Sabadell – Estadi de la Nova Creu Alta

Sabadell is a town 15 miles to the north of Barcelona and is home to Centre d’Esports Sabadell Futbol Club, who can rightfully claim to be the third biggest club in Catalunya. They have played a total of 14 seasons in La Primera and even qualified for European football in the late 1960’s. Founded in 1903, Sabadell played their first matches at Prat de Sant Oleguer, then moved to Carrer Cervantes a few months later. Both were small and basic, but with increasing interest in the club, a larger venue was required. In 1905, Sabadell moved to some land in the Creu Alta district.

Blue & white quarters on badge & stadium. Marvellous!

The stadium was quickly developed and included a velodrome and basic bleachers. The stadium was officially inaugurated on 3 June 1905 with a match against X Foot-ball Club (who would become CD Espanyol in 1909). The size of the stadium and quality of the pitch earned Sabadell the right to stage the final of the Salut Cup in 1906 and the first official final of the Campionat de Catalunya in 1907. Sabadell also claim that Creu Alta was he first ground in Spain to host a floodlit match, when on 6 August 1912, they played the local University side in front of 2,000 spectators. FC Barcelona make a similar claim about their L’Escopidora ground.

Creu Alta in the early 40s with the velodrome to the north

A new velodrome was built by the municipality, so the track at Creu Alta was dismantled and terracing was added and a basic pitched cover went up over the bleachers. The ground now had a traditional square shape and a capacity of 11,000 of which 2,454 were seated. Sabadell won promotion to la Segunda in 1933 and made steady progress either side of the Civil War. They even reached the final of the Copa del Rey in 1935, but lost 0-3 to Sevilla at Real Madrid’s Chamartin stadium. In 1941-42 the club won Group II of La Segunda, but a rather convoluted play-off system saw them lose to Real Oviedo 3-1. They finished second the following season, but topped the play-off group and debuted in La Primera in 1943-44. The first match at Creu Alta in the top division was on 3 October 1943 and saw Sabadell beat Granada 2-0 with goals from Aranaz and Gonzalvo. Sabadell spent five of the next six seasons in La Primera before dropping back to La Segunda in 1949.

Cramped and dilapidated, Creu Alta nearing the end

When the club returned to La Primera in 1965, it was very apparent that Creu Alta was past its “sell by” date and on 15 September 1966, work commenced on a new stadium on the northern outskirts of town on land known as Can Borgonyó. After 62 years, the final league match at Creu Alta took place on 16 April 1967, when Sabadell entertained Sevilla. Fittingly, the hosts won 1-0 with Josep Maria Vall having the honour of scoring the final goal at Creu Alta. The ground was demolished in September of the same year.

The last match at Creu Alta

Under the guidance of Architect Gabriel Bracons, Nova Creu Alta took just under a year to build and opened on 20 August 1967 with a friendly against FC Barcelona which Sabadell won 1-0 with Josep Maria Vall popping up again to score the first goal in the new stadium. As with many teams, Sabadell seemed to gain added impetus from their new home and in season 1968-69 they gained their highest placed finish of fourth in La Primera. This saw them qualify for the Inter Cities Fairs Cup, a fore-runner of the Europa League, where they were drawn against Belgium’s Club Brugge. They met at Nova Creu Alta on 17 September 1969 and Sabadell won 2-0. Unfortunately, Sabadell were overwhelmed in the second leg, losing 1-5 and 3-5 on aggregate.

Opening Day at Nova Creu Alta.

Sabadell’s run in the top tier ended after seven seasons when they finished in eighteenth and last place at the end of the 1971-72 season. The club slipped into decline, even dropping to the Tercera in 1975. They returned to La Segunda two seasons later, but not with any great conviction, and in 1983, Sabadell was relegated to Segunda B. That sparked a revival and the title was won on the head to head record against CD Logrones, after finishing level on points and goal difference. Back in La Segunda and buoyed by additions to the squad, the club surprised everybody with an excellent fourth place finish. The good form continued in season 1985-86 when Sabadell finished second and won promotion back to La Primera.

All lit up – Nova Creu Alta doesn’t do corner pylons

That first season back in the top flight saw a revamping of the league. In short the season was played over two phases and after the first phase Sabadell were prime candidates for relegation. Yet the club took its opportunity and showed great resolve winning five and drawing three of their 10 second phase matches. Sabadell avoided the final relegation play-off group (Yes, another phase was added when the Federation changed the rules half way through the season) by having a better head to head record against CA Osasuna. Not surprisingly, the format was never repeated and it is a bit of an anti-climax to tell you that they were relegated at the end of the 1987-88 season, and have yet to return.

God’s own colours on display at Nova Creu Alta

Five seasons in La Segunda followed, but at the end of the 1992-93 season, the club finished bottom of the table. It was demoted two divisions however, when they failed to settle the players outstanding wages by the 31 July deadline. After just one season in the Tercera, Sabadell bounced back to Segunda B in 1994, but apart from a season back in the fourth tier in 2006-07, they achieved very little. In truth, they have rarely troubled either end of the table, with just two play-off appearances in that time.

New High Cross – Sabadell’s home in 2007

However the 2010-11 season was different. Sabadell secured the divisional title with two games of the regular season to play, and then beat SD Eibar on away goals to earn a place in La Segunda for the first time in 18 years. Sabadell started life in La Segunda on fire, winning six and losing just one of their first nine games. Then it all went a bit belly-up, with Sabadell winning just five more games in the entire season, finishing 19th. They avoided relegation due to Villarreal B’s demotion, following their first team’s relegation to La Segunda. Unfortunately, after four seasons in Spain’s second tier, Sabadell dropped back to Segunda B in June 2015. The club’s finances were hit and a mediocre season followed in the league. There was something to celebrate when Sabadell won its first Copa Catalunya, beating Barcelona B at the Nova Creu alta on 30 March 2016.

The main stand at Nova Creu Alta after its 2010 re-fit

What about Nova Creu Alta? Well 49 years on from the inauguration, it still looks fresh and impressive. It has been helped by a few of make-overs, the most significant coming in advance of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, when additional seating and media facilities were added. The ground hosted six matches during the Olympiad, but none of them came near to testing the revised 20,000 capacity, with Mexico’s match with Ghana having the highest attendance of 6,000. The main stand was re-roofed in 2010 and the slightly curved ends were given a lick of paint to create the club’s distinctive quarters pattern on the steps. Opposite the main stand is a bank of seats, and like the main stand this is slightly cranked. Finally in the summer of 2013, seats were installed throughout the stadium, reducing the capacity to 11,981. It’s a credit to Sabadell’s Municipal Council that the stadium looks so well tended, when others of a similar age look tired or have fallen into a state of disrepair.

50 plus, but no mid-life crisis for the Nova Creu Alta

Sabadell also has an unlikely alliance with English club Bristol Rovers. It started when fans of the respective sides formed a friendship based initially on the fact that both clubs play in blue & white quarters. It now has a more formal footing with fans & officials paying visits to each others clubs, and Rovers paid a visit to Sabadell for a pre-season friendly in July 2016.

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