Maynard Keynes has published his first book on economics, and Oldham Athletic have just completed their greatest ever season.

A personal best of 42 points saw David Ashworth’s side finish ninth in the old First Division, and even better, Latics made it to the semi-final of the FA Cup, losing 1-0 to eventual winners, Aston Villa, at Ewood Park.

Looking to build on that success, the club’s directors unveiled ambitious plans for a new stand on what was then called Sheepfoot Lane. They were to replace the old Main Stand, which was built in 1907 and was around 40 metres long, with a brand new stand.

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It had long been a complaint of visiting teams that Oldham’s facilities were poor, and weren’t up to the standard of a league club, but this exciting development would soon rectify that, giving Latics one of the best stands in the country.

Winder & Taylor Architects, of 61 Union Street, drew up the blueprints in June, including space for the manager, storage, the directors, and changing room facilities, as well as a running track for the players to use. The track sat along the length of the stand, and was where the home team changing room and Legends Lounge is now.

Interestingly, the original plan was for the stand to span the full length of the pitch, however, for some unknown reason, this didn’t come to fruition, leaving just the terrace to follow the touchline for 330ft, and a stand which covers two thirds of the pitch.

The terrace accommodated 5,232 spectators, with seating for around 2,500 supporters in the upper tier, including 1,092 tip-up seats. The roof of the old stand was transferred to the Chaddy End, and the holding capacity of the ground was brought to within touching distance of the 40,000 mark.

The plans were approved on 12th June 1913, and work lasted throughout the summer, finishing prior to the first home league game of the season against Chelsea. Unfortunately, during construction a young boy suffered injuries when workers were fixing a girder into place, and a large wooden gate fell on him. 11-year-old Fred Scott, of Henshaw Street suffered a fractured leg, and was treated at what is now Royal Oldham Hospital.

After an opening day defeat away at Bolton Wanderers, the new Main Stand opened its gates for the first time on 13 September 1913, as Latics took on Chelsea. Oldham went ahead when Oliver Tummon’s shot beat Chelsea ‘keeper, Jim Molyneux, scoring the first goal in front of the new main stand. Latics went on to win the game 3-2, with Alf Toward scoring the winner.

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In December 1965, Ken Bates took over as Chairman of Latics from Harry Massey, with the club at the bottom of the Third Division. Bates was ambitious, stating that he wanted Latics to become a First Division club once more, and nothing exemplified his aspirations more than the installation of hospitality boxes in the main stand.

A few rows of terracing were sacrificed to make way for the ten boxes, as was the old press box which had been in place since at least the mid-1920s.

Speaking at the time, Ken Bates commented on how some ‘dismal johnnies’ forecasted that his executive boxes would be unsuccessful, but they were sold out before they were even completed, and even had a waiting list for the 67/68 season, six months in advance.

Taking over as manager in 1970, Jimmy Frizzell’s office sat right next to the tunnel and led through to one of the ten boxes, which his friends and family would use on a matchday.

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As well as the addition of the boxes, Ken Bates completely revamped the interior of the stand, utilising space leftover from the running track to create visitors’ and junior dressing rooms, and knocking through a number of walls to create the boardroom and a lounge.

The iconic signage which adorns the brickwork on the front of the stand has been in place since at least 1966, and it's a fair assumption that it was added by Mr Bates as part of his extensive renovations in the summer.

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As Latics went up the divisions, the roof came down. After 81 years, the old school pitched covering was replaced by the current roof, consistenting of a number of translucent panels. The five support beams were replaced by four new ones, with the old stumps which supported the original pillars still being visible at the front of the Main Stand Upper.

During construction, a section of the stand was set on fire when builders working on the refurbishment project failed to dampen down planks of timber, which were left to smoulder and caught ablaze on the roof.

Around 40 square metres of damage were caused to the roof, and four fire engines attended the scene, with firemen having to climb 60ft up the stand to retrieve potentially dangerous welding gas cylinders.

The replacing of the roof was part of a larger refurbishment project, as following the Taylor Report, Latics had to replace the old terrace on the lower tier, and convert it into all-seater paddocks. New dugouts were also added at the top of steps, as were a series of barriers and additional seating, which remained unchanged until the recent renovations in the summer.

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It’s currently the third oldest stand in the country, behind Fulham’s Johnny Haynes Stand, and Barnsley’s West Stand.

Over the past 110 years, it’s played host to over 2,000 Football League matches, being present for some of the most memorable moments in the club’s history, with many more to come in the future.


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