Manchester United Stadium Tour

OT

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

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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

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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:

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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

World of football gone mad

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I have read this morning that United was ready to pay £125m to secure Pogba’s services for the next 5 years, of which 20% will go directly in the player’s pocket. Have they gone mad? I love football but these sums are disrespectful to the fans. The average fan earns about £20k to £25k. Pays £40 on average for a ticket, which makes a working class sport more expensive than attending a play at the theatre. These huge sums of cash that the Clubs have, could easily cut the ticket prices to £5. The economics makes sense but one day I hope those at the top of the hierarchy, they will wake up and impose a transfer cap as well as basic salary cap, which would also help on the competitiveness of the league, stop buying foreign players and promote home nurtured players. People fell back in love with football last year when Leicester won it. Why? Not just because of their football but because they did so on the cheap (more realistic amount in my eyes anyway). Ranieri said few days ago that the big Clubs would kill them! Well force is to admit that he is right. And what an example does it set to these young lads. Drop out of school and play footie you could earn millions rather than study hard to secure a decent job that will never pay that much. These football players don’t deserve it but nor can they be hold accountable. If I was in Pogba’s shoes I would do the same. We always come back to the same point, people at the top need to regulate the sport and market. Utopia, this is where I wake up and look at the sums involved and all the corruption involved (disgusted just thinking about it). As a United fan I should rejoyce at the fact that a world class player is about to join us but the reality is, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The cynics would say that I would have to stop paying my Skysports and BT sports subscriptions and stop paying to go to the grounds. But why should I, when all I want to do is watch a good game of football. Instead I will go and play with my son in my local park at least it will feel like a real world to me.

Benoit Mercier

Monaco Stadium Tour

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I have always loved Monaco, home of Formula 1 but also of l’AS Monaco. The place is amazing and buzzing. Not the new Monaco though, with all the ugly apartments, but the old Monaco where the Palace is. It is also the place where my cousin, Laurent Viaud, made a name for himself playing under Wenger in midfield alongside World Cup Winner Emmanuel Petit or Brazilian and Belgium stars, Sonny Anderson and Enzo Scifo. After many months of hard work, it was time to take a break and head down to the South with my son. We flew from London to Marseille, rented a car and made my way east towards Monaco. The place was pact and hot (34 degrees). What was nice is that the GP was 2 weeks prior and all the stands and safety features were still around. Took the car round the circuit…ace. But back to football and Le Stade Louis II was our first international stadium tour. Continental stadiums have a different architecture, usually an athletic track.

AS Monaco

Association Sportive de Monaco Football Club (commonly referred to as AS Monaco is a Monaco-based football club. The club was founded in 1919 and plays in Ligue 1, the top tier of French football. The team plays its home matches at the Stade Louis II in Fontvieille.

Though based in Monaco, the club plays in the French football league system. Monaco is one of the most successful clubs in France, having won seven league titles (my cousin won one of them in 1997) and five Coupe de France trophies. The club has also competed in European football having been runners-up in the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup in 1992 and the UEFA Champions League in 2004.

Stade Louis II Stadium history

 

The Stade Louis II is a stadium located in the Fontvieille district of Monaco. It serves primarily as a venue for football, being the home of AS Monaco and the Monaco national football team. From 1998 – 2012 this was the location of the annual UEFA Super Cup match.

The stadium is also used for the Herculis, a track and field meet of the IAAF Diamond League. The original Stade Louis II was opened in 1939 as the home of AS Monaco. The new stadium was built in the early 1980s, close to the site of the old stadium on land reclaimed from the sea, opening fully in 1985. As of 2016 the capacity was about 18,500 all seated, about half of the population of Monaco (about 36,371), and more than any other stadium in the country. The vast majority of the stadium’s facilities are located underground, with a large car park directly under the pitch (something that has caused some degree of criticism from managers of AS Monaco’s opponents in the past over the state of the pitch).

The stadium is named after Louis II, Prince of Monaco, who was the Sovereign Prince of Monaco when the original stadium was built

The stadium Tour

We arrived at 2.15pm and went to the East side reception. I asked if we could visit the stadium and the lady at reception very kindly agreed to take me through it. The cost of the visit is cheap as chips, 5 euros (£4) and last approx. 30min.

The charming lady explains to us that it is not purely a football stadium but a sports complex on many level. Indeed, we start by the visit of the basketball arena inside the stadium with a seating capacity of 9,000. She then shows me the gym and the olympic swimming pool. I am amazed because the stadium is small but they did dig deep when the Parisians architect conceived the stadium.

We very quickly make our way to the dressing room and it is small but the seats are comfy and make of pure expensive wood. It is nice to seat and imagine my cousin getting ready to play against AC Milan in the Champions League back in 1997. Adjacent to the dressing room is a small gym with few indoor bikes and where you can kick the ball. We then make our way up onto the pitch like gladiators into the ring (you have to climb few stairs to get onto the pitch like in Marseille) and my o my is it hot. As you exit the tunnel you can see the famous arches on your left. The stadium inside is nice but I am not a fan of having a track (fans too far away). Just time for the little one to run around and admire the job that the gardener has to do (imaging having a car park under the pitch as well as the hot temperatures) to keep the grass green. She explains to me that the pitch is made in England and I reckon it would cost them about 1 million euros.

We then conclude our tour by thanking our guide and make our way back to the car park in Monte Carlo.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:
http://www.stadelouis2.mc/infos-pratiques/#section-5

Cost: £4 adult
Stadium architecture: 6/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 5/10
Overall mark: 7/10

Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Tour

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Well it has been a while since we went on a stadium tour. Probably too busy watching Leicester win their first Premier League trophy.

Anyway, it is Saturday and I decide to make my way back up to North London but this time to Tottenham Hotspurs. In terms of transport it was not as straight forward as I thought it would be. Got to Waterloo and then jump onto the Jubilee Line to Green Park. Then we take the Victoria line towards Seven Sisters. Finally, we take a train to White Hart Lane. A bit of a trek but we got to the stadium just 5min before the tour started.

Tottenham Football Club

Founded in 1882, Tottenham won the FA Cup for the first time in 1901, making them the only non-League club to do so since the formation of the Football League in 1888. Tottenham were the first club in the 20th century to achieve the League and FA Cup Double, winning both competitions in the 1960–61 season. After successfully defending the FA Cup in 1962, in 1963 they became the first British club to win a UEFA club competition – the European Cup Winners’ Cup. In 1967, Spurs won the FA Cup for a third time in the 1960s. In the 1970s Tottenham won the League Cup on two occasions and were the inaugural winner of the UEFA Cup in 1972, becoming the first British club to win two different major European trophies. In the 1980s Spurs won several trophies: the FA Cup twice, FA Community Shield and the UEFA Cup in 1984. In the 1990s the club won the FA Cup and the League Cup. When they won the League Cup once more in 2008, it meant that they had won a major trophy in each of the last six decades – an achievement only matched by Manchester United.

White Hart Lane Stadium history

White Hart Lane is an all-seater football stadium located in Tottenham, London, UK. Built in 1899, it is the home of Tottenham Hotspur in the Premier League and, after numerous renovations, the stadium has a capacity of 36,284. However, this is to decrease for the 2016–17 season to allow for the new stadium to be completed on time.

Along with housing Tottenham, the stadium, which is known amongst fans as the Lane, has also been selected for England national football matches and England under-21 football matches. White Hart Lane held capacity records in the early 1960s with numbers entering the 70,000s but as seating increased in popularity, the stadium has levelled out to a modest number in relation to other Premier League clubs. The record attendance remains an FA Cup tie on 5 March 1938 against Sunderland with the attendance being recorded at 75,038

White Hart Lane underwent redevelopment in the early 20th century with stadium developer, Archibald Leitch, designing a mainly square stadium seating 15,300 and incorporating a standing paddock for another 700 fans along with the famous cockerel being placed on the mock-Tudor apex at the end of the 1909–1910 season. Redevelopments continued in the 1910s, with the wooden eastern stand replaced with an enlarged concrete stadium, vastly increasing the stadium capacity to over 50,000. The ground continued to be renovated and in 1925, thanks to the FA Cup win in 1921, both the Paxton Road Stand and Park Lane Stand were enlarged and mostly covered from the elements.

Most British stadium were designed by Leitch. Leitch’s stadia were initially considered functional rather than aesthetically elegant, and were clearly influenced by his early work on industrial buildings. Typically, his stands had two tiers, with criss-crossed steel balustrades at the front of the upper tier, and were covered by a series of pitched roofs, built so that their ends faced onto the playing field; the central roof span would be distinctly larger, and would incorporate a distinctive pediment.

The outer White Hart Lane frame is designed in a rectangular shape, with the inner seating tiers being rounded to maximise the amount of seats possible within the structure. The cockerel is placed upon the West Stand, with the West Stand located on Tottenham High Road, the East Stand being on Worcester Avenue, the North Stand on Paxton Road and the South Stand on Park Lane. The stands are officially named after compass points, but are more colloquially referred to by the road onto which they back

The stadium Tour

My first impression when I saw White Hart Lane was “what a horrible stadium”. It looked really old and dated. To be fair it was a real building site as they are building the new stadium (well needed I understand the Spurs fans). We made our way through Bill Nicholson Way towards the megastore to meet our stadium tour guide. To my surprise they were two of them. Very nice people but lacking of energy (maybe it was too hot -25 degrees!)

We first make our way to the press room. It is quite compact so there can’t be too many tv crews. The manager seats not too far from his translator but the guide tells us that is English is improving by the minute. Next door is a room where the journalists can write their articles.

We then make our way to the VIP lounge with nice boxes but apart from some old shirts and few cups, it looks pretty much to me like a local bar. After being left wandering around for 15 min in the area (not too sure why), we got to go down to the dressing room. The joke is that we cannot access the showers for hygiene reasons but it is no problem in the away dressing room (in fact it was recommended to go their if we had germs). The dressing room is spacious and simple. A simple white board to write the tactics on, few mini bars filled with Lucozades and you are pretty much done. Now, what I loved, was looking at the names on the shirts. So many talented young players. I thought it was refreshing to have a young team doing well this year and if it had not been for Leicester I would have wanted them to win the Premier League.
Then we make the final walk towards the pitch and we get taken back to reception with a view of what the new stadium will look like.
The reality is that I have been really disappointed with this tour. I had high expectations, especially as it is one of the most costly. A club with some much history and the guides had so little to shout about. When I think about the Champions League games with Gareth Bale or Gazza and their fa cup run. Yes disappointed. The Club may argue that it was down to the individuals but I felt a complete lack of history trudging through the stadium. Pretty dull and boring. I do hope they get it right for their new stadium
Some interesting facts from the tour:
  • Coquerel is now 107 years old –  the original is in reception not on the roof
  • New stadium will be 61,000 seater
  • Bill Nicholson is buried with his wife under the pitch. Only 3 people in the world have that privilege. They will be moved under the new pitch.

Official information regarding the stadium tour: http://www.tottenhamhotspur.com/stadium-tours/classic-tours/

Cost: £20 adult
Stadium architecture: 5/10
Stadium history: 8/10
Stadium Tour: 3/10
Overall mark: 5/10