Derby della Madonnina: AC Milan vs. Inter

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Exactly a month after the AC Milan vs. Inter derby was postponed, here we were with my 3 years old son, back on our journey to Milan to kick off properly our football derbies challenge. This was going to be an amazing 36 hours round trip, full of excitement, adrenaline and challenges. But before, I take you on a damp Wednesday evening at the San Siro, let me tell you about our journey to get there.

The journey

Arriverdverci London

5.30 am – Only had couple of hours sleep that I must wake up my son to dress him up. No easy feat I can tell you. 30min later, all dressed up and with our backpacks (he insisted in taking few toys in his own backpack!), we make our way to Gatwick Airport to take the

8.55 am – on board our flight to Milan Malpenza. We know well this airport from last month and it is really easy access to Milan. My son is fluey and I check the weather forecast, which is not looking good, heavy rain with thunderstorms. I curse my bad luck. I am worried that the game gets cancelled because of the thunderstorms (it has happened to me before) and I need my son to be on top form. Wisely I had taken my secret weapon…Calpol. Our flight leaves on time and 2 hours later we land in Milan with my son having slept all way through.

Buongiorno Milan

1.30 pm – we take the Malpenza Express at the airport train station that will take us straight to Cadorna Stazione. Commute: 40 min, 13 €. We then take a taxi to the hotel, another 40min and by 2.30pm we are finally lying on our hotel bed. Time to order some room service to get some ham and cheese toast. My son is not looking great I must say, a bit lethargic. Ok time to act. A wee bit of Calpol and a power nap I hope will do the trick. While he sleeps, I am checking how long it takes to get to the San Siro, 30min Google tells me. The game is at 6.30pm and I want to be at least an hour before kick off time. Therefore, I settle on leaving at 4.30pm.

On route to the San Siro

‘Madonna’ it rains like crazy. No umbrella, no rain jackets and the little one coughing like crazy, I can picture my wife complaining about taking him to a football game in his state. Sod it, I have not come all this way to give up. Another injection of Calpol will do the trick and give him enough energy to last the game! I order a Uber from the hotel and an immaculate Mercedes e Class comes to collect us. I am loving the comfort. And boy did we need it. Traffic jam after traffic jam. Our driver re-assures me that we will be on time but I can see the clock ticking along and us not moving. I check Google map and we are still 40 min walk away from San Siro. Normally I would have got us walking, but in my son’s state no way and it is absolutely pouring outside. Now I am getting a little bit stressed. 1h30 min later I can see the San Siro, phew I can breathe but by now it is 6pm. i decide to do the last few 100 meters walking.

Soaking the atmosphere

6 pm – Well the only thing soaking here is us. Soaking wet that is. Every fans are running to the gates and as we are about to do the same, my son tells me he wants to eat. S****! By the time I get him a hot dog I will have missed the warm up. Never mind, you need to have your priorities right (up to now you may doubt my ability to do so, I don’t blame you). We got to the food stand in front of the gate and order a nice hot dog. Eat in or take away he asks me. I am thinking, do I look to be wanting to eat it outside? I rush to Gate 7 and lucky for us, the rain has calmed down and very little queue.

Entering the San Siro

6.15pm – The security guy asks to see both my tickets and IDs. ‘Come again’ is my response. I have not taken any passports, why would I. Well it turns out that you have to at the San Siro. Now I panick. 2 trips to Milan, few quids out of my pocket, a tired son, you have got to be kidding me. Lucky for me, I have my driving licence but my son…by then the queue started to get longer and the game being minutes away, few home fans put him under pressure to let us pass. I just heared ‘bambini’, which I assume was, ‘he is a small kid what damage can he do!’ He gives me a smile and says ‘next time…’. Yeah right, no time to listen I am now rushing to the stairs. Another security check. This time, no issues.

This is what it is all about

We make the long journey to the top in about 5min (10 stair cases to go up). We arrive and both look at each others and wow, the magic happens. 80,000 fans shouting and getting ready for a gladiators fight. The noise is from a different planet, with over 100 decibels. This is the equivalent of a Boeing 707 taking off. Each end suddenly explodes ten minutes before kick off into huge, perfectly choreographed displays of banners. The whole vibrant spectacle is down to the dedicated work of hundreds of members of the much-aligned ultras. I get straight onto the camera and starts recording both ‘curvas’. Curva Sur for the AC Milan kop and Curva Norte for the Inter kop. We are seating next to curva norte. AC Milan kop deployed an amazing tifo and Franco Baresi comes and lay flowers in memory of the late Ray Wilkins. Nice touch.

The game and the fans

The first interesting fact is that the fans mix themselves, in the same way they would do in the Merseyside derby. It is all in good spirit, no fights, no intimidation. Even close to the away fans nothing gets thrown. I was surprised as it was coined as one of the most violent derbies in world football. Other interesting fact is that people smoke, and not just cigarettes. Some cultural habits cannot go away that easy. Also, if you are relatively tall like me (1.80m), your knees will be in the person in front of you. This arena was clearly made to be standing up.

The game itself is not great. Italian football has never been my cup of tea but they are easily the 5th best league in European football nation right now. We get to experience two goals but both ruled out after VAR. The noise when the goals are scored is indescribable. You get goose pumps. I know now why my cousin told me he could not hear his team mates when he played at the San Siro vs. AC Milan. I could not hear my son talk to me! The sound reverberation is phenomenal.

The first 45min flew by. At half time my son tells me he is cold. I am in trouble now. I tell him 15min more min, then 5 and then promise him some treats at the hotel. This works until the 70th minute but then we make our way out. This is the longest he has been able to stay at a game and I am pleased with what we experienced.

I bought him a friendship scarf on our way out so that we can start decorating his room…well try to before his mother notices it!

VAR

I was not planning on discussing it but then it occurred twice during the game, and as a fan I feel compelled to give my opinion on the subject.

I love the fact that we can give a fairer outcome to our game. I really do. I embrace goal line technology for example and I hate Platini’s idea of 5 referees, which is pointless. But I must agree with Pochettino. VAR kills the atmosphere and the essence of what a football game is all about. When Inter score the first goal, there were amazing celebrations at their end for few seconds and a barrage of abuse at the other end. But rapidly, the speaker and score board annouced VAR and the whole stadium quieten down. 5min later (truly 5min) he cancelled the goal, which was the right decision. At this point AC Milan fans erupted. But in between, the away fans did not know whether to celebrate and the away fans did not know whether to shout and vent their anger. We were in limbos. I agree with Pochettino that VAR is a bad idea. Unlike goal line technology, which is instant, VAR delays the output and by default kills the adrenaline of the moment. Until they can decide on the validity of a goal in a split of a second, I would rather the referee give a bad decision and be the talking point the next day but at least it would keep the emotions high within the stadium.

Our way back to the city centre

In one word, nightmare! I am looking for a taxi as it is raining a lot and get straight onto my Uber app. It tells me 5min. Fantastic. Issue, the taxi is not coming to the right location and after 15min of making me go up and down various avenues, cancel my trip. Ouch, the stadium is starting to empty itself and I make my way to the metro M5 (easiest way to San Siro and back to Milan). I can’t be bothered being jam packed so I keep asking Uber for a taxi. It is always the same one that comes back. Luckily, this time he comes to the right place. 30min later we are at the hotel, ordering room service and reflecting on what has been an extraordinary day.

Journey back home

9am – we go and get our breakfast and order a taxi to take us to the train station. We arrive at the airport just before noon and then fly back to London and arrive at home at 4pm. My son is delighted to see all is toys again and I am delighted with our trip. Before going to sleep it tells me ‘I enjoyed travelling with you dad and going to the game’. I did not need anymore to know that the next journey, will be another amazing adventure.

Costs

Flights: £150
Hotel: £100/night (for four)
Trains: £25
Taxi: £150 (for four days). To go to San Siro (£30 each way)
Food: £10/pers per meal
Match ticket: £130 viagogo

The overall experience

City accommodation: 10/10
Transport: 10/10
City history: 10/10 (a lot of history, museums)
Football atmosphere in the city: 2/10 (you don’t feel it is a derby day)
Football atmosphere in the stadium: 10/10
Insecurity: 10/10 (never felt in danger)
Quality of football: 4/10
Costs: 6/10

Overall: 7.75/10

Conclusion

The whole purpose of this challenge was to educate my son and myself on discovering a new city, new culture, new history with an amazing football experience. For a first I must say that we go both and I can’t wait for the second adventure when the new football season starts. And please, remember that you can support our challenge by giving what you can and want to our selected charity, which is Football Beyond Borders.

Ciao.

Benoit Mercier

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San Siro Stadium Tour

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We start our football derbies challenge with a bang, AC Milan vs. Inter. My son is really excited and we arrive in Milan under the snow. We are not that well prepared and we could have done with some wellies. On the day of the game we learn that it has been postponed because the Fiorentina captain has died in the team hotel of a heart attack. Consequences for us is that we will not be watching the game this month, but there are more important things in life than football! Instead we get to visit Milan and what a beautiful city. The architecture is amazing (full report on our adventure will be written once we get to see the game). On the Monday we are heading towards the San Siro to visit one of the most iconic stadium in the world, where battles have been fierce.

San Siro stadium

The Stadio Giuseppe Meazza, commonly known as San Siro, is a football stadium in the San Siro district of Milan, Italy, which is the home of A.C. Milan and Inter. It has a seating capacity of 80,018, making it one of the largest stadiums in Europe, and the largest in Italy.

Construction of the stadium commenced in 1925 in the district of Milan named San Siro, with the new stadium originally named Nuovo Stadio Calcistico San Siro (San Siro New Football Stadium). The idea to build a stadium in the same district as the horse racing track belonging to the man who at that time was the president of A.C. Milan, Piero Pirelli. The architects designed a private stadium only for football, without the athletics tracks which characterized Italian stadiums built with public funds. The inauguration was on 19 September 1926, when 35,000 spectators saw Inter defeat Milan 6–3. Originally, the ground was home and property of A.C. Milan. Finally, in 1947, Inter, who used to play in the Arena Civica downtown, became tenants and the two have shared the ground ever since.

From 1948 to 1955, engineers Armando Ronca and Ferruccio Calzolari developed the project for the second extension of the stadium, which capacity was meant to increase from 50,000 to 150,000 visitors. Calzolari and Ronca proposed three additional, vertically arranged, rings of spectator rows. Nineteen spiralling ramps – each 200-meter-long – allow to access the upper ranks. In the course of the execution, the realisation of the highest of the three rings was abandoned and the number of visitors limited to 100,000.On 2 March 1980 the stadium was named for Giuseppe Meazza (1910–1979), one of the most famous Milanese footballers.

The stadium underwent further renovations for the 1990 World Cup with $60 million being spent, bringing the stadium up to UEFA category four standard. As part of the renovations, the stadium became all seated, with an extra tier being added to three sides of the stadium. This entailed the building of 11 concrete towers around the outside of the stadium. Four of these concrete towers were located at the corners to support a new roof, which has distinctive protruding red girders.

Architect

Armando Ronca (13 September 1901 – 19 March 1970) was an Italian architect who has executed numerous buildings and interior designs, mainly in South Tyrol, Trentino and Milan

Stadium Tour

No need to pay online, it is only in Italian, and you can pay at the gate. We took a taxi from Duomo, in the city centre where our hotel was, to the San Siro. The fare was approx. 15€ for approx. 30min drive.

Arrived at the San Siro and the least I can say is that it is an imposing structure but full of concrete like Santiago Bernabeu (not pretty and lack of colours).

Make your way to Ingresso 8 (gate 8) and their we got to stand in the queue for 30min. They only had two people issuing tickets with only one credit card machine (really annoying).

The price of the ticket is 17€ and free for kids under 5. You go through metal detector and make your way to the museum. Did I say museum? It is basically a room with players shirts, one trophy and few other memorabilia. The best thing about it, is the fusball table where I got to play with my son.

After 15min, we then made our way to the stadium. We pass what I assumed was the press area where players stop for interviews after they got changed, but not confirmed. It is a self guided tour…with no information! There is some really friendly staff that do give us some info and mention that the AC Milan and Inter dressing rooms are of the same size but different configuration. Players shorts are hung and you get to take pictures. You can’t see other amenities disappointingly.

You then take a long tunnel towards the pitch and it is the perfect time for the little one to stretch his legs. You emerge on the other side and then wow. What an impressive sight. You are in the arena and feel like a gladiator. But then after the wow factor comes in the reality. You start to realise that it is dilapidated. Also, because the ground is shared, you don’t feel a sense of belonging. You usually have fans banners but this is after all a neutral ground. It originally was AC Milan and there are talk of Inter moving away. It would make sense. As a neutral fan, I associate the San Siro with AC Milan rather than Inter. The seats are worn out and it would need some renovation. We make our way to the terraces (not a good idea to bring a pram!) and my son gets to shout. Well his shout goes all around the stadium and I can only imaging how deafening it must be when full capacity with flares and crackers.

We then make our way out of the stadium and the visit is concluded. Overall, disappointing. Such and iconic and amazing stadium and yet an over prices tour. They could do so much more with it! You can view my video below:

http://www.sansiro.net/?page_id=1757&lang=en

Cost: 17€ adult, 12€ juniors and free under 5
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium tour: 1/10
Overall mark: 7/10

Benoit Mercier

Wembley Stadium Tour

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Wow it has been ages since I last did a stadium tour with my son. 8 months to be precise. It is amazing how little time you have with your second child. Now, my wife tells me that she is inviting her NCC friends for my daughter’s first birthday. The brief was concise, find something else to do with your son whilst I have a blast with my girlfriends. I didn’t need much before planning my next trip. I asked my son if he wanted to go to Wembley and within seconds of his positive response we were on our way up the M25.

Wembley Stadium

Wembley Stadium is a football stadium in Wembley, London, England, which opened in 2007, on the site of the original Wembley Stadium, which was demolished from 2002–2003. The stadium hosts major football matches including home matches of the England national football team, and the FA Cup Final. The stadium is also the temporary home of Premier League football club Tottenham Hotspur while White Hart Lane is being demolished and their new stadium is being constructed.

Wembley Stadium is owned by the governing body of English football, the Football Association(the FA), through its subsidiary Wembley National Stadium Ltd (WNSL). The FA headquarters are in the stadium. With 90,000 seats, it is the largest football stadium in England, the largest stadium in the UK and the second-largest stadium in Europe. Designed by Populous and Foster and Partners, it includes a partially retractable roof and the 134-metre-high (440 ft) Wembley Arch. The stadium was built by Australian firm Multiplex at a cost of £798 million (£1.09 billion today).

In addition to England home games and the FA Cup final, the stadium also hosts other major games in English football, including the season-opening FA Community Shield, the League Cup final, the FA Cup semi-finals, the Football League Trophy, the Football League play-offs, the FA Trophy, the FA Vase and the National League play-offs. A UEFA category four stadium, Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host both the semi-finals and final of UEFA Euro 2020. The stadium hosted the Gold medal matches at the 2012 Olympic Games football tournament. The stadium also hosts rugby league’s Challenge Cup final, NFL London Games and music concerts.

I did my first stadium tour in 96 and I must say that to date it will remain one of the most magical one in my life. I remember seeing the twin towers, the wooden blue sits and its sand pits. I also remember walking onto the pitch it what was the most beautiful stadium of all. What a mess the FA have done with the new design. Look at the below with the twin towers and its unique lightening system. I blame the idiots at the FA, the stupidity of English Heritage and brent council for this monumental cock up. Do you know how the twin towers were destroyed? Fittingly by Germans like on the pitch! The Twin Towers were the last structure of Wembley to be demolished. Preliminary demolition work started in December 2002 with the concrete crowns being removed from the top of the flagpoles. The towers were demolished in 2003 by a large Liebherr 974 crawler excavator referred to as “Goliath”, made in Germany specifically for the task. The original foundations of Watkin’s Tower were rediscovered during the demolition. The top of one of the towers was moved to be installed as a memorial at St Raphael’s Estate.

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Architects

Wembley was designed by architects Foster + Partners and Populous (formally HOK Sport) and with engineers Mott Stadium Consortium, who were a collection of three structural engineering consultants in the form of Mott MacDonald, Sinclair Knight Merzand Aurecon. The design of the building services was carried out by Mott MacDonald. The construction of the stadium was managed by Australian company Multiplex and funded by Sport England, WNSL (Wembley National Stadium Limited), the Football Association, the Department for Culture Media and Sport and the London Development Agency. It is one of the most expensive stadia ever built at a cost of £798 million, and has the largest roof-covered seating capacity in the world. Nathaniel Lichfield and Partners was appointed to assist Wembley National Stadium Limited in preparing the scheme for a new stadium and to obtain planning and listed building permission for the development. 

The all-seater stadium is a bowl design with a capacity of 90,000, protected from the elements by a sliding roof that does not completely enclose it. It can also be adapted as an athletic stadium by erecting a temporary platform over the lowest tier of seating. The stadium’s signature feature is a circular section lattice arch of 7 m (23 ft) internal diameter with a 315 m (1,033 ft) span, erected some 22° off true, and rising to 133 m (436 ft). It supports all the weight of the north roof and 60% of the weight of the retractable roof on the southern side. The archway is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure.

A “platform system” has been designed to convert the stadium for athletics use, but its use would decrease the stadium’s capacity to approximately 60,000. No athletics events (track and field) have taken place at the stadium, and none are scheduled. The conversion for athletics use was a condition of part of the lottery funding the stadium received, but to convert it would take weeks of work and cost millions of pounds.

Interesting facts about Wembley

  • The stadium contains 2,618 toilets, more than any other venue in the world. The guide was proud of this fact!
  • The stadium has a circumference of 1 km (0.62 mi).
  • The bowl volume is listed at 1,139,100 m3 (1,489,900 cu yd), somewhat smaller than the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but with a greater seating capacity.
  • At its peak, there were more than 3,500 construction workers on site.
  • 4,000 separate piles form the foundations of the new stadium, the deepest of which is 35 m (115 ft).
  • There are 56 km (35 mi) of heavy-duty power cables in the stadium.
  • 90,000 m3 (120,000 cu yd) of concrete and 23,000 tonnes (25,000 short tons) of steel were used in the construction of the new stadium.
  • The total length of the escalators is 400 metres (14 mi).
  • The arch has a cross-sectional diameter greater than that of a cross-channel Eurostar train

Stadium Tour

Make your way on the iconic Wembley Way and behind Bobby Moore’s statute, you will find the entrance to the stadium tour. Collect your pass and you wait in the cafe. In the cafe you can admire the original FA Cup, World cup Jules Rimet’s trophy. Suspended at the top is the cross bar that Geoff Hearst so famously thrashed whilst scoring a hat trick against West Germany in 1966.

The guide picks you up and shows you a replay of that famous goal. He then asks you the question whether it crossed the line and all say yes apart from two Germans that ask for goal line technology.

We then make our way into the stands to enjoy the view. The guide asks you to shout ‘goal’ and you can hear your voice going round the stadium. The corporate boxes’s windows around the stadium were built at a 5 degree angle in order for the noise to reverberate. The very enthusiast guide then explains that the pitch is 98% natural grass with 2% injected with artificial fibres to keep it immaculate. The roof is retractable in three places west, east and north to protect fans from the rain.

We then make our way to the press conference room. Very spacious but to my displeasure full of Tottenham branding material (grrr). Nothing against Spurs but when you go to see your national stadium you expect all to be about England.

Now, we make our way to the dressing rooms. 4 in total and of equal size. There isn’t a home or away dressing room like at club level. In fact there are small but luxurious. Because Wembley is used a lot for the NFL, an NFL team made up of 53 players, take two dressing rooms (offensive and defensive) and they have to take the doors down so that they can communicate.

Onto the pitch and my son is leading the line (too right future England captain) and his first word when he sees the pitch with the background noise is ‘wow’. It is all worth it.

We then take the famous steps to the Royal box where you get your picture taken with the original FA Cup (£10). As any good tour you finish next to the megastore.

A good tour with a nice guide but the Spurs branding diminishes the magic and yes I really miss the twin towers, the wooden seats and the sand. You must move on with your time many will say, I say sod it bring the magic back!

http://www.wembleystadium.com/Wembley-Tours.aspx

Cost:  £20 adult and £12 under 16. Free for under 5’s
Stadium architecture: 7/10
Stadium history: 4/10 (not the ground that would get 10 but the new wembley hasn’t see much yet)
Stadium tour: 7/10
Overall mark: 6/10

Benoit Mercier

Manchester United Stadium Tour

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It has been a while since I last visited a stadium, but my week off was always going to be a great opportunity. We went back home to Yorkshire. It was always in the back of my mind to go to Old Trafford but I had to be smart on how to deliver the news to my wife. An then the weather turned in my favour. After days of beautiful sunshine it started raining. 8am, woke up my wife, my kids, got dressed and got them all in the car. As we were driving my wife asked me where we were going. The question I had been waiting. My plan was either going to end badly for me or I was going to be the hero. I responded “you are going shopping to Trafford Centre while I am going with my son to Old Trafford. Her response…”great”. My cunning plan had worked to perfection.

11am, dropped my wife at Trafford Centre (with the plastic card…you have to make concessions in life!) and 15min later, we arrive at the most beautiful stadium in the World, Old Trafford

Manchester United Football Club

 

Manchester United Football Club is a professional football club based in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, that competes in the Premier League, the top flight of English football. Nicknamed “the Red Devils”, the club was founded as Newton Heath LYR Football Club in 1878, changed its name to Manchester United in 1902 and moved to its current stadium, Old Trafford, in 1910.

Manchester United have won a record 20 League Titles, a joint-record 12 FA Cups, 5 League Cups and a record 21 FA Community Shields. The club has also won three European Cups, one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup, one UEFA Super Cup, one Intercontinental Cup and one FIFA Club World Cup. In 1998–99, the club became the first in the history of English football to achieve the treble of the Premier League, the FA Cup and the UEFA Champions League.

The 1958 Munich air disaster claimed the lives of eight players. In 1968, under the management of Matt Busby, Manchester United became the first English football club to win the European Cup. Alex Ferguson won 38 trophies, including 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups and 2 UEFA Champions Leagues, between 1986 and 2013, when he announced his retirement. José Mourinho is the club’s current manager, having been appointed on 27 May 2016.

Manchester United was the highest-earning football club in the world for 2015–16, with an annual revenue of €689 million, and the world’s third most valuable football club in 2015, valued at £1.98 billion. As of June 2015, it is the world’s most valuable football brand, estimated to be worth $1.2 billion. It is one of the most widely supported football teams in the world. After being floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1991, the club was purchased by Malcolm Glazer in May 2005 in a deal valuing the club at almost £800 million, after which the company was taken private again. In August 2012, Manchester United made an initial public offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The club holds several rivalries, most notably with Liverpool, Manchester City and Leeds United, and more recently with Arsenal.

Stadium history

 

Old Trafford is a football stadium in Old Trafford, Greater Manchester, England, and the home of Manchester United. With a capacity of 75,643, it is the largest club stadium of any football team in the United Kingdom, the third-largest stadium and the second-largest football stadium in the United Kingdom, and the eleventh-largest in Europe. It is about 0.5 miles (800 m) from Old Trafford Cricket Ground and the adjacent tram stop.

Nicknamed “The Theatre of Dreams” by Bobby Charlton, Old Trafford has been United’s home ground since 1910, although from 1941 to 1949 the club shared Maine Road with local rivals Manchester City as a result of Second World War bomb damage. Old Trafford underwent several expansions in the 1990s, and 2000s, including the addition of extra tiers to the North, West and East Stands, almost returning the stadium to its original capacity of 80,000. Future expansion is likely to involve the addition of a second tier to the South Stand, which would raise the capacity to around 95,000. The stadium’s record attendance was recorded in 1939, when 76,962 spectators watched the FA Cup semi-final between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Grimsby Town.

Construction

Before 1902, Manchester United were known as Newton Heath, during which time they first played their football matches at North Road and then Bank Street in Clayton. However, both grounds were blighted by wretched conditions, the pitches ranging from gravel to marsh, while Bank Street suffered from clouds of fumes from its neighbouring factories. Therefore, following the club’s rescue from near-bankruptcy and renaming, the new chairman John Henry Davies decided in 1909 that the Bank Street ground was not fit for a team that had recently won the First Division and FA Cup, so he donated funds for the construction of a new stadium. Not one to spend money frivolously, Davies scouted around Manchester for an appropriate site, before settling on a patch of land adjacent to the Bridgewater Canal, just off the north end of the Warwick Road in Old Trafford.

Designed by Scottish architect Archibald Leitch, who designed several other stadia, the ground was originally designed with a capacity of 100,000 spectators and featured seating in the south stand under cover, while the remaining three stands were left as terraces and uncovered. Including the purchase of the land, the construction of the stadium was originally to have cost £60,000 all told. However, as costs began to rise, to reach the intended capacity would have cost an extra £30,000 over the original estimate and, at the suggestion of club secretary J. J. Bentley, the capacity was reduced to approximately 80,000. Nevertheless, at a time when transfer fees were still around the £1,000 mark, the cost of construction only served to reinforce the club’s “Moneybags United” epithet, with which they had been tarred since Davies had taken over as chairman.

In May 1908, Archibald Leitch wrote to the Cheshire Lines Committee (CLC) – who had a rail depot adjacent to the proposed site for the football ground – in an attempt to persuade them to subsidise construction of the grandstand alongside the railway line. The subsidy would have come to the sum of £10,000, to be paid back at the rate of £2,000 per annum for five years or half of the gate receipts for the grandstand each year until the loan was repaid. However, despite guarantees for the loan coming from the club itself and two local breweries, both chaired by club chairman John Henry Davies, the Cheshire Lines Committee turned the proposal down. The CLC had planned to build a new station adjacent to the new stadium, with the promise of an anticipated £2,750 per annum in fares offsetting the £9,800 cost of building the station. The station – Trafford Park – was eventually built, but further down the line than originally planned. The CLC later constructed a modest station with one timber-built platform immediately adjacent to the stadium and this opened on 21 August 1935. It was initially named United Football Ground, but was renamed Old Trafford Football Ground in early 1936. It was served on match days only by a shuttle service of steam trains from Manchester Central railway station. It is currently known as Manchester United Football Ground.

Construction was carried out by Messrs Brameld and Smith of Manchester and development was completed in late 1909. The stadium hosted its inaugural game on 19 February 1910, with United playing host to Liverpool. However, the home side were unable to provide their fans with a win to mark the occasion, as Liverpool won 4–3. A journalist at the game reported the stadium as “the most handsomest [sic], the most spacious and the most remarkable arena I have ever seen. As a football ground it is unrivalled in the world, it is an honour to Manchester and the home of a team who can do wonders when they are so disposed”.

With every subsequent improvement made to the ground since the Second World War, the capacity steadily declined. By the 1980s, the capacity had dropped from the original 80,000 to approximately 60,000. The capacity dropped still further in 1990, when the Taylor Report recommended, and the government demanded that all First and Second Division stadia be converted to all-seaters. This meant that £3–5 million plans to replace the Stretford End with a brand new stand with an all-standing terrace at the front and a cantilever roof to link with the rest of the ground had to be drastically altered. This forced redevelopment, including the removal of the terraces at the front of the other three stands, not only increased the cost to around £10 million, but also reduced the capacity of Old Trafford to an all-time low of around 44,000. In addition, the club was told in 1992 that they would only receive £1.4 million of a possible £2 million from the Football Trust to be put towards work related to the Taylor Report

Old Trafford’s most recent expansion, which took place between July 2005 and May 2006, saw an increase of around 8,000 seats with the addition of second tiers to both the north-west and north-east quadrants of the ground. Part of the new seating was used for the first time on 26 March 2006, when an attendance of 69,070 became a new Premier League record. The record continued to be pushed upwards before reaching its current peak on 31 March 2007, when 76,098 spectators saw United beat Blackburn Rovers 4–1, meaning that just 114 seats (0.15% of the total capacity of 76,212) were left unoccupied. In 2009, a reorganisation of the seating in the stadium resulted in a reduction of the capacity by 255 to 75,957, meaning that the club’s home attendance record would stand at least until the next expansion.

 

The stadium Tour
Ok, as a United fan I have done the visit over 10 times easy in the last 15 years. This was the second time with my son (only 3 months old first time around). The first thing to know is that you must book your tickets in advance. They sell extremely rapidly so don’t risk it, book it. We parked at Old Trafford and made our way to the East Stand, where the entry of the stadium tour is. You collect your tickets at the reception and make your way to the third floor where the museum is. Of course, like any good business you have the ability to take a picture with the Carling cup and other trophies available (£20). You then make your way through the museum down to  first floor. There you await few minutes for everyone to gather (approx. 30 people). Your guide and security agent arrive and so does the stadium tour begins.
First you make your way to the North Stand where the guide tells you that United was the first stadium to offer corporate boxes. The cheapest cost £70k. Unfortunately the banner reminding City how long they had not won a trophy was not there anymore and that was the highlight of the tour many years ago. We then made our way to the East stand where the visiting fans are. The guide reminded everyone that United were the first one to make space for disable individuals and the first club to take them for away games (first away game was the champions League final in 1999). We make our way passed the police station (few jokes about scousers but can’t repeat them as too many friends there) towards the media room. I was really disappointed. Like at Leicester they do not let you sit down in the manager’s chair. This is new. I asked a French security guy later on and he said that it was down to security reasons. Garbage. it is down to economic reasons. The amount of tours within a day has been multiplied by 2. Starts every 10min. There are now 58 tours per day! At an average of 30 people per tour with each person spending a minimum of £20, it generates approx. £35k per day. A year, just over £12m revenue! Crazy right.
Now the best part of the man utd stadium tour. The home changing room is of average size, with a big mirror (nicknamed the Cristiano Ronaldo mirror as he spent 15min in front of it) and famous for Alex Ferguson for having kicked a shoe at David Beckham. I love the place. After all I played my last game there. Pogba is seating where I was, he is destined to be a great player :).
Finally, we make our way to the tunnel and onto the pitch (no time to stop taking a picture in front of the advertising board where players get interviewed in the tunnel (No way I am not going to do that, therefore I delay the tour by couple of seconds. Walking out of the tunnel reminds me of my last game, which of course I bore my son with the details.
The stadium tour finishes in the megastore (of course).
Overall, I was really really disappointed. I thought the quality of our guides was ok but if he had been given time, he would have been excellent (no explanation of the old tunnel or other anecdotes that I got when I first visited the ground). I am highly disappointed with that feeling of being rushed. Nonetheless, for people that visit it for the first time, it will still be a magical moment.
Official information regarding the stadium tour:

http://www.manutd.com/en/Visit-Old-Trafford/Museum-And-Stadium-Tour/Stadium-Tour.aspx

Cost: £18 adult £12 above 5 years old
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 4/10
Overall mark: 8/10

Benoit Mercier

Leicester City FC Stadium Tour

lcfc

Last May, Leicester City FC made the improbable probable, they became Premier League Champions. You have to go back to 1995 and Blackburn Rovers to have a non-top 6 club crowned champions. I would even argue that in the modern game era, what Leicester have achieved in the biggest upset in sporting history. It was not a Cup competition in which you can sometime ride you luck (i.e. Portugal at the Euros or Liverpool in the Champions League…don’t make me wrong they are deserved winners but they had statistically better odds to create an upset due to the limited amount of game), it was 38 League games were they achieved consistency. I struggle to see when this feat will occur again whilst I am alive. Well done.

On Saturday, I got given by my wife a day out pass for good behaviour helping out with our newborn. I needed no more. I decided to jump in the car with the little lad and drive up the M25 and M1 to Leicester (2 hours journey). I must say that I was excited to go to the home of the Champions. I imagined that there would be countless amount of title celebrations stories, videos, etc. I was really up for it and keen to discover our 11th stadium. Just time to stop at Waitrose, buy few snacks and drinks and of we went…

leicester City Football Club

Leicester City Football Club, also known as the Foxes, is an English professional football club based at the King Power Stadium in Leicester. They compete in the Premier League, England’s top tier of football, and are the current reigning champions. Having been promoted as champions of the Football League Championship in 2013–14, this signalled a return to the top flight of English football after a decade away.

The club was founded in 1884 as Leicester Fosse F.C., playing on a field near Fosse Road. They moved to Filbert Street in 1891, were elected to the Football League in 1894 and adopted the name Leicester City in 1919. They moved to the nearby Walkers Stadium in 2002, which was renamed the King Power Stadium after a change of ownership in 2011.

Leicester won the 2015–16 Premier League, their first top-level football championship. They are one of only six clubs to have won the Premier League since its inception in 1992. A number of newspapers described their title win as the greatest sporting upset ever, or the best football fairy-tale of history. Multiple bookmakers had never paid out at such long odds for any sport. Their title win placed itself into English football history as one of the game’s finest ever achievements. Their previous highest ever finish was second place in the top flight, in Division One in 1928–29. Throughout Leicester’s history, they have spent all but one season within the top two tiers of English football. The club holds a joint-highest seven second-tier titles (six Second Division and one Championship).

The club have been FA Cup finalists four times, in 1948–49, 1960–61, 1962–63 and 1968–69. This is a tournament record for the most defeats in the final without having won the competition. City have several promotions to their name, two play-off final wins, and one League One title. In 1971, they won the FA Community Shield, and in 2016, they were runners up. They have also won the League Cup three times in 1964,1997 and 2000, as well as being runners up in 1964–65 and 1999. Leicester City have also competed in European football, and their appearances have come in the 1961–62 European Cup Winners’ Cup, 1997–98 UEFA Cup, 2000–01 UEFA Cup and most recently the 2016-17 UEFA Champions League.

Stadium history

In their early years, Leicester played at numerous grounds, but have only played at two since they joined the Football League. When first starting out they played on a field by the Fosse Road, hence the original name Leicester Fosse. They moved from there to Victoria Park, and subsequently to Belgrave Road. Upon turning professional the club moved to Mill Lane. After eviction from Mill Lane the club played at the County Cricket ground while seeking a new ground. The club secured the use of an area of ground by Filbert Street, and moved there in 1891.

 The “Double Decker” Stand at Filbert Street. Some improvements by noted football architect Archibald Leitch occurred in the Edwardian era, and in 1927 a new two tier stand was built, named the Double Decker, a name it would keep till the ground’s closure in 2002. The ground wasn’t developed any further, apart from compulsory seating being added, till 1993 when work began on the new Carling Stand. The stand was impressive while the rest of the ground was untouched since at least the 1920s; this led manager Martin O’Neill to say he used to “lead new signings out backwards” so they only saw the Carling Stand. The Club keep a maquette of it in their reception area.

The club moved away from Filbert Street in 2002 to a new 32,500 all-seater stadium. The stadium was originally named Walkers Stadium in a deal with food manufacturers Walkers, whose brand logo used to be found at various points around the outside of the stadium. It is now called the King Power Stadium. On 19 August 2010, it emerged that the new owners King Power wanted to rename the stadium The King Power Stadium, and had plans to increase the capacity to 42,000 should Leicester secure promotion. On 7 July 2011, Leicester City confirmed that the Walkers Stadium would now be known as the King Power Stadium. In 2015, vice-chairman Aiyawatt Srivaddhanaprabha stated that plans were in place to increase the capacity of the stadium to around 42,000. Relocation to a bigger stadium has also been considered

The King Power Stadium has also honoured past greats of the club, by naming suites and lounges inside the stadium after the club’s former players Gordon Banks, Adam Black, Arthur Chandler, Gary Lineker, Arthur Rowley, Sep Smith, Keith Weller and former manager Jimmy Bloomfield.

 

The stadium Tour
Well my disappointment was as big as my expectations. I though the stadium looked bland and the front could have been the facade of any huge corporation businesses. Needless to say that I did not like the look of it.
After collecting my tickets in the fanstore to a Lady that was breathing some much happiness (me being cynical!), we made our way to the reception. A buoyant lady greeted us and asked us to make way to the Premier league trophy to have our picture takeni in exchange for a small fee (£10), I dully obliged. 30min after it should have started, (takes time to take pictures of everyone with the trophy) the guides (young lady, really dynamic and sociable and a young lad that had no spark in him) took us to one of the boxes. They are nice and cost approx. £25k a year. A bargain for those that bought it LY.
We then made our way to the press room, which was like at Man City but 10 times smaller. Really well equipped to Champions League standards. However, we were not allowed to take a picture in the manager’s seat! Really disappointed. Instead, we got offered a free matchday programme (wow that makes it better!).
We then got taken to the Referees’ room. Really spacious and luxury. Unlike the press room, you do not get to see the referee’s room on other stadium tours that we have been to, so that was a really positive experience. My son got to hold the substitute board.
We then made our way to the away and home dressing rooms. The away dressing room is of good quality (compared to Anfield for example) but the home dressing room is of high quality. Key interesting facts:
  • Away dressing room:
    • There is a hollow pillar in the middle of the room, which was put in just to annoy the away manager when he addresses to the team (can’t look at them all he must move around).
    • In winter they only serve cold water and in summer hot water. not sure if they really do that but same was said at Aston Villa…maybe something with the Midland clubs.
  • Home dressing room:
    • Like at villa, the dressing room is pitch black with blue ambience lights as the players like the relaxing atmosphere
    • They have a communal bath in order to allow the players to bond (I thought they were illegal nowadays!)
    • The players warm up in the showers kicking a ball trying to switch them on. After each home game they have to replace the broken tiles.

Finally, we get to go through the tunnel to the dug outs. Inside, the pitch is quality but I was expecting to see the grass cut into diamonds but the guide explains that the ref don’t like it as they struggle to signal offsides. The stadium is small and like the outside is bland. no fan banners, not much to stand out.

Overall, I was really disappointed. I thought the quality of our guides were poor (no stories to share with us, I almost wondered if they were lcfc fans) and the tour lacked excitement. For a team that achieved the impossible on the pitch, people meant to keep the myth alive are doing a poor job. For example, it would have been a nice touch to recreate the atmosphere of the final game of the season as you walk out of the tunnel or have many plasma screens showing the amazing season they all have experienced. Not to be.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:
http://www.lcfc.com/tickets/kpstadium_tours.aspx

Cost: £14 adult £7 above 2 years old
Stadium architecture: 3/10
Stadium history: 6/10
Stadium Tour: 3/10
Overall mark: 4/10

Benoit Mercier

West Ham United Stadium Tour

westham

On the 23rd december, I decided to book a holiday and take my son to West Ham. Some of you may wonder why it took me a month to write this blog post. Well I am pleased to say that the family got a little bigger in the new year and that I have not had a minute to myself. Not that I have some free time now but I have been a bit canny. Stuck my 2 year old in front of Bob the builder and gave my wife some food. job is good. and errr of course fed the new little one.

Ok, back to football matters. West Ham United, a club I have always liked. Not sure exactly why but I remember the day I use to watch West Ham vs. chelsea back in Britanny these were feisty encounters and I always loved those (Dennis Wise was entertainment). West Ham played good football and use to produce quality homegrown players like Nantes and this is probably why I had a soft spot for them. Now then, I have been to Upton Park, in fact this is the only ground in which I slept. i actually recall opening my french windows and being able to walk into the stand (quality). This is when, back then, I was in charge of promoting Everton Ladies FA Cup Final against Charlton. The Boleyn Stadium was class. Typical British stadium with its two towers and claret front gates (now in the megastore). However, like many Clubs now commercial revenue plays a key part and they had to move to a bigger stadium. By the way, for all the talk about the Olympic stadium, they got a great deal!

West Ham United Football Club

West Ham United Football Club is a professional football club based in Stratford, East London, England, that competes in the Premier League, England’s top tier of football. They played home games at the Boleyn Ground from 1904 until the end of the 2015–16 season when they moved to the London Stadium.

The club was founded in 1895 as Thames Ironworks and reformed in 1900 as West Ham United. The club has traditionally played in a claret and blue home strip with white shorts. West Ham competed in theSouthern League and Western League before joining the Football League in 1919; they were promoted to the top flight in 1923, when they also played in the first FA Cup Final at Wembley. In 1940, the club won the inaugural Football League War Cup.

West Ham have been winners of the FA Cup three times, in 1964, 1975, and 1980, and have also been runners-up twice, in 1923, and 2006. The club have reached two major European finals, winning the European Cup Winners’ Cup in 1965 and finishing runners up in the same competition in 1976. West Ham also won the Intertoto Cup in 1999. They are one of eight clubs never to have fallen below the second tier of English football, spending 59 of 91 league seasons in the top flight, up to and including the 2016–17 season. The club’s highest league position to date came in 1985–86 when they achieved third place in the then First Division.

Three West Ham players were members of the 1966 World Cup final-winning England team: captain Bobby Moore and goalscorers Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. By the way, passing comment, the way West Ham and the FA treated Sir (in my eyes) Bobby Moore was a disgrace!

London Olympic Stadium history

London Stadium, (originally known as the Olympic Stadium), is a stadium in Stratford, Greater London, England, at Marshgate Lane in the Lower Lea Valley. It was constructed to serve as the home stadium for the2012 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, hosting the track and field events and opening and closing ceremonies. It was subsequently renovated as a multi-purpose stadium, with its primary tenants being West Ham United Football Club and British Athletics. The stadium is 6 12 miles (10.5 km) from Central London.

Land preparation for the stadium began in mid-2007, with the official construction start date on 22 May 2008, although piling works for the foundation began four weeks before. The stadium held its first public event in March 2012, serving as the finish line for a celebrity running event organised by the National Lottery. Following the Paralympics the stadium was used intermittently whilst under renovation, before re-opening in July 2016 with a capacity of 60,000. The decision to make West Ham United the main tenants was controversial, with the initial tenancy process having to be rerun.

As well as its regular tenants, the stadium will continue to be used for a series of special events. The stadium hosted several 2015 Rugby World Cup matches, one test match of a tri-series between England Rugby League and New Zealand Rugby League in November 2015, and will host both the 2017 IAAF World Championships in Athletics and the 2017 World ParaAthletics Championships, marking the first time both events have been held in the same location in the same year. It annually hosts the finish of the Great Newham London Run at the start of July. The stadium can also hold concerts with up to 80,000 spectators, and due to its oval shape and relocatable seating, it is suitable to host other sporting events such as Cricket or Baseball.

Olympic Design

On 13 October 2006, London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games confirmed that it had selected Sir Robert McAlpine and Populous to start exclusive negotiations with, to fulfil the eventual design and build contract of the new Olympic Stadium after no other organisations met the bidding criteria.

The construction of the stadium commenced three months early in May 2008 after the bowl of the stadium had been dug out and the area cleared. The building of the stadium was completed in March 2011 reportedly on time and under budget, with the athletics track laid in October 2011.

Exploded view of the stadium’s layers

The stadium’s track and field arena is excavated out of the soft clay found on the site, around which is permanent seating for 25,000, built using concrete “rakers”. The natural slope of the land is incorporated into the design, with warm-up and changing areas dug into a semi-basement position at the lower end. Spectators enter the stadium via a podium level, which is level with the top of the permanent seating bowl. A demountable lightweight steel and pre-cast concrete upper tier is built up from this “bowl” to accommodate a further 55,000 spectators.

The Olympic Stadium interior

The stadium is made up of different tiers; during the Games the stadium was able to hold 80,000 spectators. The base tier, which allows for 25,000 seats, is a sunken elliptical bowl that is made up of low-carbon-dioxide concrete; this contains 40 percent less embodied carbon than conventional concrete.[19] The foundation of the base level is 5,000 piles reaching up to 20 metres (66 ft) deep. From there, there is a mixture of driven cast in situ piles, continuous flight auger piles, and vibro concrete columns. The second tier, which holds 55,000 seats, is 315 m (1,033 ft) long, 256 m (840 ft) wide, and 60 m (197 ft) high. The stadium contains just under a quarter of the steel as the Olympic Stadium in Beijing for the 2008 Summer Olympics, approximately 10,700 tonnes (11,800 short tons). In addition to the minimal use of steel, which makes it 75 percent lighter[clarification needed], the stadium also uses high-yield large diameter pipes which were surplus on completion of North Sea Gas pipeline projects in its compression truss, recycled granite, and many of the building products were transported using trains and barges rather than by lorry.

The Olympic Stadium during the 2012 Summer Olympics

A wrap, funded by Dow Chemical Company in return for being able to advertise on the wrap until 26 June 2012, covered the exterior during the Olympics. The wrap was made from polyester and polyethylene, and printed using UV curable inks. The wrap was made of pieces of material that covered 20 metres (66 ft) high and 900 metres (1,000 yd) in length. The final design for the wrap consisted of 2.5-metre-wide (8 ft) fabric panels, twisted at 90-degree angles to allow entry to the stadium at the bottom of the structure, and held in place with tensioned cables.

To allow for fast on-site assembly, compression truss and roof column connections were bolted; this enabled easy disassembling of the roof structure after the closing ceremonies. The cable-supported roof structure covers approximately two-thirds of the stadium’s seating. Reaching 70 metres (230 ft) above the field of play, the stadium roof held 14 lighting towers, or paddles, that collectively contained a total of 532 individual 2 kW floodlight lamps. The lights were first officially switched on in December 2010 by Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson. During the games, the towers were fitted with additional ceremony lighting, and 4 of the 14 towers held large temporary video screens.

Stadium interior

Lighting paddle which was connected to every seat (left) and what it can create (right).

The stadium was equipped with a nine lane Mondo 400 metres (1,300 feet) athletics track. The turf in the stadium was grown in Scunthorpe and was a mix of perennial ryegrass, smooth stalk meadow grass and fescue grass seeds. It took 360 rolls of grass to cover the infield and was laid in March 2011.[30] The track was designed by Italian company Mondo, and was their latest version of the Mondotrack FTX.

The stadium’s 80,000 seats had a black and white ‘fragment’ theme that matched the overall branding design used by LOCOG for London 2012. The lines all centred on the finish line in the stadium. The seats were made in Luton and were fitted between May and December 2010. During the Games, the Stadium’s grandstands contained a lighting system developed by Tait Technologies that allowed them to function as a giant video screen. Individual “paddles” containing nine LED pixels each were installed between each seat of the stadium, which were controlled via a central system to display video content wrapped around the stadium. The system was primarily intended for use during the ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics – over 70 minutes of animated content were used during the Olympics’ opening ceremony.

West Ham tenancy

Following the granting, in March 2013, of a 99-year tenancy to West Ham United, the E20 LLP, a joint organisation by the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council were specifically set-up to oversee redevelopment of the stadium into a UEFA Category 4 venue seating 60,000 spectators. The reconfiguration saw work on a new roof, corporate areas, toilets, concessions and retractable seating. West Ham contributed £15 million and Newham Council £40 million for the work to be carried out with the LLDC and the British Government making up the rest. Approval was granted for the installation of retractable seating on all sides of the stadium and an 84 metres (92 yd) transparent roof. The black and white seating design from the Olympics, was replaced with a white, blue and claret design. The new design includes West Ham’s name on the East Kop Stand and symbolic crossed hammers on all lower tier stands, and the retention of the 2012 shard design on the upper tier, albeit in new colouring to match the Stadium’s anchor tenant. Work continued through 2016 to transform the stadium into a home for West Ham, with the club’s colours and giant model West Ham shirts added to the stadium concourse

The stadium Tour

 

So, here we are on a cold winter morning hopping on our first train to Waterloo. The we jumped onto the City Line to Bank and then the Central Line to Stratford. As you exit the tube station, make an immediate right turn towards the bridge and start trudging along. After 15min you arrive at the London Olympic Park (swimming pool on your right). My first impression is how nice the whole setup is. Fantastic for sports fanatics. The stadium is very nice too and you recognise straight away the iconic red metallic torch. Nice design, although nothing like a British football stadium, but a lot more like an italian stadium. We make our way to the megastore, and we can see the West Ham anthem “blowing bubbles” lyrics placarded all around the stadium. Once in the megastore, I collect my tickets and make way to gate E.

I am greeted by the security personnel and once bags are checked, we were given our audio equipment. It is another self guided tour (start becoming more and more popular – volume versus quality simple economic rhetorics!). We make our way through the escalators to the luxury VIP area. Once arrived, my son could not hold a number 2 and therefore I had to ask kindly the security guy to show me the VIP toilets. Just to realise that I had not taken a spare nappy (rookie mistake, for the rest of the tour I was praying for no accidents to occur). Once the job done, we got to talk with the security guy. I explained to him what we do (our Grand Tour, maybe should sell my story to Amazon) and got into a conversation (i.e. do you like self guided tours). He agrees with me that nothing replaces a good guide and some of the unique stories. It turned out that he was a former guide at Wembley, so I got many stories out of him. He explained how the seats retract themselves to make way to the running track and how urban climbers sneaked into West Ham’s London Stadium climbed to the roof, invaded pitch and sat in the dugout (watch video but do not attempt).

30min later (not exaggerating, there is no one on a 23rd December, and the man was quality to listen to), we were back on the trail. We made our way to the dressing room. Wow, pure luxury! I mean they must spend as much time in the jacuzzi than on the pitch. It is state of the art. No wonder why Spurs wanted the stadium! We took the usual pictures, and again most players are together based on their language.

We then made our way for what we thought was the tunnel. We were in for a surprise. In fact we got taken to an indoor running track facility, where the likes of Bolt warmed up during the Olympics. it did not take long for my son to start going up and down and the fantastic staff to cheer him on. Great experience and the little  on got to stretch his legs and have a lot of fun (just to put his 2 year old leg in the starting blocks were hilarious). At the end we had to do the podium with the medals and of course only a matter of £10 the picture 🙂

Thereafter, you got taken to the interview rooms, 7 in total and finally through the tunnel. The stadium is amazing and I can only imagine how nice it must be to get out on a saturday afternoon under the “we are blowing bubbles”chorus. We took the usual pictures in the home dug out and made our way out of the stadium.

As a stadium tour I thought it was really good, the running track is definitely a plus. It is well organised, great access for kids or disable and if you like self guided tours you will like this one. Staff is very friendly and helpful. The stadium architecture is nice although not what I would class as a football stadium but one that has got a lot of history in such a short space of time (I mean the Queen did land jumping from the plane). However, no football history yet so this is why an average score below.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:
https://www.whufc.com/new-stadium/tours

Cost: £17 adult
Stadium architecture: 7/10
Stadium history: 5/10
Stadium Tour: 8/10
Overall mark: 7/10

Benoit Mercier

Real Madrid Stadium Tour

image.jpeg

Well after a well deserved summer break, it is time to start again our journey to visiting as many football stadiums as possible. This time our journey takes us to Real Madrid, #1 football club in the world. Why Real Madrid some of you may ask. Simple, I am on a well deserved holiday in Malaga, South Spain, and agreed with my wife to do the 500km journey to Madrid to visit the famous Santiago Bernabeu. She is a Saint or can’t be bothered talking memoit of it.

Real Madrid

Founded in 1902 as Madrid Football Club, the team has traditionally worn a white home kit since inception. The word Real is Spanish for Royal and was bestowed to the club by King Alfonso XIII in 1920 together with the royal crown in the emblem. The team has played its home matches in the 85,454-capacity Santiago Bernabéu Stadium in downtown Madrid since 1947. Unlike most European sporting entities, Real Madrid’s members (socios) have owned and operated the club throughout its history.

In domestic football, the club has won a record 32 La Liga titles, 19 Copa del Rey, nine Supercopa de España, a Copa Eva Duarte, and a Copa de la Liga.[14] In international football, the club has won a record 11 European Cup/UEFA Champions League titles, a joint record three Intercontinental Cups, two UEFA Cups, three UEFA Super Cups and a FIFA Club World Cup.

Santiago Bernabeu stadium

The Santiago Bernabeu stadium is located in the district of Chamartín of Madrid. It occupies the block bounded by the Paseo de la Castellana and the streets of Concha Espina, Padre Damián, and Rafael Salgado. Nearest subway station is Santiago Bernabéu on the Line 10.

On 22 June 1944, the Banco Mercantil e Industrial bank granted a credit to Santiago Bernabéu and Rafael Salgado for the purchase of the land adjacent to the old Ramin Amin. On 5 September 1944, architects Manuel Muñoz Monasterio and Luis Alemany Soler were hired and the structure on the site began to give way to the new stadium. On 27 October 1944, construction work on the stadium began.

The Nuevo Estadio Chamartín (English: New Chamartín Stadium) was inaugurated on 14 December 1947 with a match between Real Madrid and the Portuguese side Os Belenenses, which resulted in a 3–1 victory for Los Blancos.[3] The stadium had an initial capacity of 75,145 spectators, 27,645 of which had seats (7,125 covered) and 47,500 for standing fans. Sabino Barinaga was the first player to score in the new stadium.

The first major renovation occurred in 1955. On 19 June of that year, the stadium expanded to accommodate 125,000 spectators. Thus, the Madrid coliseum became the biggest stadium of all the participants of the newly established European Cup.

On 4 January 1955, after the General Assembly of Members Compromisaros, it was decided that the stadium adopt its present name in honour of club President Santiago Bernabéu.

In May 1957, Real Madrid used electric stadium lighting in a game against Sport Recife of Brazil.

Following a series of spectator fatalities in the 1980’s (most notably the Heysel Stadium in Belgium and the Hillsborough Stadium in England), English authorities released the Taylor Report on how to improve football spectator safety in English venues. UEFA followed suit across Europe. The stadium was forced to create separate shortcuts to different stadium sections and seats for all spectators. In the 1990s, the Santiago Bernabéu went through a large expansion and remodeling. The board of Ramón Mendoza awarded the project to Gines Navarro Construcciones, S.A.

As a club representing the rich and the powerful of Spain, Real Madrid has a very demanding clientele.[4] When Florentino Pérez became the president of the club, he launched a “master plan” with one goal: to improve the comfort of the Santiago Bernabéu and the quality of its facilities, and maximise revenue for the stadium.

Pérez invested €127 million in five years (2001–2006) by adding an expansion to the east side of the stadium, as well adding a new façade on Father Damien street, new costumes, new boxes and VIP areas, a new stage in honour of the east side, a new press area (also located on the east side), a new audio system, new bars, integration of heating in the stands, panoramic lifts, new restaurants, escalators in the tower access, and implementation of the multipurpose building in Father Damien street.

The stadium Tour

Well on a sunny Tuesday morning off we went and got the metro, line 10, that took us directly to Santiago Bernabeu. I must say that I was unsure how my son would behave as he is in the middle of his terrible twos. As you arrive in front of the Bernabeu, you must make your way towards gate 7, tower B, which is on the left handside when facing the stadium. There you can buy your tickets. You should know that the basic stadium tour is self guided. In this respect, it is very much the same concept than Arsenal. However, you can get a guide, but it will cost you an extortionate 170 € to do so.

Once this is done you go to tower C and go through two checks of airport style security. This time I did not take the pram but you can do so. However, if there are some lifts, it is not completely pram friendly so be prepared to do some lifting.

We got to the top of the stadium and there we had an amazing view. If from the outside it looks old and kind of ugly (looks like a block of concrete), inside it is an ansolute gem. Quite similar to Old Trafford. Unlike many European stadiums, you are quite close to the pitch and you have a good view right at the top. Time to take few pictures and we make our way towards the museum. You have some amazing pieces of history and shed lots of videos on huge screens (10m long!), I want the same at home :). You get to see all 10 Champions League trophies. Wait a minute have they not won there 11th “La Undecima” this year against local rivals Athletico Madrid? Of course but they keep it for the end where you get to take a picture with it for 11 € small format or double for big format. I must say that it is a must to have your pocture taken with the “Big Ears” cup for any football fan. I can now say that I got to touch the original Champions League Cup (also great money maker).

You then get to mid tier level and it is the first time you can access the stands. At that point the sun is shinning nicely and you can enjoy a panoramic view (see picture at the top). You also can eat a bite and drink in the concourse, which is always handy to keep a 2 years old happy. The pitch is immacualte and younhave those UV lights on where there is no sun. Unfortunately, no guide to tell me how much it cost but can only be in the range of £1m to £5m.

You then make your way to pitch level. I must say that it is impressive. You feel really close to the pitch. I can imagine how much pressure the players are under when the crowd is turning on them. Having played at Old Trafford, I should add Santiago Bernabeu to my bucket list. We make our way to the bench. Well you call it bench, I call it 5 stars luxury seats. The issue of having a self guided tour is that there is no regulation of the flow of people and therefore you have a real bottle neck in key areas, such as pitch side. However, I managed to get my son squeezed in one of the seats and take a picture. I told him not to get too comfy as his place should be on the pitch.

We did not stay too long there for obvious reasons and made our way down the small tunnel that the players take (10 steps down from the pitch). Same principle than Anfield for those who have been there. We make our way up to the home dressing room (alongside the metal fence that seperates the home and visitors players in the tunnel that again you can see on tv). Shame there is no guide as I would have loved to know why they decided to put such a fence (what event caused that to happen – a feisty el clasico?).

The home dressing room is of average size. Now some of you will be highly interestednin knowing where the best player on the planet seats. Here you go:

image

Each locker is personalised. It is quite a confined area with two indoor bicycles, showers, pool, and 1 toilet (can’t be having more than one player with a stomach bug, unless you do like Robbie Savage and use the ref’s one).

The final part of the tour is the press room. Way bigger than Villa but much smaller than Man City. There you can take your picture and the desks are basic wooden tables (they did retain a bit of the working class football essence!).

As any good stadium tour you finish it in the megastore and of course you buy your champions league picture (how can you not!)

This concluded an excellent day out and one I would strongly recommend to do.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

http://www.realmadrid.com/en/tickets/bernabeu-tour

Cost: 20 € adult
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 6/10 (at least with Arsenal you had headphones explaining some history)
Overall mark: 9/10

Benoit Mercier