Fulham FC Stadium Tour

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It has been a while since Mateo and I went to visit a stadium. Today was the perfect day. Sunny and windy. Too cold to go outside but too nice to stay inside. So nothing better than go and visit our 12th Premier League ground and 15th ground all together by visiting one of the best stadium in the League, Craven cottage home of the Fulham Football Club. I have fond memories of this stadium as I won the FxPro Cup back in 2012 scoring a goal from an assist of World Cup winner Robert Pires. I lived to tell the tale, priceless! As much as I could sense some pride in my son’s voice, after 5 min of recounting the tale…he was, how do you say, bored!

Craven cottage

Craven Cottage is a football stadium located in Fulham, London. It has been the home ground of Fulham F.C. since 1896. The ground’s current capacity is 25,700, all-seated, though the record attendance is 49,335, for a game against Millwall, 8 October 1938. Located next to Bishop’s Park on the banks of the River Thames, ‘Craven Cottage’ was originally a royal hunting lodge and has history dating back over 300 years. As we parked Finlay St, we could see the well recognised cottage, with its black paint and its words ‘The Fulham Football Club. A beauty!

The original ‘Cottage’ was built in 1780, by William Craven, the sixth Baron Craven and was located on the centre circle of the pitch. At the time, the surrounding areas were woods which made up part of Anne Boleyn’s hunting grounds.

The Cottage was lived in by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and other somewhat notable (and moneyed) persons until it was destroyed by fire in May 1888. Many rumours persist among Fulham fans of past tenants of Craven Cottage. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Jeremy Bentham, Florence Nightingale and even Queen Victoria are reputed to have stayed there, although there is no real evidence for this. Following the fire, the site was abandoned. Fulham had had 8 previous grounds before settling in at Craven Cottage for good. Therefore, The Cottagers have had 12 grounds overall (including a temporary stay at Loftus Road), meaning that only their former ‘landlords’ and rivals QPR have had more home grounds (14) in British football. Of particular note, was Ranelagh House, Fulham’s palatial home from 1886–1888.

When representatives of Fulham first came across the land, in 1894, it was so overgrown that it took two years to be made suitable for football to be played on it. A deal was struck for the owners of the ground to carry out the work, in return for which they would receive a proportion of the gate receipts.

The first football match at which there were any gate receipts was when Fulham played against Minerva in the Middlesex Senior Cup, on 10 October 1896. The ground’s first stand was built shortly after. Described as looking like an “orange box”, it consisted of four wooden structures each holding some 250 seats, and later was affectionately nicknamed the “rabbit hutch”.

In 1904 London County Council became concerned with the level of safety at the ground, and tried to get it closed. A court case followed in January 1905, as a result of which Archibald Leitch, a Scottish architect who had risen to prominence after his building of the Ibrox Stadium, a few years earlier, was hired to work on the stadium. In a scheme costing £15,000 (a record for the time), he built a pavilion (the present-day ‘Cottage’ itself) and the Stevenage Road Stand, in his characteristic red brick style.

The stand on Stevenage Road celebrated its centenary in the 2005–2006 season and, following the death of Fulham FC’s favourite son, former England captain Johnny Haynes, in a car accident in October 2005 the Stevenage Road Stand was renamed the Johnny Haynes Stand after the club sought the opinions of Fulham supporters.

Both the Johnny Haynes Stand and Cottage remain among the finest examples of Archibald Leitch football architecture to remain in existence and both have been designated as Grade II listed buildings.

An England v Wales match was played at the ground in 1907, followed by a rugby league international between England and Australia in 1911.

One of the club’s directors Henry Norris, and his friend William Hall, took over Arsenal in the early 1910s, the plan being to merge Fulham with Arsenal (I am glad it did not happen, to form a “London superclub” at Craven Cottage. This move was largely motivated by Fulham’s failure thus far to gain promotion to the top division of English football. There were also plans for Henry Norris to build a larger stadium on the other side of Stevenage Road but there was little need after the merger idea failed. During this era, the Cottage was used for choir singing and marching bands along with other performances, and Mass.

In 1933 there were plans to demolish the ground and start again from scratch with a new 80,000 capacity stadium. These plans never materialised mainly due to the Great Depression.

On 8 October 1938, 49,335 spectators watched Fulham play Millwall. The reason for this exceptionally large crowd was that the game at Stamford Bridge had suddenly been cancelled and so a lot of people made their way west to the Cottage that afternoon instead. It was the largest attendance ever at Craven Cottage and the record remains today, unlikely to be bettered as it is now an all-seater stadium with currently no room for more than 25,700. During the 1930-60’s era, Fulham often averaged over 25,000. However, the official attendances can be considered somewhat dubious in this era as many fans would get in by climbing over the fence from Bishops Park into the Putney End. As at many other grounds, fans would sometimes pay at the turnstiles but not be counted. This boot money would be given to the players (stuffed in their boots) and would not be counted in the gate money. The ground hosted several football games for the 1948 Summer Olympics, and is one of the last extant that did.

Architect

Born in Glasgow, Leitch’s early work was on designing tea factories in Deltota in the former Kandyan Kingdom of Ceylon, as well as factories in his home city and in Lanarkshire, the sole surviving example of which being the category A listed Sentinel Works at Jessie Street, Polmadie, just south of Glasgow city centre. In 1896 he became a member of the Institution of Engineers and Shipbuilders in Scotland, and later of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.[3] He moved into stadium design when he was commissioned to build Ibrox Park, the new home ground of his boyhood heroes Rangers, in 1899.

At the centre of football’s architecture, he built or was involved with the following grounds:

  • Anfield, Liverpool
  • Arsenal Stadium, Highbury, London
  • Ayresome Park, Middlesbrough
  • Bramall Lane, Sheffield
  • Cardiff Arms Park, Cardiff
  • Craven Cottage, Fulham, London
  • Dalymount Park, Dublin
  • Deepdale, Preston
  • The Old Den, New Cross, London
  • Dens Park, Dundee
  • The Dell, Southampton
  • Ewood Park, Blackburn
  • The Double Decker stand (The Kop), Filbert Street, Leicester
  • Fratton Park, Portsmouth
  • Goodison Park, Liverpool
  • Hampden Park, Glasgow
  • Home Park, Plymouth
  • Hyde Road Football Stadium, Manchester (General ground improvements 1911-1914 and was planning a complete rebuild of the ground to accommodate 100,000 but war broke out, bringing a halt to those plans)
  • Ibrox Park, Glasgow
  • Hillsborough Stadium, Sheffield
  • Lansdowne Road, Dublin
  • Leeds Road, Huddersfield
  • Molineux, Wolverhampton
  • Old Trafford, Trafford, Greater Manchester
  • Park Avenue, Bradford
  • Roker Park, Sunderland
  • Rugby Park, Kilmarnock
  • Saltergate, Chesterfield
  • Selhurst Park, South Norwood, London
  • Somerset Park, Ayr
  • Stamford Bridge, Walham Green, London fulham
  • Starks Park, Kirkcaldy
  • Twickenham Stadium, Twickenham, London
  • Tynecastle Park, Edinburgh
  • Valley Parade, Bradford (Midland Road stand and other extensions)
  • Villa Park, Birmingham
  • West Ham Stadium, Custom House, London
  • White Hart Lane, Tottenham, London
  • Windsor Park, Belfast

Stadium Tour

We bought our tickets online. £15 per adult and free under 5. Once you have purchased be 15min before your tour is due in front of the Johnny Haynes statue, Stevenage Road.

Our guide today was Ian, very polite and welcoming. He started by telling us all about Johnny Hayes, and his £20 a week wage, and then about the Cottage. The Hayes stand is protected by English Heritage and cannot be touched apart for security features upgrades. It is a beautiful architecture, a bit like the Aston Villa stand. It is made of distinctive red bricks and harbour some of the smallest turnstile entrances I have ever seen. I tell you now, if you have eaten few pies do not attempt! The wall of the stand outside harbours the creation date of Fulham, which is 1880. But in reality, it was created in 1879. The builder got it wrong and they didn’t have the heart to tell him once he had finished his piece of art.

We then make our way through a quick security check and Ian tells us that actually it is the only stand in the league whereby once you have scanned your ticket it still requires a steward to press a button with his foot to let the fan go through the turnstile! Incredible, in this modern area, whereby everything is activated by technology, this is quite amazing. The reason is simple, it is protected by English Heritage laws. I love it!

Fulham are building a new stadium that will see the corners being filled and advancing 10m into the Thames. Pedestrians will be able to stay on the Thames path, rather than go around as it is nowadays.

As Ian is talking, I ask about how much the pitch cost. Most Premier League pitches are in and around £2m to £3m. Well this is thwarted by the £5m it cost Fulham on a yearly basis. One hell of a dent into your budget! He explains that the grass is a mix of natural and synthetic. Specialist like Grassmaster make it a business. It takes two weeks for a machine to blend the grass! they also use 4 types of seeds as there is always 1 type of seed that the pigeons do not like. Crazy but true. Who says football is not a science.

As we visit the executive suite, which by the way needs redone and chairs changed (some of the leather is gone!), we then make our way to the balcony, which is in the cottage. By the way, the cottage was designed by mistake when the architect realised that he had not created dressing rooms. I think somewhere deep he meant it! Inside the cottage is a room for players’ families. They have a bar, toys for kids and all necessary amenities. It is small and therefore cosy. We then make our way onto the balcony, great view but…wooden seats! Wow. This is true for most of the Haynes stand. The story, not yet verified, is that the seats were bought from a theatre in Yorkshire. Every penny counts. Not the most comfortable but they have lived through centuries. I personally do not mind.

Onto the final stage of the tour, which by the way is now well into the hour and a half. The dressing rooms. First the away dressing room, which is rather large and what you would expect from a dressing room. But the home one is tiny. Really cosy. I had to count the amount of seats to make sure everyone could be accommodated. I found on the wall an intriguing poster, which was the Pitch Protection Act from the Premier League. Have a read, really interesting and apologies if the photo is a bit blurry (someone was pulling my arm!!)

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There is an adjacent room, which is where the players have lunch together, 4 massage tables and an indoor bicycle. This is also the place where they do drug tests. Ian tells us that Sessegnon once had to wait until late evening before doing is urine sample, which by the time only the groundsman was left. Kitman and all staff gone. He took his kit to his mum who washed it and presented back to the kitman the next day in a perfect state. Apparently not a common thing done nowadays. in contrast with the old days, where young players used to wash the boots of senior players. We then went into the refs dressing room and got to trigger the buzz informing both teams to get out onto the pitch. Finally, we went to the PR room and got to do the interviews today. Mateo had much to say!

As any good stadium tour we ended our journey into the megastore, time for us to say thank you to Ian and for me to recount one last time how I came to score on this famous and wonderful ground.

http://www.fulhamfc.com/meetings-and-events/stadium-tours

Cost: £15 adult, £12 juniors and free under 5
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 7/10
Stadium tour: 8/10
Overall mark: 8/10

Interesting fact: when Khan bought the football club from Al Fayed, he removed that  hidious Michael Jackson’s statue. He asked Al Fayed if he wanted it and he said no. But he did state, if you remove it, it will bring bad luck and send Fulham to the championship. Surely enough, the statue was removed and …Fulham went down!

Benoit Mercier

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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

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

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

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