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Spion Kop (or Kop for short) is a colloquial name or term for a number of terraces and stands at sports stadiums, particularly in the United Kingdom. Their steep nature resembles a hill near Ladysmith, South Africa, that was the scene of the Battle of Spion Kop in January 1900 during the Second Boer War.
The first recorded reference to a sports terrace as “Kop” related to Woolwich Arsenal’s Manor Ground in 1904. A local newsman likened the silhouette of fans standing on a newly-raised bank of earth to soldiers standing atop the hill at the Battle of Spion Kop. In 1906 Liverpool Echo sports editor Ernest Edwards noted of a new open-air embankment at Anfield: “This huge wall of earth has been termed ‘Spion Kop’, and no doubt this apt name will always be used in future in referring to this spot”. The name was formally consummated in 1928 upon construction of a roof. It is thought to be the first terrace officially named Spion Kop. Many other English football clubs and some Rugby league clubs (such as Wigan‘s former home Central Park) applied the same name to stands in later years.
Villa Park‘s old Holte End is historically the largest of all Kop ends, closely followed by the old South Bank at Molineux, both once regularly holding crowds in excess of 30,000. By the mid 1980s Hillsborough‘s Kop had become the largest roofed terrace in Europe, with a capacity of around 25,000.
There is much conjecture about what type of stand constitutes a Kop. The size and location of the stand in the stadium varies; most are located behind the goal and are occupied by its club’s most vocal supporters. It is usually a single-tiered stand and is traditionally terraced. In England, safety regulations brought into effect after the 1989 Hillsborough disaster required many to be made all-seated. A Kop is not necessarily the largest stand in the stadium and does not have to have a particularly large capacity; for example, Chesterfield’s former stadium, the Recreation Ground, had a Kop with a capacity of only a few thousand.
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- The incredible story behind the Kop Guided by local historian Raymond Heron, BBC Sport’s Mark Lawrenson visits Spion Kop in South Africa.
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