Wembley Stadium is without doubt London’s most iconic sporting venue. The site of England’s famous World Cup win in 1966, the venue was demolished after the turn of the century and re-opened in 2007 as a modern, high-tech monument to London’s sporting prowess. Where once the unmistakable Twin Towers stood, now the Wembley Arch glistens across the London sky.
Here are ten lesser-known interesting facts about England’s National Stadium, for history buffs, sports fans and the best of both worlds – sports history aficionados.
FA Cup folklore
Each year, Wembley Stadium hosts the FA Cup Final in the month of May. The original stadium was officially opened by King George V on 23rd April 1924 but it had already hosted its first FA Cup final the previous year – where an estimated crowd of 200,000 people crammed in to watch Bolton Wanderers defeat West Ham United 2-0. The occasion was famously dubbed as the ‘White Horse Final’, as a mounted policeman took to the pitch to keep fans at bay.
Crazy Gang takeover
In May 1988, Wimbledon FC caused one of the biggest shocks in FA Cup Final history when they beat Liverpool 1-0 at Wembley. Liverpool were the aristocrats of English football at the time while Wimbledon were making a name of themselves as upstarts. Wimbledon were known for their direct style of football whereas Liverpool were purveyors of the beautiful game. Lawrie Sanchez headed the only goal of the game as legendary BBC commentator John Motson uttered the famous line “the Crazy Gang have beaten the Culture Club.”
Wembley may top many lists but it is not alone as a world-class theatre of sport in London. Twickenham is the home of English Rugby Union and has hosted two World Cup Finals. England lost out to Australia 12-6 back in 1991 while the Wallabies lost to New Zealand in the 2015 decider, 34-17. The All-England Lawn Tennis Club is home each summer to the Wimbledon Championships in which Andy Murray triumphed this year, making him a leading candidate to become Sports Personality of the Year.
Since redevelopment, Wembley Stadium has a 90,000 capacity. Looking after that many people on event days is no easy task, as the numbers suggest. Wembley has 34 bars, 8 restaurants and 98 kitchens. 10,500 seated meals can be served at any event while 40,000 pints of beer can be dished out during a 15-minite half-time break in a football match! 164 turnstiles are used to get the crowd in while for those needing relief, there are 2,618 toilets inside the stadium! Around 40,000 spectators per event arrive via public transport.
Previously, Wembley’s Twin Towers were the symbol that represented the stadium. On redevelopment, a suitable plan was required to give Wembley a new identity. The result is the 133-metre-tall arch that sits above the north stand, spanning 315 metres – the longest single-span roof structure in the world. The stadium roof has a sliding design which allows the pitch to be exposed to direct sunlight whilst ensuring that spectators are covered. Wembley’s Arch is visible right across the city skyline, make the stadium an instantly recognisable London attraction.
Wembley is the unequivocal dream venue for sports fans. Seats in the new stadium are 50 centimetres wide and 80 centimetres deep, compared to 41 x 64 cm in the old Wembley. Each of the 90,000 seats is pointed towards the centre of the pitch and they have more leg room than there was in the Royal Box of the old stadium! As if that wasn’t enough, on match day 6,000 staff are on duty to ensure spectators have a great experience.
Dietmar Hamann of Germany scored the last goal at the old Wembley stadium as England were defeated 1-0 in a 2002 World Cup qualifier. Manager Kevin Keegan quit his post as England boss after the game. While Germany had the last laugh in London, England would gain revenge when the teams played in the reverse fixture as Michael Owen netted a hat-trick in the famous 5-1 win in Munich. So incredible was that victory that the then England captain David Beckham still says today: “I think about that game almost every day.”
Petr Cech of Chelsea became the first goalkeeper to keep a clean sheet at the new Wembley in the 2007 FA Cup Final. Chelsea overcame Manchester United 1-0, with Didier Drogba scoring the goal. Chelsea also won the last FA Cup Final at the old Wembley, beating Aston Villa by 1-0 in 2000. Cech has four FA Cup medals to his name but the record for most individual wins is held by his former Chelsea teammate Ashley Cole with seven – three with Arsenal and four with Chelsea.
It is not just football that graces Wembley. Rugby League, Rugby Union, Boxing and American Football are all regulars at the home of English football. The Challenge Cup Final is played each year while the NFL now stages regular-season games at Wembley to cater for UK fans. In May 2014, boxers Carl Froch and George Groves attracted more than 80,000 spectators for their world title fight. Froch won by knockout in the eighth round.
Wembley hosted the iconic Live Aid concert in 1985 and, with a rich musical history, can class itself as one London’s top music venues. David Bowie, Pink Floyd, The Rolling Stones and U2 all have graced the famous stadium, while Oasis were one of the last to play at Wembley before it was demolished. Since it re-opened Eminem, Muse and Madonna have performed while Ed Sheeran became the first solo artist to sell out at Wembley in 2015, much to the dismay of former Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher!
There we have Wembley Stadium, steeped in London’s sporting history and, since its redevelopment, now a beacon of modern Britain and home to some of the biggest sporting and cultural events in the capital city each year. The National Stadium is undoubtedly one of the ‘must-see’ attractions for sports fans visiting