Britain’s finest football stadium

The opening of Arsenal’s spectacular Emirates Stadium at Ashburton Grove has given the north London club greater financial muscle in the ever increasing Premier League money stakes.The club will aim to claw back the advantage enjoyed by Manchester United and the Russian owned Chelsea, where billionaire Roman Abramovitch writes million pound cheques for fun. The move from Arsenal’s old ground Highbury – their home since 1913 – was a wrench for some diehard Arsenal supporters, but with a crowd capacity of only 38,419, Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger convinced the club that a new home was vital if the club were not to be left behind in the financial pulling power, and attracting world class players to the Gunners. The last ever game at Highbury on May 7th 2006, saw the Gunners beat Wigan 4-2

Satisfying demand

Arsenal previously had 20,000 season ticket holders at Highbury, and with an allocation of several thousand tickets for visiting supporters, club members as well as corporate hospitality to be taken care of, many other Arsenal fans were frustrated on match days as home games were always sold out. There was also the matter of another 20,000 desperate fans on Arsenal’s season ticket waiting list, but as season ticket holders rarely gave up the ownership of a season ticket, there was never a realistic chance that Arsenal would be able to satisfy the demand from it’s huge worldwide fan base. The answer to the dilemma was a new home, which has now been built just five hundred yards away from Highbury. Much of the initial backlog of the season ticket waiting list was cleared with the move to the Emirates Stadium; however further demand for season tickets now sees 40,000 on a new waiting list. Arsenal hosted their first Premiership match at the Emirates Stadium on 19th August 2006, in the 1-1 draw against Aston Villa.

Naming rights

With a capacity of 60,361, the Emirates Stadium has increased Arsenal’s annual turnover to £170 million. Construction started on March 1 2004, and the stadium was built in 124 weeks by construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, at a cost of £390 million, with the project creating 1800 jobs and two thousand new homes in the area. No public money was available to Arsenal, but the club were able to secure a £260 million finance arrangement through a consortium of banks. The stadium was officially named the Emirates Stadium in October 2004, after Emirates paid $100 million for a fifteen year naming deal and on the 19th August 2006, with the then captain Thierry Henry leading out Arsenal with the team strip bearing the “Fly Emirates,” logo which Arsenal will wear for eight years. No expense has been spared in creating what Arsenal hope to be the best football fan experience in the UK. Every seat at the Emirates Stadium is upholstered with a cushioned padding, a higher seat back and a large seat area. All the seating areas are protected from the elements and offer an uninterrupted view.

Fans’ experience

There are 475 plasma screens dotted about the ground, so no fan will miss any of the action away from the pitch, and in addition to this, two giant five tonne seventy two square metered Diamond vision screens perched high inside the ground will ensure fans get quality coverage of key match moments. The Emirates Stadium is the first in the UK to be equipped with High definition television pictures, after a deal with Sony.

The fans will not go hungry at the Emirates Stadium either, with two hundred and fifty catering points, four restaurants and enough supplies of beer to allow 2,400 pints to be poured per minute. The Stadium has 900 toilets, 475 plasma screens and two cast iron cannons. At the top end of the market, Arsenal have even created the exclusive “Diamond Club,” where for £25,000 per season, acclaimed chef and Arsenal fan Raymond Blanc will take the lunch orders, to be taken from the finest seats in the stadium. There are also one hundred and fifty executive boxes, one of which has been bought by Arsenal and Holland legend Dennis Bergkamp, who had the privilege of having the first game at the Emirates Stadium in his honour, for his testimonial match played against Ajax, in a 2-1 win on 22nd July 2006.

Wenger was instrumental in insisting that the board get the Emirates Stadium project up and running. From ensuring the pitch is at optimum condition to the four dressing room’s the stadium has for tournaments such as the Emirates Cup, fans should remember it was Wenger who had the vision for the creation of Arsenal’s spectacular new home.

Although there was some resistance to the Emirates Stadium from some local businesses who had to be relocated, most people will agree that Arsenal and England now has another world-class venue, which can only help secure a confident bid to stage the 2018 World Cup tournament.

Wenger backs Arsenaliation of Emirates

Arsene Wenger has given his support to the new “Arsenalisation” initiative. “Arsenalisation is a project bearing fruit. I’m a fan of it both outside and inside the ground. I hope that people can feel at home when they come here because the sense of history embraces them and they are where they want to be. It gives the stadium some soul and some love,” he said.

Arsenalisation is a word that could have been dreamt up by Wenger. Not many dictionaries however will have a reference to “ Arsenalisation,” but the word will begin to be a familiar one to Arsenal fans and the rest of the Premiership. Arsenalisation refers to a process currently under way at the Emirates Stadium and makes a clear statement of intent to its’ purpose.

Turning the Gunners’ home into a very visible stronghold of all things Arsenal through the variety of artistic and creative means,

is the official definition of Arsenalisation where every domestic and European moment of success will be celebrated in pictures or displays around the Gunners’ home. Arsenal chief executive Ivan Gazidis has been at the forefront of this process and observed.

It’s important to recognise that our fans are at the centre of the club. Listening to our fans, we were hearing a consistent message that while the Emirates is a superb modern stadium, they want to make it more of a home.

Now fans will see reminders of Gunners’ successes like for example when Ian Wright celebrated becoming the club’s all time leading scorer, and also when a certain Thierry Henry overtook the former England marksman. Visuals of Tony Adams, Wenger himself, logos and murals will be in evidence at locations throughout the state of the art north London stadium, which is was opened only three years ago.