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Official Review by Gary Foxall, Stadium Journey Special Correspondent
The new Wembley finally opened its doors to the public in 2007 seven years and £798 million after its predecessor's final event, the England versus Germany World Cup Qualifier. The 90,000 all seated stadium based around a bowl design is the second largest in Europe behind Barcelona's Nou Camp. The stadium's redeeming feature is the 134 metres high arch which lights up at night and can be seen from some distance away.
The stadium has a retractable roof, however this does not close completely. Facilities for all categories of spectator are excellent from the plush surroundings of the V.I.P. and Royal Box area, The Booby Moore Suite and Corporate Hospitality areas to the fan areas. The stadium is constructed in three tiers and the top tier is accessed by escalator, a rarity in British Stadiums for the normal supporter. The middle tier is for Club Wembley ticket holders who pay a small fortune each year for the privilege.
The stadium is used for a wide variety of events, Wembley is best known as the home of the England National Soccer Team and for hosting the Final of the English F.A. Cup. However it also hosts other major Soccer Finals, Rugby League Finals, Pop Concerts, Monster Truck Racing and The American National Football League annually holds a Grid Iron game at the venue. The Football Association also has its offices at Wembley Stadium having relocated from Soho Square upon the stadiums completion.
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".
The Wembley Concourses once inside the stadium are well populated with refreshment outlets. Waiting time to be served compared to the old stadium has been considerably reduced. However, although the quality of food and drink on offer are of a decent standard, spectators will need plenty of cash if they intend to dine inside the stadium. Draught beer is priced at £4.30 a pint with soft drinks retailing at £3.00 per cup. Tea and coffee costs £2.00 per cup. Pizza, burgers, hot dogs and nachos are all over the £4.30 mark. Meal deals are available and a pie and a pint will set you back £8.30. If you are privileged to a seat in the V.I.P. area you will not be disappointed with the cuisine on offer.
Any visit to Wembley is a special one and the atmosphere for Cup Finals and England Internationals is exceptional. This can be multiplied again if the team that you support is playing there. Having sat in all parts of the stadium I personally believe that the best experience is in the lower tier. However there is not a bad seat to be had in the house. If attending an England game you will be entertained by the England Band, a collection of trumpeters and trombone players who lead the singing throughout the game. If you're fortunate enough to attend an F.A. Cup Final then whoever the Finalists are you will experience something that you will never forget.
"The best stadium in the world that is in the middle of an Industrial Estate." That's what Wembley is known as to most soccer fans. Other than two small Retail Parks, a few Pubs and Fish & Chip Shops, there is little to do in the vicinity of the stadium before a game. Wembley Way, which is the main thoroughfare to the stadium, is full of Fast Food outlets and souvenir stalls.
Most supporters tend to head into Central London before arrival. Wembley High Street itself, which is a fifteen minute walk, offers a wider selection of Public Houses and Eating options but is not one of the most salubrious towns within the Capital. The IKEA Store situated just of the North Circular Road on the approach to the stadium if arriving by car offers reasonably priced food including Swedish Meat Balls. There is also a Tesco Superstore next door which also has its own restaurant. For out of town shopping the Brent Cross Shopping Centre is two miles away.
The England Soccer Team has the distinction of having the most loyal band of supporters in World football. However bad the team may be playing and despite the fact that they have not won any major competition since 1966, England regularly sell out for home fixtures and take large followings of away supporters to any game in the world that they play in. Other than the host nation, they are always the most supported team at World Cups and European Championships. Always vocal and led by the Sheffield Wednesday Band, England fans always contribute to the atmosphere at any stadium they play at. For away fixtures, fans have been known to go to extraordinary lengths to gain match tickets. At any England game thousands of St. George flags bearing the name of the owner's club or home town can be seen draped over advertising boards and upper tier walls. Fortunately the hooliganism that attached itself to England fans in the 80's has long disappeared.
If travelling to Wembley by car, then be prepared to pay £25 to use the Official Car Park. Factory owners on the surrounding Industrial Estates open up their Company Car Parks and are slightly cheaper at between £15 and £20. These are a five to ten minute walk away. If you are not adverse to a twenty five minute walk then the IKEA Superstore offers free parking, and if it's your thing, a place to fulfil your spare time before the game.
The Tesco Store next door is limited parking for ninety minutes so avoid this or get clamped. Avoid side street parking at all costs as it is for Residential parking only. The stadium is well signposted on all approach roads and is accessed via the A406 North Circular Road from the M1 and M40 motorways.
Trains run to Wembley Central Station, which is a fifteen minute walk from the High Street. Wembley Park Underground Station is directly outside the stadium. Exit from the Station leads you directly on to Wembley Way and is an experience that I would certainly recommend.
Parking at Watford, Amersham and Uxbridge Underground Stations and taking the Jubilee or Metropolitan Line to Wembley for around £8 return is the easiest way to travel. However queues for trains afterwards can be lengthy, but you will encounter the same problem if you drive in. London has five Airports all with good transport connections to the stadium.
Visiting Wembley is something that I would recommend to anyone, even if they are not a sports or Pop concert fan. The Arch itself is well worth the effort. However, any trip to the venue does not come cheap. Admission to England Internationals ranges between £35 and £65, and tickets for the F.A. Cup Final are anything between £50 and £110 face value. Be cautious when buying from Ticket Touts as forgeries are often in circulation. Generally stadium staff are some of the most courteous that I have come across at venues like this and do their best to make your experience an enjoyable one. Overall having visited the new venue over thirty times since its opening each visit is an enjoyable one, although expensive.
Stadium tours lasting ninety minutes are available on non event days and cost £15 for Adults. The Stadium concourse has many souvenir booths selling match day programmes and Wembley Merchandise. There are Bet Fred Bookmakers within the stadium and score boards are located at each end of the stadium. A Bronze statue of England's 1966 World Cup winning Captain Bobby Moore is situated outside the Club Wembley Entrance at the top of Wembley Way. The cross bar from the famous Sir Geoff Hurst goal in that 1966 World Cup Final is positioned in the vicinity of the V.I.P. lounge.
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