Wembley is a football stadium located in Wembley Park, in the Borough of Brent. The old Wembley stadium, originally called the Empire Stadium, was often referred to as ‘The Twin Towers’ and was one of the world’s most famous football stadiums until its demolition in 2003. Built on the site of the previous stadium, the New Wembley opened in 2007.
The 90,000-capacity venue (105,000 combined seating and standing) is the second largest stadium in Europe, and serves as England’s national stadium. It is the home venue of the England national football team, and hosts the latter stages of the top level domestic club cup competition, the FA Cup.
In club football, in addition to the FA Cup the stadium also hosts the showpiece season opening game, the FA Community Shield match, played in August between the winners of the FA Cup and the top-level Premier League. In mid-season the finals of the Football League Cup and Football League Trophy take place there. At the end of the domestic season the stadium also hosts the finals of the Football League play-offs. Wembley Stadium was the site of the 2011 Champions League Final, and will host the final again in 2013. The new Wembley is a significant part of the plan for this year’s Games in London; the stadium will be the site of several matches in both the men’s and women’s football tournaments, with the finals planned to be held there too.
Apart from football, the stadium also hosts major rugby league games, such as the Challenge Cup and International Rugby League. Non-sporting uses include large music concerts such as Concert for Diana, Live Earth and the Summertime Ball.
Outside Wembley’s northern entrance stands the Bobby Moore Sculpture, which is a bronze statue of the former West Ham and England footballer Bobby Moore. It commemorates the life of the captain of the only English National Team ever to win the World Cup, defeating Germany 4-2 in the 1966 FIFA World Cup Final held in England at the old Wembley Stadium.
The original Wembley Stadium, officially known as the Empire Stadium, was famous for hosting the annual FA Cup finals, five European Cup finals, the 1948 Games, the 1966 World Cup Final, the final of the European Football Championships in 1996 and the 1985 Live Aid concert. The Twin Towers were once an icon for England and Wembley before their demolition in 2003.
The stadium was built for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924 and first opened to the public on 28 April 1923 as the British Empire Exhibition Stadium, or simply Empire Stadium.
The stadium’s distinctive Twin Towers became its trademark and nickname. Also well known were the 39 steps one needed to climb to reach the Royal box and collect a trophy. The stadium closed in October 2000, and was demolished in 2003 for redevelopment. The top of one of the Twin Towers was erected as a memorial in the park on the north side of Overton Close in the Saint Raphael’s Estate.
The initial plan for the reconstruction of Wembley was for demolition to begin before Christmas 2000, and for the new stadium to be completed in 2003, but this work was delayed by a succession of financial and legal difficulties. The total cost of the project, including local transport, infrastructure redevelopment and the cost of financing, was estimated to be £1 billion. The new stadium was completed and handed over to the FA on 9 March 2007. The official opening was held on Saturday 19 May, with the staging of the 2007 FA Cup Final.
The stadium includes a partially retractable roof. A signature feature of the venue, following on from the old Wembley’s distinctive Twin Towers, is the 134-metre-high Wembley Arch. With a span of 317 metres, it’s the longest single span roof structure in the world and, uniquely for a stadium, requires beacons for low flying aircraft.
The stadium’s signature feature is a circular section lattice arch of 7-metre internal diameter with a 315-metre span, erected some 22° off true, and rising to 133 metres. It supports all the weight of the northern roof and 60% of the weight of the retractable roof on the southern side. The archway is the world’s longest unsupported roof structure.
The stadium roof has an area of 40,000 square metres, of which 13,722 square metres is movable. The primary reason for the sliding roof was to avoid shading the pitch, as grass demands direct sunlight to grow effectively. The sliding roof design minimises the shadow by having the roof pulled back on the east, west and south. The stadium roof rises to 52 metres above the pitch and is supported by an arch rising 133 metres above the level of the external concourse.
The venue can also be adapted as an athletic stadium by erecting a temporary platform over the lowest tier of seating. A ‘platform system’ has been designed to convert the stadium for athletic use, but its employment would decrease the stadium’s capacity to approximately 60,000.
Besides football, Wembley can be configured to hold other events, particularly music concerts. The first one at the new stadium was given by George Michael on 9 June 2007. Bon Jovi were scheduled to be the first artists to perform at the new Wembley, but the late completion of the stadium enforced the relocation of their concert.
Muse became the first band to sell out the new stadium on 16 and 17 June 2007, and released a live DVD of the performance. Other acts to have performed at the stadium are Metallica, Foo Fighters, Madonna, Coldplay, Oasis, Take That and AC/DC.
Two large charity concerts have been held at the new Wembley stadium, the Concert for Diana, a memorial concert ten years after the death of Princess Diana, and Live Earth, a concert hosted at Wembley as part of the Live Earth Foundation, committed to combating climate change.
Football at the 2012 Games is scheduled to be held in London and 5 other cities in the United Kingdom, from 25 July to 11 August. The finals will be played at Wembley Stadium. Associations affiliated with FIFA are invited to send their full women’s national teams and men’s U-23 (plus three older players) teams to participate.
For these games, the men will compete in a 16-team tournament and the women in a 12-team tournament. Football preliminaries will actually commence two days before the opening ceremony of the Games on 27 July. The draw for the tournament took place on 24 April 2012.
As men’s teams are allowed to have only three players older than 23 years, one may think that the competition will be insignificant for football fans. In fact, there’s a chance for the tournament to be quite interesting because today’s football stars are often younger than mid-twenties. Among those participating in this year’s Games, the most renowned are Ryan Giggs, Thiago Silva, Marcelo, Pato, Neymar, Hulk, Jordi Alba and Juan Mata. The favourites to win the gold medal are Brazil and Spain.
The most unusual team that competes in the tournament is the Great Britain’s. It was formed especially for the Games and in other football competitions there are separate squads of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. This caused some controversy. Football Associations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland refused to take part in forming the team and forbade their players from joining the combined British side. Eventually, after months of negotiations, the squad was announced and it turned out that 5 Welsh players were selected. Another cause for debate was the fact that David Beckham would not be a part of the team, though fans as well as Beckham himself supported the idea. Manager Stuart Pearce remained uncompromising.
Women’s teams have no age restrictions and they will compete with their best players. Favourites are Japan, Brazil and the United States. Most renowned players are Aya Miyama, Marta Silva and Hope Solo.