Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium Tour


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:

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


Huddersfield Town Stadium Tour


Ok, I could not go back North without going back to Huddersfield. After all, I spent an amazing 15 years there. Therefore, I decided to take my son to visit is home town football team. I contacted the club and they very kindly agreed to take us behind the scenes. It was a great experience and nice to get back to what I would call a more down to earth dressing room :). It was also our first non-top flight stadium tour.

Huddersfield Town

Huddersfield Town Association Football Club is an English association football club that is based in the West Yorkshire town of Huddersfield and currently play in the Football League Championship (2015–16).

In 1926, Huddersfield became the first English club to win three successive league titles, a feat which only three other clubs have matched, and none has bettered. They also won the FA Cup in 1922.

Nicknamed The Terriers, the club plays in blue and white vertically striped shirts and white shorts. They have played home games at the John Smith’s Stadium since 1994. The stadium replaced Leeds Road, Huddersfield Town’s home since 1908.

Huddersfield Town Stadium

It seats 24,499, people along with hospitality boxes and conference rooms. There are four stands. The main stand, the Revell Ward Stand or Riverside Stand incorporates two-tiers of seats, with a row of 26 executive boxes running between them. This stand also houses the offices and suites. The LV= Britannia Rescue Stand, opposite the Riverside and commonly referred to as the Kilner Bank Stand, is a large, single-tiered stand which seats over 7,000 spectators. It was previously sponsored by John Smith’s and is still called this by many today. The John Smith’s South Stand, which seats 4,054, is usually allocated to away fans. It is built into natural banking and is the most basic of the stands. The Fantastic Media North stand is the tallest stand with two tiers, 16 hospitality boxes and a viewing room for players’ guests, built into the leisure centre. The lower tier consists of temporary seating that can be removed for events such as concerts.

During planning and construction, the stadium was referred to as the Kirklees Stadium. It was built by Alfred McAlpine (same than Bolton Wanderers), designed by HOK Sport and was awarded the RIBA Building of the Year award for 1995,

The decision to build a new stadium for Huddersfield Town was made in August 1992. Construction began the following year and it was completed in time for the 1994–95 season, enabling the club to move to its new base after 86 years at Leeds Road.

When the stadium opened only the two side stands (the Riverside and Kilner Bank stands) were ready. The South Stand was opened in December 1994. Construction on the North (Panasonic) Stand began in 1996 and it was completed in 1998, bringing the overall capacity of the stadium to approximately 24,500. The estimated cost of construction was £40 million.

The stadium Tour

It lasted 30min, which was more than enough for the little one after the morning session. The Lady that took us was lovely. We made our way to the reception (not the megastore!). We were greeted by an electronic board (See below), it felt like a truely personalised stadium tour experience.

IMG_2982 (2)

We visited the boxes, the restaurant, which were of a basic standard. We then went onto the pitch, that costs £750k, and his an absolute beauty. The stadium is very nice, when you think that not so long ago they were in League 2.

We then went to the home dressing room, which was kitted for tomorrow’s game. I loved the dressing room. Very much like the ones that I am used to from my playing days. Benches made of wood, kit bags everywhere, which leaves little room to move around. Love it.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

Cost: £7.50 adult
Stadium architecture: 6/10
Stadium history: 6/10
Stadium Tour: 6/10 (although I loved it, I need to be credible when scoring!)
Overall mark: 6/10

Benoit Mercier

Manchester City FC Stadium Tour


Well, here is to a new adventure. This time, we drove up the M40 to Manchester. After a gruelling 5h30 drive (hate the M25), we arrived at the Etihad Stadium.

We had booked the 10.20am tour, best book them as they go off quickly, and we made sure we arrived 15min. The stadium is located 10min from the City Centre. The stadium was actually created for the Common Wealth Games.

Manchester City

Manchester City Football Club is a football club in Manchester, England. Founded in 1880 as St. Mark’s (West Gorton), they became Ardwick Association Football Club in 1887 and Manchester City in 1894. The club moved to the City of Manchester Stadium in 2003, having played at Maine Road since 1923.

The club’s most successful period was in the late 1960s and early 1970s when they won the League Championship, FA Cup, League Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup under the management team of Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison. After losing the 1981 FA Cup Final, the club went through a period of decline, culminating in relegation to the third tier of English football for the only time in their history in 1998. Having regained their Premier League status in the early 2000s, the club was purchased in 2008 by Abu Dhabi United Group and has become one of the wealthiest in the world. Since 2011 the club have won six major honours, most notably the Premier League twice in 2012 and 2014.

By 2014–15, Manchester City had the sixth-highest revenue in the footballing world with an annual revenue of €463.5 million, and were the world’s fifth most valuable football team with an estimated valuation of $1.38 billion according to Forbes magazine

City of Manchester Stadium history

The City of Manchester Stadium in Manchester, England, also known as the Etihad Stadium for sponsorship reasons, is the home ground of Manchester City Football Club and, with a capacity of 60,000, the third-largest stadium in the Premier League and eighth-largest in the United Kingdom.

Built to host the 2002 Commonwealth Games, the stadium has since staged the 2008 UEFA Cup Final, England football internationals, rugby league matches, a boxing world title fight, the England rugby union team’s last match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup and music concerts.

The stadium, originally proposed as an athletics arena in Manchester’s bid for the 2000 Summer Olympics, was converted after the 2002 Commonwealth Games from a 38,000 capacity arena to a 48,000 seat football stadium at a cost to the city council of £22 million and to Manchester City of £20 million. Manchester City F.C. have leased the stadium from Manchester City Council since moving from their Maine Road ground in the summer of 2003.

The stadium was built by Laing Construction at a cost of £112 million and was designed and engineered by ArupSport, whose design incorporated a cable-stayed roof structure, suspended by twelve exterior masts and attached cables. The stadium design has received much praise and many accolades, including an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects in 2004 for its innovative inclusive building design, and a special award in 2003 from the Institution of Structural Engineers for its unique structural design.

In August 2015, a 7,000 seat third tier on the South Stand was completed, in time for the start of the 2015–16 football season. The expansion was designed to be in keeping with the existing roof design. A North Stand third tier has planning approval and work on it is expected to begin by 2017, increasing capacity to around 61,000

The stadium Tour

First of all, you must know that you need to park in the Blue car park, as you cannot do so in the main car park (should save 15min). As usual, you meet in the megastore and you go to the second floor. The tour is meant to last 1h30 but ours lasted 2h30. Our guide was on fire, so eager to share his knowledge and passion, it was great.

We started the tour by going into the museum to take a picture with the original League Cup. We then make our way to the Corporate hospitality in the Chairman lounge. It was beautiful and definitely 5 stars. Costs per person per game…£500. The interesting fact is that there are two private booth for Club Directors to have a conversation and potentially conclude deals. This was the case for Lescott to get him from Everton to Man City. You then go into the stands and seat on the posh seats with central heating 🙂

Afterwards, we made our way to the media room. The best one to date with the Emirates. Spacious and luxurious. You then make your way towards the dressing rooms going through an amazing warm up room (full of new machines, and a mini pitch!). The dressing rooms are of a medium size but the seats (sports leather type) are the nicest. We were actually in the dressing room when they prepared them for the game against West Brom tomorrow. 2 shirts each and couple of socks. Finally, we went down the tunnel onto the pitch.

We then exited the stadium but not before our guide gave us the following facts:

  1. The Premier League trophy only has two Lions, whereas England has three, but that is because the Captain lifting the trophy is considered to be the third Lion
  2. The eagle on the crest is in reference to the Roman Eagle (Manchester was a roman town)
  3. The gardener has got an app to switch on the sprinklers
  4. It takes 8min to clear the stadium…
  5. …and it takes 3 days to prepare the stadium for the Champions League game (they even have to tape the logo of each TV because LG is not an official sponsor (ridiculous right, not to a marketeer)

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

Cost: £17 adult
Stadium architecture: 8/10
Stadium history: 9/10
Stadium Tour: 10/10
Overall mark: 9/10

Benoit Mercier

Chelsea FC Stadium Tour

stamford bridge

Well a new Saturday and therefore a new destination. This time, we decided to stay in London and visit Stamford Bridge. Chelsea Football Club is a professional football club based in Fulham, London, that competes in the Premier League. Founded in 1905, the club’s home ground since then has been Stamford Bridge.

We had booked the 3.20pm tour, best book them as they go off quickly, and we made sure we arrived 15min before hand at Fulham Broadway tube station. The stadium is 2min walk from the station and in the pure British tradition, it is located around houses, pubs and hotels. My first reaction is that it is a nice stadium.

Stamford Bridge history

Stamford Bridge’ is considered to be a derivative of ‘Samfordesbrigge’ meaning ‘the bridge at the sandy ford’. Eighteenth century maps show a ‘Stanford Creek’ running along the route of what is now a railway line at the back of the East Stand as a tributary of the Thames. The upper reaches of this tributary have been known as Billingswell Ditch, Pools Creek and Counters Creek. In mediaeval times the Creek was known as Billingwell Dyche, derived from ‘Billing’s spring or stream’. It formed the boundary between the parishes of Kensington and Fulham. By the eighteenth century the creek had become known as Counter’s Creek which is the name it has retained since. The stream had two local bridges: Stamford Bridge on the Fulham Road (also recorded as Little Chelsea Bridge) and Stanbridge on the Kings Road, now known as Stanley Bridge.The existing Stamford Bridge was built of brick in 1860–2 and has been partly reconstructed since then.

The brand New Stamford Bridge stadium in August 1905. Chelsea beat West Brom at Stamford Bridge in September 1905. Stamford Bridge opened in 1877 as a home for the London Athletic Club and was used almost exclusively for that purpose until 1904, when the lease was acquired by brothers Gus and Joseph Mears, who wanted to stage high-profile professional football matches there. However, previous to this, in 1898, Stamford Bridge played host to the World Championship of shinty between Beauly Shinty Club and London Camanachd. It was initially offered to Fulham Football Club, but they turned it down for financial reasons. After considering the sale of the land to the Great Western Railway Company, the Mears decided to found their own football club, Chelsea, to occupy the ground as a rival to Fulham. Noted football ground architect Archibald Leitch, who had also designed Ibrox, Celtic Park, Craven Cottage and Hampden Park, was hired to construct the stadium. In its early days, Stamford Bridge stadium was served by a small railway station, Chelsea and Fulham railway station, which was later closed after World War II bombing. Designed by Archibald Leitch, it is an exact replica of the Stevenage Road Stand stand he had previously built at the re-developed Craven Cottage (and the main reason why Fulham had chosen not to move into the new ground). The other sides were all open in a vast bowl and thousands of tons of material excavated from the building of the Piccadilly line provided high terracing for standing spectators exposed to the elements on the west side.
The stadium Tour
As any good tour, it starts from the megastore (outside the stadium). You get the chance to take a picture with the real Premier League trophy and then your guide comes to pick us up. Our guide was a really nice guy, friendly and full of jokes (I am on the receiving end but youwould expect that). We make our way to the bridge and start with the Shed End. This is the stand were the most fanatical Chelsea fans are. It confirmed my impression that it is a very nice British stadium. You feel close to the pitch and I can imagine a nice atmosphere on a European night. I must say that the tour is not very friendly to buggies, but then we come and visit a football stadium not a children’s park :). We then make our way to the media area and the guide explains that the desk where the Special One gave is post match interviews is the one where key players like Zola, Gullit, Makelele and Lampard signed their contract. It is quite small and I imagine it must be feeling cosy when you have about 200 journalists in. We then make our way to the away dressing room. It is spacious but basic. Few shirts from the greats that have played at the bridge (Moore, Charlton, Becks, Messi, Cruyff, Ronaldo). The guide cracks few jokes. The best one is when he merges the two physio tables and says that they have to do that when Rooney visits. Harsh. We then go to the home dressing room and I must say, nothing special. The players are sat together with their mates and not by role or number. You have all Brazilians, French, English (or what is left of them). We then go down the tunnel but not the interview rooms, which I am surprised. Now to the most awaited time of the afternoon…the pitch. We go through the tunnel and have full sight of the pitch. Amazing. Cost £1m a year, a bargain. It is cloudy so the U. lamps are out. There is a small tent on the penalty spot and the guide explain that it is to generate dioxyde of carbon so that the grass recovers faster! We then sit in the famous dugout and I can see Jose arguing with Eva! We then make our way through the stands and the tour is over. Well not before you have paid £10 for your picture with the Premier League.
Although the guide was really good, the tour felt rushed with little time to take pictures towards the end. You can feel that you are on a production line and the other tours are catching up. My disappointments are that we do not visit the VIP, corporate hospitality and interview rooms. But we did get some good stories along the way.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

Cost: £19 adult with discount but normally £22
Stadium architecture: 8/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 6/10
Overall mark: 8/10

Benoit Mercier

Norwich FC Stadium Tour


This bank holiday weekend I had decided to make the drive North to Norwich but I must say that it is the first real disappointment I have encountered. No stadium tour available on on the last Thursday of each month for £15 (you get a burger and chips incl.). I wish the website could have been clearer but the staff were really nice and the Town definitely made up for the disappointment.

I did manage to get a glimpse but I live to come back another day. Hope it will be better next time

Benoit Mercier

Aston Villa stadium Tour

aston villa

This week, I decided to pursue my journey at Villa Park. Now, I know Villa will get relegated this season but boy o boy this club has got some history. It will be a loss to the Premiership.

Let me first start by saying that, according to wikipediaAston Villa Football Club; also known as Villa, The Villa, The Villans, The Lions) is a professional football club based in Witton, Birmingham, that plays in the Premier League, the highest level of English football. Founded in 1874, they have played at their current home ground, Villa Park, since 1897. Aston Villa were the originators and founder members of the Football League in 1888. They were also founding members of thePremier League in 1992, and have remained there ever since. The club were floated by the previous owner and chairman Doug Ellis, but in 2006 full control was acquired by American businessman Randy Lerner. Aston Villa are one of the oldest and the most successful football clubs in the history of English football. Villa won the 1981–82 European Cup, and are thus one of five English clubs to win what is now the UEFA Champions League. They have the fifth highest total of major honours won by an English club, having won the First Division Championship seven times, the FA Cup seven times, the Football League Cup five times and the UEFA Super Cup in 1982.

Now that one I had to negotiate with the missus. Why are you taking a 2 year old on a 4 hours journey just to see an empty stadium. Sounds familiar, but the truth is she knows why. football is to me what air is to most humans, a necessity. Now the little one has just finished is football training that we jump in the car and embark in a 2 hours drive. Smooth. We arrive in Birmingham about 30min before the tour begins. Just enough time to change a nappy, have a bite to eat and collect our ticket booked from the day before.

I must say that arriving at the ground you feel the football atmosphere right away. You see terraces with houses made of red bricks. You know that you are in a working class environment (reminded me my days working at Goodison or playing in Barnsley) and I love that (that is what football should be all about not the prawn sandwich fans). You can imagine the smell of the burgers and the mass of fans trying to go through the tiny gates. The stadium at first glance looks tired but then you get to the Holte End and the outside view is beautiful.

holte end

Villa Park is an football stadium in Aston, Birmingham, England, with a seating capacity of 42,682. It has been the home of Aston Villa Football Club since 1897. The ground is less than a mile from both Witton and Aston railway stations and has hosted sixteen England internationals at senior level, the first in 1899 and the most recent in 2005. It was the first English ground to stage international football in three different centuries. Villa Park has hosted more FA Cup semi-finals than any other stadium, having hosted 55 matches in total. In 1897, Aston Villa moved into the Aston Lower Grounds, a sports ground in a Victorian amusement park in the former grounds of Aston Hall, a Jacobean stately home. The stadium has gone through various stages of renovation and development, resulting in the current stand configuration of the Holte End, Trinity Road Stand, North Stand and the Doug Ellis Stand. The club has initial planning permission to redevelop the North Stand, which will increase the capacity of Villa Park from 42,682 to approximately 50,000. Before 1914, a cycling track ran around the perimeter of the pitch where regular cycling meetings were hosted as well as athletic events. Aside from football-related uses, the stadium has seen various concerts staged along with other sporting events including boxing matches and international rugby league and rugby union matches. In 1999, the last ever final of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup took place at Villa Park. Rinder turned to the renowned architect Archibald Leitch to design a new Villa Park. Their joint plans included large banked end stands at the Holte and Witton ends and the incorporation of the original Victorian Lower Grounds buildings, including the aquarium and the newly acquired bowling greens. The outbreak of the First World War severely hampered design and construction efforts. On completion the Trinity Road Stand was considered one of the grandest in Britain, complete with stained glass windows, Italian mosaics, Dutch gables in the style of Aston Hall and a sweeping staircase. Several commentators including Simon Inglis consider it to be Leitch’s masterpiece, described in 1960 by a Sunday Times reporter as the “St Pancras of football.”

We make our way to the players entrance and here comes our guide. I was so pleased that it was not a black box! not with their accent. Very welcoming. We start with the press area and I must say that it all looks very dark and gloom. He starts by telling us how it is a good thing for Villa to go down, rebuild and go back up. not sure the half a dozen of us agreed but you have to respect him for his positiveness. One of the young lad mean they will win a game and beat local rival Birmingham. He responded very confidently. we then make our way to the 82 Lounge. What a beautiful setup. He tells me all the history of the marble and the windows. We then make our way to the changing rooms. My god, it is tiny and again very little light (more of an atmosphere that you expect in a romantic restaurant) available. It is cosy and I can well feel for the players when Keano use to barge into the dressing room to give a player a rollocking. We then make our way to the managers room (more of a lounge) and the story is that when martin O’Neil use to manage them he would share a glass of wine here with his opponent but not Benitez, as they couldn’t stand each other (mind you who gets on well with Benitez). We then make our way to the tunnel and you can’t miss villa’s history and European success. Out onto the pitch and in the dug outs. Again the story there is that only the home seats are fitted with heating (maybe why the subs can’t make an impact in winter). the tour comes to its end and our guide takes us back to the entrance. Our guide has been first class, unlike his team, and I can say that we will miss the Villans next year.

Official information regarding the Aston Villa stadium tour:

Cost: £17 adult
Stadium architecture: 8/10
Stadium history: 10/10
Stadium Tour: 10/10
Overall mark: 9/10

Benoit Mercier

Arsenal FC stadium Tour


Last week, I decided to start my long journey at the Emirates. No specific reasons, but I was always told that it was a beautiful stadium, and having visited Highbury, 20 years ago to the date i thought it would be a fitting tribute.

Let me first start by saying that, according to wikipedia, Arsenal Football Club is a Premier League football club based in Holloway, London. The club has won 12 FA Cups, the most of any English club, 13 League titles, two League Cups, 14 FA Community Shields, and one UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup and Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Arsenal was the first club from the south of England to join The Football League, in 1893. They entered the First Division in 1904, and have since accumulated the second most top flight wins and points. Relegated only once, in 1913, they continue the longest streak in the top division. In the 1930s, Arsenal won five League Championships and two FA Cups, and another FA Cup and two Championships after the war. In 1970–71, they won their first League and FA Cup Double. Between 1988 and 2005, they won five League titles and five FA Cups, including two more Doubles. They completed the 20th century with the highest average league position.

I begin my journey by arriving at waterloo. I get the Northern Line (black) to Leicester Square and then jump onto the Piccadilly Line (Blue) to Arsenal tube station. Once you arrive you turn right and start walking. You will notice on your left the facade of Highbury and then few yards later you go up some stairs over a bridge. That bridge caught my eye because there is still a picture of Fabregas (I am obviously not a fan but I would have thought it would have been removed). Any how you get to the stadium and I must say that it looked really impressive. Modern architecture. I start to get excited (nerd!).

I get into the megastore where the stadium tour begins and I am greeted well by all staff (I did not shout i was a United fan). I pay and the first thing to know is that the visit is not guided by a bloke but by a little black box that you see tourists wearing when you visit a museum! Now I must say that it makes perfect business sense (get people moving faster and less people on the payroll) but I am old school and I always prefer to have a guide that leave and breath is club. Anyhow, here I go with the pram and my son and I must say how easy it is to access all stadium points with a pram or armchair. You have got few security peeps but all nice and friendly. You first get to see the corporate hospitality and their luxurious space (not for me thank you) and then off you go to the dressing rooms (rather big), press areas and of course the pitch. From inside the stadium is a peach and you just want to throw a ball and go and have a kick about (you wouldn’t go too far). The grass is immaculate. The Emirates Stadium is seen by many, including myself, as the benchmark for top league stadia developments in the UK and Europe. Its design is a radical break from the traditions of the “English style” stadia of the United Kingdom and the Municipal multi-tenant stadia of Europe. The focus on spectator experience for both general spectator and the Corporate or Premium Hospitality spectators marked a step change in stadia design and consequently on the football business in the UK, with Arsenal increasing their matchday revenues by 111%. The architect, Christopher Lee of Populous, described the design as beautiful and intimidating. Now the latter part I disagree. The stadium does not feel like that to me and almost feel impersonal. There is very little history having been achieved their, and apart from the Manchester08 banner, their is a lack of cachet/atmosphere. Saying that I do find it beautiful, and although not my favourite stadium it is up their with the best.

Official information regarding the stadium tour:

Cost: £20 adult
Stadium architecture: 10/10
Stadium history: 4/10
Stadium Tour: 7/10
Overall mark: 7/10

Benoit Mercier

Visiting all 2015/16 Premier League clubs

I promised myself that if I had a son, I would go and visit every single stadium in England with him. At just under two, it is time for him to start getting the football fever. I also must admit that I love visiting stadia and understanding the history behind each Club.

Exactly 153 years ago, 12 representatives from a handful of amateur football clubs in and around London met in the Freemasons Arms pub in Covent Garden and decided to thrash out the first ever comprehensive set of rules for their fledgling game. After fierce and presumably alcohol-filled debate and a slew of heretical proposals such as players not being allowed to run with the ball and hacking of shins being actively discouraged, the modern game of football was born. The 12 went on to form the Football Association, the world’s oldest football governing body. But in the centuries that followed, western culture concentrated instead on the allegedly more enlightened architectural pursuits associated with building palaces and cathedrals. It was only after that fateful quorum in Covent Garden 150 years ago that the football stadium as we recognise it, was essentially born and exported, along with the “beautiful game” itself, from England to virtually every corner of the globe.

Therefore, you will find every so often on this blog a review on each Premier League club stadium tour.

Benoit Mercier

Platini out can only be good news


Well this week, as a huge football fan, I got the news that I have been wanting to hear for a very long time, Platini is out of the FIFA presidency. Everyone will know that I have a huge dislike for Platini, Blatter and FIFA in general. Would I want to work for FIFA, no doubt but as David Gill proved not with this current lot!

Back in June, Ian Brammer from the Times published a well written example about the scandal that hit FIFA in five points. I thought I would add a sixth

The U.S. cracking down on international football’s governing body looks like a recipe for geopolitical disaster. Fortunately, the only thing the world hates more than American unilateralism is corrupt officials compromising the integrity of the world’s most popular sport. These five facts explain the FIFA scandal and the geopolitical implications of this growing story.

1. Sepp Blatter

Nine FIFA officials were indicted last week by the U.S. Department of Justice for taking $150 million in bribes while awarding FIFA broadcast rights. This kicked off a Swiss investigation into the bidding process for the 2018 Russia World Cup and the 2022 Qatar World Cup. Since the story broke last week, FIFA president Sepp Blatter has managed to win reelection and then resign his post.

For years the worst-kept secret in sports was FIFA’s extensive ‘patronage’ system. Blatter is accused of using FIFA development money, earmarked for promoting soccer in impoverished nations, to secure votes and general support for his initiatives. FIFA generated nearly $6 billion over the last four years—that’s a lot of money to work with.

2. Africa

Each of the 209 FIFA member nations casts a single vote for the body’s president. This system gives smaller countries outsized influence—a vote from Lesotho weighs exactly the same as a vote from Germany. When news broke of the DOJ investigations, the African Bloc and all of its 54 members immediately announced their support for Blatter and the current system.

Some African countries have more skin in the game than others. U.S. investigators have accused South Africa of paying $10 million to secure rights to the 2010 World Cup. The South African response? “We have fought colonialism and defeated it, and we still fight imperialism,” proclaimed Fikile Mbalula, South Africa’s minister of sport. A tournament that netted just $500 million for South Africa after $4.6 billion were spent in preparations may well prove more trouble than it was worth. In fact, there is scant evidence that hosting major sports tournaments ever pays off economically for countries.

3. Russia

Yet some countries happily pay the high costs of hosting in exchange for the prestige it brings—and some governments are even happy to foot the bill for the distractions these selections bring. Take Russia, which is having a particularly rough year. Oil prices, on which Moscow is highly dependent, have dropped 48% since last June; the ruble has lost nearly half its value since the beginning of 2014; Western sanctions have sent food prices soaring across the country. Vladimir Putin needs the 2018 World Cup to boost morale, tourism and investment, and Russia is set to spend $20 billion on public works projects and stadium preparations. The good news for Putin: despite the unfolding FIFA scandal and the light it will surely shine on Russia’s bid for the event, it’s probably too late to strip Russia of the World Cup.

4. Qatar

The 2022 games are another story. Qatar is so heavily invested in their World Cup hosting duties that its stock market dropped 3 percentage points on news of Blatter’s resignation. Qatar is expected to spend about $200 billion over a 12-year period upgrading its infrastructure and building stadiums.

The Swiss investigation puts all that in jeopardy. Prosecutors have reportedly uncovered emails that show Russia and Qatar supporting each other’s bids, perhaps with bribes. Qatar needed the help—this is a country that averages 105-degree temperatures in June and has a strict no-alcohol policy. A football fan’s paradise, in other words.

Hosting an international sports event like the World Cup is a big deal for this nation of 2 million. The Qatari response to the ongoing FIFA scandal? “Is it because it is an ArabIslamic small country? That is the feeling of the people in the region,” opined Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser bin Khalifa Al Thani, the Prime Minister of Qatar.

5. America

Given all these sensitivities, it’s surprising how well much of the world is taking this U.S.-led assault on world football’s governing body. Perhaps that’s because just 6% of Americans say soccer is their favorite sport—the perception that Americans don’t care about soccer gives Washington and the DOJ some semblance of objectivity in these proceedings.

Yet it isn’t realistic to think that, when it comes to organizations like FIFA, sports can ever remain separate from politics. No sovereign power oversees FIFA so its members must essentially govern themselves, leaving countries to investigate highly sensitive activities involving other countries. But for many Americans, there is a silver lining: scandals involving international bureaucrats are a lot more fun than watching soccer.

I will now add a sixth point…

6. Platini

Platini has advanced several unconvincing explanations for how £1.3million of FIFA’s money ended up in his pocket nine years after he had supposedly earned it, but nobody is buying his story.

The Frenchman also faces other uncomfortable questions, including his vote for Qatar when the Gulf state secured the 2022 World Cup five years ago.

He also courted controversy over his refusal to hand back a watch worth more than $25,000 that was gifted to him by the Brazilian Football Confederation at last year’s World Cup. “I’m a well-educated person. I don’t return gifts,” said Platini after FIFA called for all watches given to executive members to be handed back over a breach of ethics rules.

What next?

I have been in the industry long enough to know that there are good people but also a lot of dishonest people. One would say it is only natural when you deal with billions of pounds contracts, everyone wants a slice of it. But as a fan, how could I (we) accept it. Only recently, we decided to witch hunt bankers for their bonuses structure, well it is only right that we now do the same with football.

If I was going to be in charge of turning around this business, here is what I would do right away, amongst other urgent priorities:

  1. All FIFA Executive and Non-Executive members would be sacked.
  2. No more vote for each football associations
  3. Elect a new committee every four years (end of each World cup cycle)
  4. Enlarge the committee to have an equal amount of fans, football players/managers, business/legal representatives
  5. Have a true and fit for purpose audit independent committee
  6. Like any true corporate governance, salaries should be made transparent

Many of you will feel the above is utopia but every revolution has got a start and I feel that somehow, football is at the start of it’s.

Benoit mercier