Wednesday, 8 February 2012


Some readers may have noted that my football team have booked themselves a place in the final of the 'watch-the-paint-dry' trophy. This strangely has left me with mixed feelings. Yes it's great to be in a final and have the opportunity to win some silverware, but it also means paying another visit to the new Wembley.

For me the new Wembley epitomises all that's wrong with modern football; the greed, the money, the corporatism, the buffoon-like administration by football authorities and also the woeful lack of imagination in new stadium design - in short I can't stand the place.

A visit to the old Wembley, particularly with your team, was one of the pinnacles of a supporters' life, it was one of the most magical grounds in the country -just walking down Wembley Way towards the twin towers raised goosebumps - the atmosphere inside often left me 'deaf' afterwards. However that's not to deny that the old ground had serious failings. There were many many faults; the lack of facilities, that the seats were too far away from the pitch, the view in many cases was atrocious especially towards the back where the roof obscured 2/3rds of the pitch, and the legroom...? What legroom - RyanAir's capacious by comparison.

So clearly the old Wembley was in need of a major revamp - a massive improvement in facilities yet retaining the old magic was required.  This was also the case with many stadia which the Bradford fire and Hillsborough showed up, with tragic consequences, the inadequacies of centuries old buildings which hadn't largely been touched since they were built. So the opportunity arose where we could build innovative, safe and exciting stadia. Some got it right like Sunderland, Huddersfield and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, but many went along with the "off the shelf, boring, MFI all-you-will-need-is-a-screwdriver" option. Wembley though is in a different league of its own. So what's wrong with it?

Well its dubious good points are that it's impressively large from the outside, but significantly smaller inside - like a Tardis in reverse, and it's efficient (and no, escalators do not belong in football grounds) and it has comfortable seats - yeah well so does my living room.

In summary it's a reasonably effective modern building. But then so is my local Tesco's, but I don't get excited when I have to visit it - I'm more concerned about the impact on my credit card. And that's the problem. Wembley is less a football stadium and more a soulless leviathanic credit card machine that has been dumped in North London. The fact that it should host football matches is clearly an afterthought. TV commentators often complain about the empty seats in the middle corporate box section - it looks an embarrassment but yet it is a fitting tribute to the current state of the game and to the priorities of Wembley.  The ultimate symbol of a game that has turned into an 'us and them'.

And then there's the arch. What's that about? Apparently it replaces the twin towers as the iconic feature of the stadium:
 The 2,000 tonne, 315 metre-long steel arch replaces the Twin Towers as the iconic feature of the...stadium.
Well sorry it doesn't, it just looks like a left over from an Alton Towers roller coaster ride. One wonders whether the FA went to Bolliger & Mabillard for its 'signature piece'.

Still, it only cost £798 million and was only a year late...


  1. Hooray, I hated the look of it from the first time I saw it on TV. Football lost its soul when they tore the twin towers down.

  2. @Anon, indeed...there's progress and there's crap.

  3. You could always stay home, you know and catch it on the radio.

    No, not really.

  4. Just do what I do - watch the snooker instead

  5. @James Higham - Ergh listening to football on the radio :-)

    @Bucko Ah Snooker, problem is Mrs TBF doesn't like / understand it. Did like snooker live though, saw a few tournaments at Sheffield when I lived there.