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Archibald Leitch is considered by many to be the man who built British football but many people, including younger fans, will be completely unaware of the man, his work and his legacy.
He wasn't a player or manager who made a mark on the game itself, but Leitch was an architect of his time, the designer and the man responsible for many of the classic British football grounds that we know and love, then and now.
Much of his work has been consigned to the past and the history books thanks to the needs of the modern-day and the relevant safety protocols which has meant a lot of traditional inner-city football stadia has been condemned. However, all is not lost. Far from it. The legacy of Archibald Leitch is strong and is visible in the Premier League this season, as well as in European competitions thanks to some of his greatest work.
Archibald Leitch biography
Born in Glasgow on 27 April 1865, Leitch, an architect, initially made his way designing factories in the industrial age in which he lived. His reputation increased through his membership of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, and then later, the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.
The catalyst for his indelible impact on football was when he was commissioned to build Ibrox Park, the new home of Rangers, in 1899 and this would be a labour of love as he grew up with the fledgling club.
He would go on to be involved in and largely responsible for over 30 well-known football stadiums (as listed below) which is why his name lives on to this day.
His career was not just an upward trajectory. He had to overcome the first Ibrox Disaster and was entrusted by the club to be responsible for its rebuild, even after an enquiry had taken place.
Archibald Leitch died on 25 April 1939, aged 73.
Which stadiums did Archibald Leitch design?
Leitch designed many football stadiums in the early 20th century as clubs aimed to keep up with the progress and the demand in this new pastime that had taken the nation by storm over different stages of the previous decades.
He was at least involved in, or solely responsible for the home grounds of famous British clubs such as Arsenal, Manchester United, Chelsea, Everton, Liverpool, Tottenham, Aston Villa and Rangers, with the Scottish club holding particular significance, for different reasons, to the Glaswegian.
List of Archibald Leitch stadiums
- Anfield, Liverpool
- Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, London
- Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough
- Bramall Lane, Sheffield
- Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
- Celtic Park, Glasgow
- Craven Cottage, Fulham, London
- Dalymount Park, Dublin, Ireland
- Deepdale, Preston
- The Old Den, New Cross, London
- Dens Park, Dundee
- The Dell, Southampton
- Ewood Park, Blackburn
- The Double Decker stand (The Kop), Filbert Street, Leicester
- Fratton Park, Portsmouth
- Goodison Park, Liverpool
- Hampden Park, Glasgow
- Home Park, Plymouth
- Hyde Road Football Stadium, Manchester
- Ibrox Park, Glasgow
- Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield
- Lansdowne Road, Dublin, Ireland
- Leeds Road, Huddersfield
- Molineux, Wolverhampton
- Old Trafford, Trafford, Greater Manchester
- Park Avenue, Bradford
- Pittodrie Stadium, Aberdeen
- Roker Park, Sunderland
- Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
- Saltergate, Chesterfield
- Selhurst Park, South Norwood, London
- Somerset Park, Ayr
- Stamford Bridge, Fulham, London
- Stark's Park, Kirkcaldy
- Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London
- Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh
- Valley Parade, Bradford (Midland Road stand and other extensions)
- Villa Park, Birmingham
- West Ham Stadium, Custom House, Newham, London
- White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London
- Windsor Park, Belfast, Northern Ireland
Stadiums in italics no longer in use.
Archibald Leitch book
‘Engineering Archie' is the name of the book on the life and work of Archibald Leitch, written by Simon Inglis and first published in 2005.
The title provides a deep dive into the world of football at a very different time in terms of how the structures were designed and built by Leitch when it was truly a working man's game and one for the masses.
Back then, fans packed into terraces in a way that just wouldn't be possible today but this is as much a historical study as much as a football story.
Many unseen and unknown details relating to football stadiums were unearthed by Inglis for his book.
Archibald Leitch documentary
Sam North, the YouTube football creator behind the Footy Adventures channel made a recent short film dedicated to the achievements and stadiums that Leitch was responsible for.
You can see it here.
Further content, featuring archive footage is available on YouTube.
Archibald Leitch FAQs
How many stadiums did Archibald Leitch design?
Archibald Leitch is said to have built at least 20 stadiums in British football, whilst he was involved in, or consulted on, several more.
It was said that in the 1920s, 16 out of the 22 clubs in the English First Division had hired Leitch's company, which shows his imprint on football at that time.
Who built Ibrox Stadium?
Although Kilmarnock was his first involvement in football stadia, Ibrox was a significant breakthrough for his career and the start of everything that would follow.
Leitch was commissioned to build a new stadium at Rangers' Ibrox Park site and the result was an 80,000-capacity, oval-shaped ground.
The magnificent Main Stand facade at Ibrox is timeless and continues to impress regulars and first-time visitors alike.
What happened at Ibrox stadium disaster in 1902?
Unfortunately, a tragedy unfolded immediately at the new Ibrox Park at the first game in front of a full house.
In April 1902, during a contest between Scotland and England, a small section of timber terracing behind one of the goals collapsed, sending 25 fans to their deaths.
Leitch was present at the game and witnessed the tragic events unfold.
Later, at the enquiry, Leitch was not blamed and faced no criminal prosecution but instead, the wood used for the terrace beams was described as ‘inferior'.
Who designed Goodison Park?
Archibald Leitch is responsible for much of the design of Goodison Park and in effect, for three of the ends that make up the traditional football ground, which will soon be replaced by the brand-new Bramley Moore Dock Stadium.
He was first engaged by Everton in 1908 for the Goodison Road Stand, which was nicknamed the ‘Mauretania' by the press in reference to its stature and the huge Cunard ocean liner of that era.
In 1926, his firm went to work on the Bullens Road stand at Goodison, then the Gwladys Street Stand followed, opened in 1938 at a cost of £50,000.
Leitch's famous criss-cross steel feature became something of a signature of his work. This is synonymous with Goodison Park and remains to this day on the Bullen's Road Stand, just as it does on the Bill Struth Main Stand at Rangers' present Ibrox Stadium.
Not for the first time, Leitch is referenced on Everton's current kit with the criss-cross adding an effect to the traditional white collar on their blue shirts, for the 2023/24 campaign.
Arguably, Leitch's best work was and is the majestic Trinity Road end at Aston Villa's home, Villa Park.
What a great stand. Trinity road…retweet for all to see pic.twitter.com/xI8hnCuTRX
— Carolinelamb🦁 (@Carolin39213919) June 14, 2020
Who invented the football stadium?
Whilst Leitch did not invent the football stadium, he is arguably the single most influential figure in British stadium history and those structures that remain to this day.
Who designed Wembley Stadium?
The old Wembley Stadium was built in 1923 but Leitch was overlooked for this grand job.
Maybe because he was Scottish or not part of ‘the establishment' that surrounded the FA of the time.
Wembley was built by Sir Robert McAlpine's civil engineering firm, based on the designs of architects Sir John Simpson and Maxwell Ayrton.
Archibald Leitch did not like or approve of the Wembley Stadium design but his work at Ibrox and Goodison, as well as Villa Park, Fulham's Craven Cottage and many more, have stood the test of time, speaking of a genuine legacy and heritage.