Fear and Loathing at Wembley Park

By Tony Attwood

It is, by any standards, a grotesque and appalling place, made worse by the avarice of capital and the incompetence of inefficiency.  But its foundations show something far more sinister and dispiriting.

In a week when we learned that British industry and commerce is now so inefficient that the French as a nation could take Friday off and still produce more than the British, one could see in the glimpse of an eye at Wembley what is wrong.

Emerge from Wembley Park station and descend the steps and you have the choice of looking for a pub or heading for the ground.

We tried the pub we went to last year for the semi-final, but big, and I mean VERY BIG as in


men barred our entrance snarling “Reading only”.  As if middle aged guy and an older man armed with nothing more than, well, nothing, were going to start fighting other people because they were Reading.  Of course we’ve got used to this sort of thing and trudged on, and that’s really the point.  We get used to it. We submit.  Maybe that’s what’s wrong with us.

The first Arsenal pub we found was one we’ve used before at Wembley, and we entered (paying £5 for the privilege of going in to pay for over priced drink) the Watkins Folly, a pub which in any other situation we would walk 500 miles to avoid.

It has a beer garden – concreted over and tiny, and of course full of smokers.   Inside it is tatty furniture and some TV screens.  There are within the one low ceilinged bar at least nine large cameras watching those inside.

As we entered a half-hearted song arose from the Arsenal fans, and the immediate response of the management was to turn up the Irish music they had on their audio system to such ear shattering volume that at even shouting in each other’s ears from a distance of a couple of millimeters did not aid communication.  At times we sent each other texts, sometimes semaphore.  The management’s spy cameras must have seen us, for the volume went down a little and they put on some modern jive dance music.  Ah well, no one is all evil, I guess.  But it was still utterly impossibly loud.

Backsheep and I were joined by Andrew of ref preview fame, and Stefan, another season ticket holder.  Stefan is the one of us who is not English and I was, I have to say, utterly embarrassed by the sort of place we’d arranged to meet him.  This is, sadly, Wembley Park, and it is disgraceful.

Even the “99”s from the ice cream van outside were horribly over priced, but I think by then we had succumbed like the beaten down workers of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and we trudged to Wembley, to be greeted by… unmitigating gross incompetence and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis on a digital scale.

The Metropolis style gates designated for Stefan and I had vast crowds milling around – too many people to turn into queues in the concourse space allowed.  Maybe when they built the place they didn’t know that you might get 80,000 turn up for a match.  Pesky business this planning.

So we joined the throng, and after half an hour or so approached a gate.  It was an electronic device as at Stadium Wenger, but here, the system doesn’t work.  People were standing pushing their digital tickets into the digital slot machines but mechanical opening of the turnstile was there none.   We did finally get through but having done so looked back to see turnstile operatives just standing there on the inside fear and loathing in their eyes as they looked at supporters outside shouting that their tickets would not let them in.  Those within looked out, those without looked in.  The communication level was due south of zero.

Inside… there were as feared the banks and rows of empty seats which even allowing for the first fifteen minutes after kick off (during which time the crowds outside must have quelled, and entry been gained) showed that no, they hadn’t sold out.

At each end of the ground their are replay screens – but one of those was in direct sunlight, and even with my newly repaired eyes, was largely invisible.  No one at the planning stage ever thought of the sun, probably because in this world of despair, there is no sun.

Apparently there are 39 steps to go up to the Royal Box for the Cup winner each season – it confirmed my thought that the whole place, if not imagined by Laing, was sketched out on an envelope by Alfred Hitchcock on a bad day.

Leaving is far worse than arriving.  Stadium Wenger takes 60,000 to Wembley’s 90,000, which suggests that you need around Wembley 50% larger than the one around the Emirates, to allow us to get out.  Blacksheep and I leave the home ground after the match and are onto the road within minute or so.   Here because instead of building concourse areas 50% larger than at Stadium W they have built them smaller, with fewer exits there is no hope.  You leave and are in a crowd that hardly moves.

The helicopters circle menacingly overhead, men and women stand in front of the crowd with huge signs saying “Stop” (and occasionally “go”) and behind them the serried ranks of unsmiling coppers.  It can take 90 minutes to walk a few hundred yards.

To have built this appalling stadium the FA must have hated and feared us with a vision that defies words; I mean really feared and really detested us.  Treat animals like this and government inspectors would be down on you like a ton of bricks.

The only thing that really works is the Underground.   Trains to Stanmore were every three or four minutes, the Oyster system lets everyone flow through, the car was still in the car park, the M1 just three minutes away.

One day, in a magical land, far from here, I will find a place where there is a Football Association that sees the people who turn up at games as regular people following their hobby and paying the wages of those employed to run football.

But for now, it is fear and loathing.  You can see it written all over their concrete.

The anniversaries

19 April 1972: Arsenal 2 Stoke 1.  FA Cup semifinal replay.  George and Radford scored and took Arsenal to successive cup finals for the first time ever.

19 April 2006: Arsenal v Villareal, Champions League semi.  Toure scored the last Highbury goal under floodlights while a squirrel on the pitch led to comments about the squirrel having more Champions League experience than Tottenham.


59 Replies to “Fear and Loathing at Wembley Park”

  1. Got off the train at Wembley Park walked down the steep steps and was greeted by a wall of ticket touts all happy to shout at the top of their voices tickets buy or sell with the police quite happy standing and watching. A few hundred steps up Wembely way the program touts were selling £5 programs for £10 again with the police happily watching on. Inside the ground we brought hot dogs which were served by the slowest man in the history of service, I wasn’t allowed to have a bottle of water it had to be poured into a plastic pint cup. We also brought some doughnuts from a man who wished us luck because he didn’t want Liverpool to win today.

    We then had the joy of watching lots of fans coming into the game late…it’s a 5:20 kickoff!!! My only other moan about the place is that we sat in the upper tier and on numerous occasions when I jumped up I nearly went flying over the person in front. Oh and my back really aches from the uncomfortable seats.

    Moan, moan, moan lol saying all that if I lucky enough to get tickets I will be back for the final 🙂

  2. I was there for the Olympic football final and to be perfectly honest, it was not bad at all. Infact it was a great experience.

  3. Swales – I had so much to moan about but you were right. Coming down the steps at Wembley Park station you can’t move for ticket touts and police officers standing next to each other.

  4. Very annoying to hear they hadn’t sold out. I’d gladly have put up with the undoubted discomfort and incompetence to be there. Last year’s semi-final was a highlight of my football attending experience.

    But on a lighter note – I just noticed Untold was Best of the Blogs on arsenal.com again so congratulations to Untold once more and congratulations to Walter for getting his article there!

  5. I’ve only been to “New Wembley” once and it wasn’t too bad an experience. We managed to get a meal in a local cafe, made our way to the ground and were appalled by the long queues for toilets in the external concourse, but amazed to see hundreds of toilets virtually unused on the internal concourses . Why don’t people think! Our drinking was from the stadium bars (rubbish lager) , but in a safe environment. Match view stupendous, and exit from the game slow but again safe.
    Surprised that Reading were allowed to monopolise the pubs. It’s actually easier for them to get to Wembley in one quick train journey than it is for Our supporters using public transport to arrive from various parts, so perhaps they were able to get there early and establish themselves.
    I ember a couple of visits to Old Wembely and that really was a bad experience.

  6. I think Wembley is just a microcosm of the London, it has history, could be amazing but these days, is just an inefficiently run cash cow, bought to you by muppets,with an overbearing presence of the health and safety control police in areas where they are not necessecarily needed.

  7. I find that getting to Wembley is easy. It’s the in ground experience and most particularly the post game truck on a way to the abattoir corralling of supporters up to Wembley Park tube which is frankly unbearably bad. And this is the showpiece National Stadium. It has been designed by people who are at np best thoughtless and at worst downright contemptuous of the scum they so clearly expect to fill this vast monument to Victorian levels of despising of the lower orders.

  8. Tony – you’re right about the touts right next to the police. There is obviously corruption everywhere. The Police lining the concourse to the Underground were the most sullen pathetic lot I have ever seen. One or two smiled for kids but there is no reason to be so rude to your employers!! It is us who pay their wages!

    The prices of food & drink are robbery. I went prepared so I didn’t need to ‘waste’ money on Wembley muck. The walk from stadium was the worst time waster. I really think it is better watching on TV than having to put up with the gloom of Wembley.

  9. Apologies if his is off topic. I watched on the BBC and at times found it hard to follow the ball and in close up saw it was an odd coloured ball. Would have been far better if it were white or was it the sun causing a problem with the camera. Was this just me or did others have a problem. Get me to Specsavers?
    Thought the commentary was very poor and biased.

  10. Tony,
    There’s nothing more depressing than the treatment dished out to a captive audience.
    To pay a fiver to gain access to an overpriced pint of grog is a disgrace.
    No mention of grub so I presume you went hungry.
    All it needed was a defeat for the Gunners and in the car en route for home, little old ladies on pedestrian crossings would have been in mortal danger.

  11. Mandy @ 9.55 am

    Well put & agreed.

    Despite the H&S police presence could 90,000 be safely and quickly evacuated in an emergency, not just from the stadium, but also from the immediate vicinity? – I would have doubts.

  12. Swales,

    You are so right…how can you be late for a 5.20 kick off! On yes, you are so inebriated you cannot stand up, miss most of the game in the loo and refuse to sit down when there are elderly persons behind you.


    Some of our ‘gooner’ brethren behave appallingly, and I am so glad I do not sit with them every week. The pubs and the authorities use these cretins as reference points when dealing with us all.

  13. Is there no any government regulatory commission in place in London, who are in charge of enforcing regulations guiding big public and privately owned buildings? I believe three will be such a government regulatory agency in London that are functioning. Because England is a developed and advanced country where such inefficiency in public and private rendering of service should not be happening. I think the Untold should bring this indisciplined rendering of service to people in the public iconic Wembley Stadium to the notice of the authority concern for their positive necessary action.

  14. Just read on another site that
    Piers Morgan,(one of life’s losers) is claiming “after 10 years of failure, Wenger should be replaced by Klopp”.
    If the guy wants to refer to failure, his boorish presence on GMB last week was the perfect example.

  15. Nicky,
    Morgan is no more an Arsenal fan than I am a Spurs fan. He is the worst kind of zeitgeist riding, self promoting, self interested talent vacuum.

  16. I got on a Jubilee Line train at 21:02 after the game and gut hone in South London at 22:30. Wembley stadium is appallingly badly organised. All I can say is thank God that Dein didn’t get his way over Arsenal moving there. I don’t think I could stand it going and getting away from there on a weekly basis. The Emiretes is far nicer and a more civilised home.

  17. I’m glad you mentioned the rickety cheap turnstiles compared to those we walk through in N5. I couldn’t fail to notice the difference when writing my review of the final on Positively Arsenal last summer, I even had a picture of the cheapskate entrances! There’s a no Football games logo on Stuck on those turnstiles. Did the MOB representative take this instruction (“no ball games”) a bit too far on the field of play?

    And this stadium cost three times the sum of the new Arsenal Stadium?
    Built at the same time?


    No need for further comment.


  18. @finsbury
    April 19, 2015 at 2:01 pm

    Just shows us all (Once again) how public money – when in the knds of idiots – just isn’t handled with responsibility!!

  19. Excuse me for a moment.

    Come on West Ham, Aston Villa and Newcastle!

    Thank you.

    Yesterday I wrote about the “small” medja in the UK, and the southern hemisphere attitudes towards Reading and Arsenal yesterday. How much better they were than the usual suspects.

    It is still going on today. I seen a Reading article about two medja guys going to the game, all quite respectful. I think the Aussies are kind of amused by the usual suspects in their biased and hideous reporting.

    Oh, Newcastle Jets (Australia) are looking for an EPL team to buy them.

  20. Plucked this off the BBC website;

    “The mantra of ‘win it for Stevie’ appears quite literal. Absolute passenger. Will probably score a pen and still be called a hero!”

    Spot on.

  21. Sorry, being lazy today. About 26 minutes gone in first half, no score between ManCity Ladies and Arsenal Ladies.

    Go Aston Villa and Newcastle!

  22. Sorry, being lazy today. Half time ManCity Ladies and Arsenal Ladies. 0-1 to the Arsenal. Ubogagu scored.

    How to go Villa! Win it for Stevie (the cheat)!

    Go Newcastle!

  23. Sorry, being lazy today. 63 minutes ManCity Ladies and Arsenal Ladies. 0-1 to the Arsenal. At 56 minutes, a ManCity player was dismissed and an Arsenal player booked for an off the ball incident.

    Perhaps the incident started when a faint cry of “Win it for Stevie” (the cheat) was heard?

    Go Newcastle!

  24. Think you may be right Mahdain. I am hoping for Clattenberg or Oliver though. Think that will be a tricky game, Villa are on the up and Gooner Sherwood seems to have something at the moment, but on the plus side, at least we have been spared the Gerrard cup final circus, who knows what effect that would have on an…..erm easily influenced ref

  25. I am surprised Piers Morgan isn’t putting forward Jeremy Clarkson to manage us

  26. Sorry, being lazy today. Full time – ManCity Ladies and Arsenal Ladies. 0-1 to the Arsenal.

  27. Nice weekend… ARSENALs perspective.

    Would’ve liked to see Chelsea drop some. But Villa final is sweet return.

  28. I have not been able to find anything useful about Mertesacker’s left ankle injury.

    It is in the news, that Villa lost a defender for the season in the FA Cup semifinal today.

  29. In the Ladies game (sorry, it was a home game, I had away on the brain), the incident was a ManCity player reacting to a tackle by the Arsenal player by coming with e head butt.

    Arsenal currently in second, 2 points behind Chelsea after 3 games.

  30. Tony,

    Chilling, yet funny. I haven’t graced the new wemberrrly, except for the Lidl, which isn’t so new. You’d or someone else previously reported on the sound system within the stadium. It really doesn’t tempt me.

    Certain comparisons between stadium W and W stadium need to be clarified. Wumbulea was rebuilt on the same site.

    Arsenal had to rebuild some of Islington, providing new homes for rubbish and business’s and stuff. This would be the biggest deal, excepts for over running of deadlines and costs. Then there’s the little thing of comfort.
    I feel such pride when I attend our stadium. (No help from you, what with your refusal to surrender your season ticket to me, despite rhyme, reason or entitlement). I always take my flask. The attendants are always polite to me. The toilets are good. The views are great. For a night match you can park within 400 yards of the Ems, but I’ll not tell you where (ya boo suks).

    All in all, Arsenal Stadium good, Wimblywom, bad.

    (Anyone wishing to donate me a ticket to the final, don’t hesitate, please).

  31. This could make next weekend interesting, AV travels to ManCity, with confidence takes some points off them? Liverpool travel to WBA, who won yesterday. Maybe WBA takes points off Liverpool?

  32. Gord

    I’d like Liver and Totty to triumphantly gain entry to Eurodisny leeg.
    (Spelling is correct).

  33. Coming originally from Ruislip, I was a fairly regular attender at the “Old Wembley”, being there for “highs” such as Charlie’s winner and the WC Final and “lows” such as Swindon and Ipswich. A few years ago, I got the opportunity to experience the new version from the “posh” seats as we were beaten by the Chavs. From there, it was not too unpleasant but the atmosphere was dead and I found the best thing about it was being able to get on a train from Wembley Stadium that deposited me in Solihull in 90 minutes. Last year, when Wigan returned some tickets, I was contacted by Arsenal to ask if I would like to go. I took up their offer but completely regretted it. The pre-match snack of chicken nuggets was completely inedible; the trek up to my seat 3 rows from the back was completely exhausting and the sound system was completely deafening. After the game, I found that they had managed to snarl up the system to get me onto my train and I had to queue with those going into London for half an hour before being able to filter to the High Wycombe and beyond line. I eventually got home at 11:30pm. Never again!!!

  34. Agree on Liverpool and Chelsea Rantetta. But …not sure about this, but will Spurs already be in the Europa Cup by virtue of finishing second in the league Cup?
    Think Southampton deserve European football

  35. And we have Chelsea . Man utd travel away to Everton maybe we will all drop points.

  36. HITC has an article about something Waddle said (Welbeck was started for his pace). Even today, I cannot view the file the BBC has which would have said this (or could be MOTD). If this is accurate (and there is no reason to think that any pundit gets things right even most of the time), Reading definately got tired chasing people, and when Walcott came on, they would have been stretched even more.

    But you people seen the game, I only read about it.

  37. “It is, by any standards, a grotesque and appalling place, ………….
    Emerge from Wembley Park station and descend the steps and you have the choice of looking for a pub or heading for the ground”

    It certainly does come a big second best to The Emirates and shows that the board and Danny Fiszman were so right and David Dein got that one wrong.
    I too travel in there from Stanmore on the tube and have taken to giving Wembley a total miss for the pre-match. Stay on the train for another couple of stops and get off at Kilburn. You’ll find plenty of Sports’ Bars and Pubs with normal London prices and plenty of home fans. The trip back is barely ten minutes, so leave plenty of time and enjoy a much better atmosphere and all-round experience.

  38. I went to Wembley last year Semi-final and final and again this year. Maybe I was lucky yesterday but anyone who uses Wembley Park (unless they have to) must be mad.
    Yesterday I left after cheering the lads off the pitch and made my way to Wembley Stadium Station (a 5 minute walk) queued for maybe 10 minutes and got straight onto a train to Marylebone. Then walked the few hundred yards to Baker Street and caught a circle line train to King’s Cross. Around 8 minutes to get to my 20:44 train to Cambridge. At Cambridge got on my bike and cycled the 5 Miles home arriving at 22:10.
    Seems to me I’m either very lucky or maybe a bit more organised than most posting on here.
    I intend to do the same for the final and unless all of you who ‘enjoy’ the Olympic Way queue to Wembley Park do the same I hope to be back home before most of you who live in London.
    Oh and another tip don’t use the upper tiers at Wembley or you’ll pay for it in your pocket and in the time taken to exit the stadium.

  39. Anyone else bemused by the media talking about balotelli’s ‘wrongly disallowed goal’? Yes, balotelli may have been on when he received the ball, but the linesman instantly flagged him off and ref blew his whistle. the villa defence stopped chasing him after the whistle but he still went on and knocked the ball into the net with the keeper just making the slightest hint of an attempt at saving his weak shot, which was nothing more than a ‘twitch’. I was thinking to myself this is the sort of offence that got van persie booked for in Barcelona and this is much worse, kicking the ball well after the whistle, but balotelli got away with it. Now the media are trying to count that as a disallowed goal!? These guys really are unbelievable. Wrong call yes, but disallowed goal?? Please.

  40. Think Wembley was one thing Mr Dein got wrong, though we should be eternally grateful for one he got right….Arsene Wenger.
    The pitch at Wembley is horrible, just seems so slow compared to our ground, wonder if that is why we seem to take a while to get into games there?

  41. Just seen on TV again, the Balotelli offside call was wrong, but Liverpool were poor. They said they would not repeat the mistakes Spurs made with the Bale money on their Suarez windfall last summer, history may judge them harshly on this claim

  42. Mandy D

    I don’t know how teams qualify for euro but I agree with you that Southampton certainly deserve a place in there.

  43. Al, he probably should have been booked for it. Sort of like running a red light, 5 seconds after it has turned red.

    I seen a couple of articles about how lucky the entire world was that Silva didn’t die from having his cheek broken by an errant elbow.

    Most of you probably don’t know rodeo, but I have been at the NFR twice: the last year in Oklahoma City and the first year in Las Vegas. I believe in Las Vegas, watching the bull riding, I seen a black cowboy (probably Charles Sampson) get thrown off the back of the bull, and while still in the air, the bull kicked out and caught him in the face with a rear hough. It broke his cheekbone (shattered). Charles Sampson is a famous bull rider, who at one time was riding 30-35 bulls per month, He has been injured a LOT. This incident wasn’t even noted in 3 different descriptions of his career.

    Silva won’t die.

  44. Mickeys

    Absolutely, Wembley Stadium Station is without doubt the best for getting to and from the matches and I’m surprised more don’t use it. On the one occasion I’ve been to New Wembley and the previous two to Old Wembley I had such an easy journey from and back to central London. I usume Reading fans also came this way which would have taken about twenty minutes for them.

  45. I go back to the days of war-time London when Wembley was restricted to 75,000 and there was still chaos on the Underground to get back to the City.
    The answer, we found, after the game, was to take the train to one station further out and then join the near-empty City-bound line.
    A seat was guaranteed and the mad crush at Wembley totally avoided. 😉

  46. @Tony
    Wembley has always been like this. Whether attending the Arena or the Stadium. Consequently, we didnt bother with Wembley for food and refreshments.

    Last year we used the Pubs around Marylebone. This year Kings Cross and a tube ride.

  47. The U21 game versus Middlesbrough should be starting soon. No senior players in the lineup. Bielik must still be hurt from the last game.


  48. Iwobi scored to equalize at 31 minutes. Middlesbrough scored again at 36 minutes.


  49. Middlesbrough scored again at 41 minutes. At half time, Arsenal are losing 1-3.


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