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  • Sander Kolsloot

Emirates Stadium – Arsenal FC

Stadium Info FANFARE Score: 3.29

Emirates Stadium 75 Drayton Park London, England N5 1BU United Kingdom

Year Opened: 2006 Capacity: 60,432


A Game for Gunners

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.

Arsenal would move to its new grounds 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.

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 60,704 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.

Food & Beverage 3

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 fee for a plastic bottle of a Scandinavian brew.

The stadium offers hot dogs, chicken burgers, a “Jerk Dog” along with variety of pies, chips, sausage rolls, and drinks. Other stands also serve pizza and a bag of sweet indulgence (Maltesers and so on). As for drinks, a small bottle of wine can be purchased along with soft drinks in either a 22 or 32-ounce cup. Water and a hot brew are also available.

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.

Atmosphere 3

The streets surrounding Emirates Stadium become crowded with fans heading to the game. Vendors sell merchandise from kiosks, matchday programmes are available by multiple vendors, and burgers are grilled as well at certain portable stands. It is suggested to arrive early if you want to take in the ritual of grabbing a couple of pints and a pie from one of the local establishments en route to the grounds.

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. The upper and lower parts of the venue feature standard seating. The upper level of seating is contoured to open space up in the corners and the roof is slanted inward to provide natural airflow and sunlight to the field. Two giant screens are suspended from the roof in both corners of the stadium.

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 North London Derby against Tottenham).

There are two giant cannons ouistde the stadium near The Armoury (official team shop) that are act as a barrier and can withstand the impact of a 7-ton vehicle barreling through. This feature is also incorporated in the tall ARSENAL lettering nearby.

Neighborhood 4

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.

The best spot for home supporters would be the Bank of Friendship pub where on a nice day you can sit outside in the beer grade, chat with die-hard Gunner supporters, and maybe even spot a few former players. However, if you are an away supporter the Drayton Park is the ideal spot for you for a pint before the match.

Fans 3

Arsenal fans are amongst the more loyal and numerous you can find. For example, the stadium now can hold 60,000 plus 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.

Access 4

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.

Return on Investment 2

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.

Extras 4

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 £25 (including Arsenal Museum access) and a legends guided tour costing you a nice £40. 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 £48 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.

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.

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