The old Wembley Stadium, previously known as the Empire Stadium, used to be the closest major football ground to my home. Excluding Vicarage Road in Watford. Refering to that as a major ground is a little bit tenuous. I lived just a half dozen stops on the Met line away, and I saw plenty of games there – mostly England. They knocked the old stadium down in 2000, and built a brand spanking new one which opened in, I think, 2007.
I’d have liked to have seen a game there, but I currently boycott the England team. Supporting your team through thick and thin is fine, but following a team through stupidity and corruption less so. But I wanted to see the new Wembley stadium. There was an American Football game there recently between the Patriots and Rams. I’d have gone had it not been for the exorbitant ticket prices. I don’t have £150 per ticket. There was only one thing for it – the Wembley Stadium Tour. I bought a pair of tickets on Groupon for £16, normal price £32. And off I went.
There’s a lot to do in Wembley. Besides the Stadium there’s also Wembley Arena, Wembley Market and numerous conference centres, that collectively make up what is known as Wembley City. The Arena was also host to Olympics events in the summer, and was originally a swimming pool – the last time anyone took a dip there, though, was back in 1948 and the Austerity Games. Needless to say there’s plenty of hotels in the area too, although I’d recommend the Travelodge hotel near Wembley Arena. For location, quality and price it’s a hard place to beat. You might even see someone famous in the locality too, if you’re lucky. Elton John, George Michael, Depeche Mode, Abba and plenty more artists have strutted their stuff at the Arena, and have been know to go walkabout between shows.
It’s a seriously impressive stadium size wise. Seriously impressive. The tour does, quite frankly drag on a bit. I’d have happily gone through at my own pace in about 30 minutes. Alas, you have to ‘keep up’ with the guide and try and pretend not to get a little bored during the 90 minutes they drag it on for. The guide (Spanish – well, why not – they’re pretty good at footy these days) gave you a ton of trivia. All of which I knew bar three little gems. Spoiler alert: Wembley Stadium boasts more toilets than any other building in the world, and the musical artist to have performed there most times (old and new stadium) was Michael Jackson. Fascinating stuff.
Other key facts? The arch is the biggest single beam roof structure in the world. In Europe, only the Nou Camp in Barcelona holds more spectators (98k as opposed to 97k), although I always wondered why they didn’t just go the extra mile and fit another 3,000 seats to get to the magic 100,000 number. The stadium has also hosted more European Cup/UEFA Champions League finals than any other stadium. It hosted last years final and will also host next years final – it’s the 125th anniversary of the English football league. Naturally, I took a bunch of photos, all available of Flickr – click here.