THIS is why you must visit Welford Road

Mattioli Woods Welford Road Stadium on January 28, 2023

Whether it be the gritty grounds of the Championship or blockbuster encounters at Twickenham, there’s something special about watching live rugby. There are always little moments you won’t experience watching TV. With this in mind, we thought stadium reviews could be a useful addition moving forward. We start with Welford Road, the home of the Leicester Tigers. Not just any Tigers fixture, but the East Midlands derby against Northampton Saints. Not just any East Midlands derby, but the final home fixture for club hero Freddie Burns. It certainly exceeded expectations.

Welford Road Stadium Review

Location- 8/10

Leicester is a great away day partly because it’s a rugby city. They regularly attract over 20,000 spectators to the envy of the rest of the league.  Near the Haymarket clock tower in the city centre sits a statue depicting a footballer, cricketer, and rugby player pursuing their sport. The bronze ‘Sporting Success Statue’ tributes all three Leicester teams winning silverware between 1996-1997. It reveals a passion that Leicester has for all its teams, with rugby sitting beside football, not in its shadows.The city centre is just a 10-minute walk from the stadium, with plenty of cask-ale pubs along the way. Perhaps most famous is the King’s Head, which was absolutely rammed before kick-off. Nearby is also some beautiful murals etched on the walls of club legends, such as Manu Tuilagi and Martin Johnson.


(Photo Credit: Connor Dickins, Murals outside of Welford Road of Leicester Tigers legends)

Stadium – 9/10

From the entrance to your seat, you’ll be surrounded by words and images immortalising alumni of the club. The classic ‘ABC’ bar (named in homage to the front row, when it used to be letters on the backs of shirts) enshrines British and Irish Lions and International jerseys of former players. Then there’s the reminder of all Leicester’s success, with trophies of the Heineken Cup and Premiership triumphs on show.However, what really makes this stadium special is the south stand. Whilst the stadium has rightly evolved with the modern era, this stand maintains a nostalgic and traditional aura. It contains a section with classic wooden benches and a buzzing standing section right next to the pitch. Rugby forever struggles with the balance between growth and tradition; Welford Road is a depiction of how this can be done.

Value – 6/10

Ticket prices are very fair at £22 for the cheapest. There are some affordable food options, with a chicken Balti pie for under £6. Pints are from £5.85 which is sadly pretty standard for the Premiership.

Food/Drink – 6.5/10

You can get your typical factory pies and standard burgers once you’ve buzzed your ticket through. But in their mini fan zone just outside the stadium, there are multiple food vans ranging from masala fish and chips to venison burgers. We went with chicken strips, chips, and gravy with cheese curd. It was nothing special- but the number of choices is a plus.The bars offer smooth and cask ales of ‘Tiger Beer’ which is brewed locally in Leicestershire. The Smooth Tiger was fairly watery and not that enjoyable. However, the Cask Tiger was much better; a rich nutty flavour with a hint of sweetness. Always a cool touch to have unique beers at the ground.

Rugby – 6/10

In the first half, Leicester was winning the collisions in defence, halting the Saints’ attackers on multiple occasions and sending them backwards. Harry Potter also scored a try in the corner with an impressive finish, shrugging off the tackle of Northampton centre Hutchinson. Despite this, the Saints managed to stay in touch with three penalties thanks to decent spells of possession and territory.In the second half, the game was more open. It was Northampton’s winning try that will be a lasting memory. James Ramm threw a terrific one-handed offload to Ollie Sleightholme, who beautifully stepped inside to leave Anthony Watson in the dust. Northampton claimed the upset win, with Leicester failing to convert chances late on.Unfortunately, the frequent kick tennis and errors prevented this from scoring higher marks.

Atmosphere- 8/10

If you walk from the city centre, you’ll hear the punchy saxophone and trumpets of the King Brasstards band outside the North stand. The brass group gyrate through a fan tent, tooting classics like Freed from Desire and Tequila. On the same path are various rugby fairground festivities. These include a ‘Drop-Goal like Freddie’ challenge and a ‘Spin the Wheel’ to claim a free Carling. As the home side approaches the pitch, the south stand is bouncing. Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water plays as the fans stomp their feet. It’s a packed crowd of over 25,000 and “Tigers!” chants are intermittently bellowed throughout the game.Then came the big pop mid-way through the 2nd half. The man who slotted the drop goal to win last year’s Premiership, Freddie Burns, leaves the field. Ovations spread through all the stands, with rapturous chants of “Freddie! Freddie! Freddie!”.In the matchday programme, Burns claimed the Tigers fans were “unrivalled” by any other club he had played for, and that he feels a special relationship with them. His gratitude was shown long after the game, as he walked out to take selfies and sign autographs for long Qs of Tigers fans.“I bet he’s loving every minute of this”, one security steward quipped. And rightly so. I’m sure the city of Leicester will be wishing him all the best for his new adventure in New Zealand.

READ MORE: Most Popular Rugby Clubs in the World

Welford Road Rating – 8.5/10

You would be hard-pressed to find a better tribute to rugby heritage than Welford Road. The stadium possesses numerous touches to give it more character than your average sporting venue. If it isn’t already, Welford Road needs to be on your rugby bucket list.


“Main Photo Credit”
Embed from Getty Images