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Official Review by Sander Kolsloot, Stadium Journey Regional Correspondent
The Gunners! What a nickname for a football club. Essentially it is a spot-on moniker, as the Arsenal Football Club was erected by and for the employees of the Woolwich Arsenal Armament Factory in 1886. The club first was known as ‘Dial Square,’ which referred to one of the factory’s workshops. Only 5 years later, the official Woolwich Arsenal was adopted, which eventually turned into Arsenal, the club name as we know it now.
For the first couple years, the club was located at the Manor Ground (which was known for its ‘Spion Kop,’ a steep terrace stand. This made it the ‘original Kop’ claiming this from Liverpool FC).
As was true for the eventual move to Emirates stadium, Arsenal’s move to its former home Highbury (which is now turned into luxurious lofts, a must see, check the extras sections), finances were the main reason. In 1912/13, the finances didn’t match the ambitions for Arsenal. A move was therefore imminent and after a long process of seeking the right place, they landed in Highbury, which would remain their home until 2005/06. Read more here about the first game at Highbury in 1913.
In the time between the first and last game at Highbury, the former stadium of Arsenal had undergone several renovations and extensions. At first, only 20,000 spectators could fit in the basic stadium ground. In 1932, the old west stand was built and opened, again adding 4,000 seating capacity and an additional 17,000 standing seats. In 1936, the monumental East Stand was added and gave an extra 8,000 in capacity (and housed the offices and former main entrance (Marble Halls). In 1935, Arsenal saw its largest crowd at Highbury, when they took on Sunderland in front of 73,295 people. Of course this was during the standing (terrace) area.
After the war, the stadium was used in the 1948 Olympics as one of the venues for football.
The Clock End (nicknamed because of the large clock on its roof) stand was redeveloped completely in 1989, providing for 48 executive boxes, and after the Hillsborough disaster (the death of 96 supporters of Liverpool there and the subsequent Report in 1991), work began to convert Highbury into an all-seater stadium.. A new, North Bank stand was opened, providing an additional 12,000 in seating capacity as well as housing a shop and museum.
After all, Arsenal was now a top Premier League squad, with probably the smallest stadium around. Highbury (in the 2000s) could only house 38,419 spectators. With Champions League football played yearly, a desire to be on top of the league all the time and with a waiting list for season tickets so humongous, it was time to move on.
As there was no space to extend anymore, the club found a piece of land, just a stone’s throw away.
The new stadium was built in 2004-2006 and is now the home of Arsenal FC.
Emirates Stadium is a very modern and up-to-date stadium, giving seats to 60,412 spectators. Moreover, it houses 150 business units, several restaurants and a clear, close view of the pitch from all seats. It has a two-tier setup, with a stadium round tier of business units in between. The business seats are 7,139 in total and the 150 units hold an additional 2,222.
A nice feature is the old Arsenal Clock that has been reinstalled, being moved from the original Highbury stadium. The original clock is located on the outside of Emirates Stadium and inside, you’ll find a newer, bigger version.
The FANFARE scale is our metric device for rating each stadium experience. It covers the following:
Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Food and beverage options are several in the stadium. Service though isn't very good. The food and drink servers tend to be slow and even refusing larger bills (£ 20 is even considered large), leaving us without a drink on our most recent visit. Drinks are priced at a hefty £4,40 for a plastic bottle of a Scandinavian brew. Expect to be broke after just having a couple.
Hot dogs go for £4,10 (£5,10 including extra onions), chicken burgers for £4,70 and a small bag of chips for a considerable £2,50. A 'Jerk Dog' is available for £6,10. Other stands also serve pizza for £4, and a bag of sweet indulgence (Maltesers and so on), goes for £3,20.
As for drinks, a small bottle of wine is also served for £5,90. Soft drinks go for £2,60 (22oz) or £3,20 (32oz). No refills....
Water is £2,10 and a hot brew goes for £2,20. Furthermore, ordering an alcoholic beverage gives you another disadvantage. You're not allowed to bring it into the stands, leaving you sipping a half warm, overpriced beer in the concrete jungle underneath the stands, while watching your favourite team score goal after goal.
Get yourself filled up before the game at one of the neighboring pubs (check the neighborhood section for some advice) and grab a bite on Blackstock Road.
Within the stadium, the design creates a nice and cosy atmosphere. It is reminiscent to the Stadion Feyenoord in Rotterdam, with stands close to the field, rounded out, and no obstructed views.
As for singing and intensity, consider visiting a game against a higher ranked team. The atmosphere has fallen a bit flat from the Highbury era, when it was all passion and all involvement. The higher prices, the involvement of tourists and all make it an experience that rather falls short of expectations for Premier League football.
The stadium will still erupt during high stakes games (such as the win against Barcelona a couple of years back). Still, our advice would be to visit another London club. Check out the ROI section for advice!
The neighborhood is one that has been poor for a very long time, but is now somewhat up and coming. If you happen to have time in your schedule, consider stopping at Finsbury Park station (there's a large fan shop there as well) and hop into the Twelve Pins Pub, offering some good drinks and company (you'll find a bunch of Arsenal loyals there).
Further down Blackstock Road, there are several Eastern-inspired eateries, with a special mention for Yildiz (163 Blackstock Road) which offers one of the best Turkish Kebabs you can find. Get a nice Turkish beer with it and you're stuffed for the game. As you stroll down you'll find the Gunners Pub, with wall to wall Arsenal paraphernalia and photos of former legends and squads. Expect prices in this area to be very reasonable (around £2,50 a pint). After some drinks, get to the stadium via Gillespie Road, approximately a short 10 minute walk.
Arsenal fans are amongst the more loyal and numerous you can find. For example, the stadium now can hold 60,000 spectators and there's still a waiting list of approximately 40,000 people for season tickets. The memberships are numerous and you will find banners from Arsenal fan clubs from Indonesia, Bulgaria, Korea, Japan and so on throughout the stadium. To the contrary, this makes a lot of fans in the stands, one time tourist visitors. Also, the prices for tickets force a lot of the original fans into bankruptcy, changing the supporters body significantly. The fans do travel all over the world with their team, and they know everything about their team and are very vivid and unanimous in their hate of cross town rival Spurs.
Hopefully Arsenal will be able to create a proper fan section with new chants, new influx and fewer tourists in order to get the vibe going in the stadium.
Access to the stadium is very good, as is basically the case for all London clubs. Tubes run every couple minutes to Arsenal Tube station (take the Piccadilly Line). And from there it's only a short five minute walk to the stadium. On your way there, first take a peek into Avenell Road to check out old Highbury Stadium.
As for other options, you can take the train to Finsbury Park Train Station or Highbury and Islington, offering less crowded exits and a 10 minute walk (Great Northern Rail). Tubes can take you to Holloway Road as well, at the other end of the stadium (also on the Piccadilly line. Reminder: this is exit only). Parking in London is not a viable option as a car is something you can (and should) go without easily.
The club is known for the highest ticket prices in all the premier league, with the cheapest season tickets going for around £600! In comparison, a season ticket for Bayern Munich, which is the current champion of Germany and one of the top teams in the world right now, a season ticket starts at €150, and a season ticket for Dutch Champion Ajax is only a €250.
Matchday tickets at Emirates Stadium are hard to come by. Expect to pay a premium through sites such as Viagogo or the official Arsenal ticket exchange. Still, if tickets are available (don't count on it) then the cheapest seat is £27 for a categorie C game (against low ranked opponents). Most games are either category A or B, starting at a whopping £37 or £65 for the highest. The most expensive go for £97 a game.
The return on investment, considering the atmosphere (not a lot of variety in their songs) and being part of a more touristy crowd than diehard supporters, this is not a venue you would love to go back, considering the large hole in your pocket after paying for tickets, not even considering the ridiculous prices for drinks and food in the concourse.
Visit the former Highbury Ground, now turned into Highbury Square. You may not be able to get inside, but from the outside the look of the former football venue is awesome. The old East Stand is still intact from the outside, as it is listed as a Grade 2 building (making it impossible to tear down, luckily).
Stadium tours are available on non-matchdays, with self-guided tours going from £18.50 (including Arsenal Museum access) and a legends guided tour costing you a nice £37,50. These last tours are given by former Arsenal Legends like. Lee Dixon or Perry Groves. Families (2 adults, 2 kids U16) can get a self-guided audio tour for £44 in total, which is a better price.
Statues of Arsenal's great players (Tony Adams, Dennis Bergkamp) are featured just outside the stadium, giving it a nice look and feel.
The Arsenal Museum is also located next to the stadium, giving you some interesting insights in Arsenal's history, its great players, the stadium and so on. It's interactive and is included in the price for the tour.
Member Review by callumdsouza
The Emirates is huge.
As you make your way across the Ken Friar Bridge, passing the pictures of Cesc Fabregas, Patrick Vieira and Charlie George, you come to a set of stairs that lead down to the stadium. You are immediately confronted with the amazing sight of the front of the stadium. There is a giant Arsenal symbol that looks out over the bridge. To each side of the symbol the backs of greats such as Parlour, Henry, Brady and Bastin standing in a line provide an impressive, classy title.
Immediately you know you are in for a treat in North London today.
As an Arsenal fan you are filled with pride at this stadium whose exterior and interior is arguably one of the best in England. As a neutral or even a hater of the Gunners, one cannot help feel respect and admiration over this magnificent monument. The Emirates, which has a capacity of 60,361, is one of the biggest grounds in England, which is epitomized as the line for the nearby toilets stretch far out the door.
Member Review by Matt Rees on Dec 19, 2013
When Thierry Henry scored that famous hat-trick against Wigan on the final day of the 2005-2006 Premier League season, Arsenal fans knew leaving Highbury was going to be tough. The 38,000-seat stadium was home to the Gunners for over ninety years, created thousands of memories and was graced by players such as Ian Wright, Liam Brady, Dennis Bergkamp and many, many more heroes. That last day on May 7th 2006 was extremely emotional for every fan, player, and staff member involved with the club. But it was time for a change. Just down the road to the 60,432 seats of Emirates Stadium.
When you walk across the Ken Friar bridge towards the Emirates Stadium, you see images of legends, such as Charlie George, Cesc Fabregas, Thierry Henry, and Tony Adams, flooding back the bone-tingling moments of great Arsenal sides.
As you can guess by now, I am an Arsenal fan. But this will not lead to a biased review, as I am still critical of the Emirates experience. One cannot hate the magnificent monument, as it is simply one of the best landmarks in London, which is admired by those who are lucky enough to catch a glimpse.
Since moving to the Emirates, Arsenal have had recognisable success. Since the 2005 F.A Cup Final, where Patrick Vieira slotted home a penalty in front of thousands of Manchester United fans, the Gunners have endured eight, long hard years. In recent times, the club has produced some world class talent, but sold them on to clubs who have the financial backing. However, as the 2013 Premier League reaches Christmas, it’s been a different season for Arsenal. The signing of German superstar Mesut Ozil and re-signing of invincible Mathieu Flamini has made a huge difference to the 2013-2014 Arsenal team.
153 Old Brompton Road
London, England SW5 0LJ
020 7835 2301
284 Seven Sisters Road
London, England N4 2HY
163 Blackstock Rd
London, England N4 2JS
+44 20 7354 3899
204 Blackstock Rd
London, England N5 1EN
+44 20 7359 2467
263 Seven Sisters Road
London, England N4 2DE
020 8809 0192
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