Winners at Wembley

Wembley Stadium contains 2,618 toilets, did you know that? I didn’t and I wouldn’t know now if it weren’t for joining a lively group on a tour of the building yesterday morning. 2,618! That’s more toilets than any other stadium in the world. You can tell how impressed I was.

But Wembley Stadium is about much more than the convenient amount of conveniences. There’s been a sport stadium on this spot since 1923 when the old twin-towered Empire Stadium opened as part of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley Park in 1924-25. The Stadium opened early after a solid effort by the construction company and builders involved. You can learn all this from the small but neat museum that opens the tour. Browse at your leisure with an audio tour, but make sure you leave enough time for fiddling with the volume and headphones and begging help from the friendly staff to get the thing to play. They never work perfectly do they?

We whisk past cabinet cases crammed with memorabilia from the worlds of Football,Rugby, Boxing, Athletics, American football and Speedway. I was particularly taken with this stylish 1920s Speedway jumper. Chic.

We were led by our guide Alan, a man bursting healthfulness from every pore, who was previously a coach at Watford and Wycombe football clubs and looks the part of a footie professional brought up in the 1970s glory days of the game. I believe I even detected a faint waft of Brut. Into the stadium itself we go, which is truly epic, a great oval of seats surrounding a manicured pitch so green it could have been transported to London from Oz.

Every seat is covered (so you won’t get wet), has a terrific view and the space is overwhelming. I’ve been here on a match day and the sound of the crowd is that too, the noise surrounding you in full Dolby and sensurround. Alan the guide has a bit of trouble with some different noise here as some insolent tech chap tests the giant speakers hung up near the arch and silences his stats with a mighty blast of FX. Oh well, it is a working stadium after all.

So, back into the depths we go, through the media briefing rooms to the hushed dressing rooms where shirts are hung and showers are had. There’s a pair of Harry Kane’s boots, used, down here which thrills the real footie fans. There’s also this ice bath, which looks like something sinister from a 1920s health spa. Not for me thank you, Nurse.

We wind up out on the pitch (which has thread in it for the grass to cling onto when it’s scared, Alan said. Something like that) after coming through the Players Tunnel, imagining we were FA Cup finalists and kings of the world. This is a new pitch and the grass is still growing under little artificial sunlight lamps, which are what you can see all across the pitch.

It’s a great tour all round, with lots more memorabilia, 1966 World Cup memories, Live Aid, the 2012 London Olympics, the 1948 London Olympics and every great sporting moment you can imagine. The new stadium, opened in 2007 and is quite as iconic as its 1920s great granddaddy. Book a tour and see for yourself!

Currently, the Wembley Stadium Tour will be closed until the 31st July 2020. They will then review this date in the coming weeks and will post any updates on their website https://bookings.wembleytours.com/stadiumtours/home.htm

Al Barker 11/3/20