First of all it is important to say that I am not a football fan, I don’t like football at all, I don’t support anyone and I think there is too much money in the game. So why do I want to tour Arsenal football club? Well, that’s a good question and the true answer is opportunity. Through work I enrolled on a programme called Aurora for women working in the higher education sector and the programme took place at two main venues in London. The first was the Millennium Gloucester Hotel, which was pleasant except the conference room was downstairs and there were no windows.
In contrast our second venue was the Emirates Stadium with a conference room with lots of daylight thanks in no small part to the huge picture windows that over looked the pitch. Now, I may not be a football fan but I can tell a good bit of grass when I see one! And that pitch was spotless, it was hard to believe that, in May, this was towards the end of the season. Those groundsmen must work exceptionally hard.
The opportunity that presented itself was being at the Emirates stadium and having a friend who works there and when I had told her I was coming offered to give me a tour! Well, surely that was an opportunity not to be missed. So I and one of my colleagues on the course snuck out 10 minutes early to meet my friend for the tour. We started in the area where my friend works which is with the local community. The club does a lot of work in the area and has a very lush indoor pitch with artificial grass which can be hired out in the evenings. During the day it is used by local groups, when we popped by there was a game being played by people who had suffered limb amputations. Various educational courses are also on offer for those unable to access other forms of education. Great to see and then we headed to the main stadium which is a world away from the lives led by many in the local community.
We saw the FA Cup which is a very impressive piece of silverware. By this stage, Arsenal were out of this year’s competition so the cup wasn’t going to be there for much longer. There were all the replicas from the times they had won too. You could get your photo taken with the cup but we skipped that bit. The members’ lounge is very posh with a good view over the pitch. I’m sure you would miss a lot of the atmosphere being inside though, albeit a whole heap warmer on a windy winter’s day!
The director’s lounge was even more lush but the lighting not great for a photo. However, the view of the pitch from there was not great in my opinion but I guess if you’re in the director’s lounge going to a match for the footie is not top of the list!
The changing rooms were fascinating and no, no one was actually changing when we looked! The home dressing room was very smart with a plunge pool (which looked most inviting) and the benches arranged in such a way that the manager can see everyone easily. The away changing room was far more basic, no plunge pool and arranged with a table so that the manager wouldn’t be able to see everyone together so easily. The mind games continued as we headed down the tunnel onto the pitch. Life sized cardboard cut outs of the players and, of course, Arsene lined the tunnel.
They were all positioned 6 or 8 inches above the ground so looked down on you as you walked through. Quite intimidating for the away team I should think!
The pitch itself was just as amazing close up as it was from the window. A bouncer stood at the edge of the pitch (but not on the grass!) to make sure that no one trod on the precious blades.
The last part of the tour took in the press conference area. This was a familiar looking place as it is the window into the thoughts of the football manager. So of course, I had to give it a go….there were no television cameras for me though.
It was a very fine way to end the day and hasn’t turned me into even the smallest of football fans but I did enjoy the tour. It’s an iconic stadium and I’ve had the privilege to see it first hand.
The irony of the beautifully kept pitch we were not allowed to touch is that on our second visit a couple of months’ later they were digging it all up! They were installing under pitch heating so they could play in the snow and frost. No wonder they need so much money!