Page last updated at 05:52 GMT, Wednesday, 20 August 2008 06:52 UK

'Old' stadium claims world record

Wrexham team 1878: Pic courtesy of Gareth Davies
Wrexham FC won the first ever Welsh cup in 1878

Wrexham's Racecourse has been officially recognised as the oldest football stadium in the world still hosting international games.

A certificate from Guinness World records will be presented at the ground at the Wales v Romania under-21 game on Wednesday.

The accolade is thanks to lifelong Wrexham FC fan Glyn Davies, who wrote to Guinness.

The stadium has a 200-year history as a sporting venue.

Mr Davies, of Wrexham FC Collectors and History Society, said: "It's great news. There's a lot of history here, and there were another couple of clubs who were trying to lay claim to the title but the Racecourse beats them both by more than 20 years.

"I spent a couple of months researching how to put a case to Guinness, and eventually wrote to them.

Wrexham's Racecourse ground
The football club is hoping to build a new stand in the future.

"They said I needed to prove that the venue was still being used for internationals, and because there weren't any scheduled I had to write to the Football Association of Wales to ask for their support.

"I got a letter back confirming that they will be playing senior internationals there in the future.

"That was all that was needed, and Guinness confirmed everything a couple of months later."

In an e-mail to the club, Guinness wrote: "We were contacted a few months ago by lifelong Wrexham fan Glyn Davies who believed the Racecourse Ground to be the oldest international football ground.

"Today, after receiving confirmation from the FAW that the Racecourse will still be used for senior international matches we are delighted to confirm that the Racecourse is indeed the holder of the Guinness World Record for 'Oldest international football ground'."

The aptly-named Racecourse was initially known as a horse racing venue, and staged its first contest - the Town Purse - in 1807.

At the time it offered a prize of 20 guineas, worth about 3,600 today.

Players at the Turf: Courtesy of Gareth Davies
Historians say players changed at the Turf Hotel

After about 50 years, the races were stopped amid concerns that they encouraged crowd trouble, including drunkenness.

In the 1860s, the venue began to be used for autumn sports, including donkey races and cycle races.

As well as horse racing, the Racecourse was also used by Wrexham Cricket Club, and it was the club's members who formed Wrexham Football Club in 1872 as a way of keeping active during the winter months.

Research shows the football club was formed in the now famous Turf Hotel, which stands just outside the ground and where historians say players used to change for matches.

The first international football match was held five years later in 1877, when Wales lost 2-0 to Scotland.

The following year, however, Wrexham FC won the first ever Welsh cup.

Wrexham FC now has plans to form its own property development company and wants to develop land around the stadium, including a new stand at the Kop End of the ground.

The ground's new official status as a record holder has received recognition in the Welsh assembly chamber.

Wrexham AM Lesley Griffiths tabled a statement of opinion at the Senedd.

She said: "This is a wonderful achievement to have confirmed by Guinness World Records and I congratulate Glyn Davies on his excellent detective work in establishing the record as being correct.

"The Racecourse is known all over the world as a great football stadium and many people have some great memories about games they have seen at the ground."


SEE ALSO
Racecourse marks double century
30 Sep 07 |  North East Wales
Wrexham FC's revamp faces delay
30 May 07 |  North East Wales
Tales of Turf, triumph and trouble
16 Nov 04 |  North East Wales

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