University of Bolton Stadium, home of League Two football club Bolton Wanderers, is to be transformed into a temporary court house.

The stadium will host two courtrooms that will hear non-custodial criminal cases. The announcement was made yesterday (Monday) by HM Courts & Tribunals Service and the stadium courtrooms are designed to free up space at the nearby Crown Court, which continues to be affected by COVID-19 restrictions.

The courtrooms will be able to issue fines and community service orders, and any cases deemed serious enough for time in prison will be sent back to a Crown Court for sentencing. Cases will be heard in rooms beneath the terraces of the 28,723-seat stadium’s Nat Lofthouse Stand and West Stand, which are normally used for conferences.

The move will also provide Bolton with a cash injection as the club continues to deal with the impact of playing matches behind closed doors.

Courts Minister, Lord Wolfson QC, said: “This new Nightingale court is in the heart of the local community and will help to deliver swifter justice for people across Bolton.

Courts have been established in cathedrals, hotels, theatres, and now football stadiums to help us tackle the delays caused by the pandemic. This innovative approach is already increasing the caseload going through our courts, while pumping much-needed cash into businesses which have taken a financial hit over the last 12 months.”

A spokesperson for Bolton added: “The club is pleased to support Bolton Crown Court by enabling the University of Bolton Stadium to be used as a Nightingale court. As a versatile venue which is at the heart of Bolton, we are proud to be once again supporting our local community during what has been a challenging 12 months for all.”

The move forms part of a £113m (€132.5m/$155.4m) investment by the government to support courts and tribunals during the pandemic. This includes recruiting 1,600 extra staff, investment in further technology and on-site safety precautions.

University of Bolton Stadium opened in 1997 as the Reebok Stadium. As well as serving as the home of Bolton, the venue has hosted concerts for the likes of Oasis, Elton John and Coldplay.

Image: Steve Daniels/CC BY-SA 2.0/Edited for size