The FBA London Stadium Tour supported by ESSMA
Henri Boppe, an alumnus of the FBA Professional Master in Football Business, about his experience from The FBA stadium tour to London, supported by ESSMA. The FBA, an ESMMA Partner, offers its students a Professional Master in Football Business with the objective to deliver them all the necessary tools and an optimal learning environment in order to succeed in the passionate and dynamic football industry.
What makes the program so special is not only the quality of our professors and their leadership, but also the quality of the different field trips organized by the school in collaboration with ESSMA, to allow the participants to discover and have a deep understanding of some of the most famous stadiums in the football industry. Following trips to Germany and Portugal, we headed to London. On the program, 4 iconic yet very different stadiums: Craven Cottage, home of Fulham FC, Stamford Bridge of Chelsea FC, the Emirates Stadium of Arsenal FC, and Wembley England’s national football team stadium, as well as Tottenham Hotspur FC’s temporary ground.
Our first stop brought us to the home of Fulham FC, the iconic Craven Cottage. Located on the bank of the river Thames, it is barely recognizable as a football stadium; from the outside, its Johnny Haynes Stand, is built with the traditional red bricks that distinguished the neighborhood.
We were welcomed by the management team of Fulham FC, who gave us a deep overview and understanding of the club’s positioning and vision for the future, as well as its importance and impact toward the communities. Darren Preston, COO of the club, presented the new development plans of the Riverside stand. Increasing the total capacity of the stadium by 4.300 seats, the new modern stand would be the crown jewel of the future of the stadium. Built alongside the river Thames, the plan would be to host state of the art F&B facilities, sports entertainment centers, apartments to rent on an “AirBnB” type of models, as well as a swimming pool and other amazing features. It would definitely re-energize the neighborhood, with the stadium being the beating heart of the area, and one of the best viewpoints in the future for the famous Boat Race, between Oxford and Cambridge taking place in front of the stadium. Due to be completed by 2021, this new project will definitely bring up more and more opportunities for the club to position itself towards its existing and new partners. The impact to the communities and the responsibilities it has towards the different generations is huge. It is the vision and mission of the Fulham FC Foundation, to use the power of sport to build better lives through sport. With 5 main themes including Education & Training, Health & Wellbeing, Sport in the Community, Sporting Pathways, and Inclusion, the charity foundation led by Mike McSweeney, delivers programs and activities to around 12.000 participants per seasons.
Built in 1896, Craven Cottage is recognized to be the oldest football ground in professional English football. The stadium has 4 stand-alone stands, as well as the Cottage Pavilion, to be the seating area for the players’ family and friends (as well as the changing rooms). From the wooden bench on the Pavilion’s stand to the gateways of the Johnny Haynes stand, you could really feel the history in every corner of the stadium.
Our next stop brought us to Stamford Bridge the home ground of “The Blues” - Chelsea FC. Like Craven Cottage, the stadium was built at the end of the 19thcentury, but unlike the Fulham FC home ground, it received several renovations throughout its history (the latest being in 1998), leading to its actual shape.
For this visit, we were welcomed by Adam Burrage, Stadium tour and Museum Manager. We had the honor to enjoy the afternoon with him for a private tour of the facilities, filled with interesting stories about the club and the stadium. We started in the Museum, in front of the new development plans of the stadium, where Adam explained to us the situation of the stadium, and the challenges faced to develop a new stadium on the same location of the existing one. It’s been a few years that the club has decided to upgrade their venue to a modern and bigger stadium; it would not only bring additional revenue opportunities to the club, but it is also important for “the pride of London” to enhance its brand and its image with a state of the art stadium. But things are not that easy. And especially in a city like London, where space is lacking. Although Chelsea FC benefits from the financial power of its owner, transforming or rebuilding Stamford Bridge has been filled with difficulties. Its location and the metro lines below, the local communities and the lack of space in the area. The plans have been approved, but with all these challenges, the redevelopment of the stadium is now on stand-by. It will take a few years before we see The Blues playing in their new stadium.
The rest of the tour brought us to the various parts of the stadiums, where we would see various staff and workers getting ready for their first home game of the season, the local derby against Arsenal FC.
The next day, we continued our London tour with the visit of Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal FC.
Arriving at the stadium the two canons in front of the megastore cannot go unnoticed. These cannons have two purposes; to enhance the club’s emblem to all visiting fans, but also, to act as barriers in case of any attacks.
In addition to the full tour any visitor would experience, we have the opportunity to visit some special areas of the stadium, and received detailed explanations of key aspects of the stadium operations. Neil and Jamie brought us to the stewards’ quarter, where 850 stewards are being managed. It is a huge operation center knowing that at least 600 stewards are needed for a match day. We’ve discussed stewards training and match day briefings, as well as access passes and supervision management. It’s been a very interesting moment to realize all the work and challenges in the preparations of a match day.
Another interesting part of our tour was the visit of the control room. It is where a dozen staff spends their time during a match day, supervising all areas of the stadium for any potentials issues. Any problems, and it would be monitored in that room. From replays of security checks or misbehavior from a fan, it will be caught on camera and reviewed here.
What impressed me the most compared to the other 2 stadiums we’ve visited in London was the VIP hospitality areas. Emirates Stadium for sure offers one of the best range F&B to its VIP guests. Delaware North, a leading food service and hospitality company, is working hard with the club to provide a top-notch offering, and satisfy their guests with various bars and restaurants all with different designs and identity.
Wembley Stadium is the last stadium of our trip and with 90.000 seats has the largest capacity. The new Wembley, built in 2007, is the perfect example of transforming a historical stadium into a modern facility.
Walking around the stadium, we clearly saw a difference compared to the 3 other venues we’ve visited during our stay in London. The first 3 stadiums are exclusive to their respective clubs and therefore can create their own brand / club identity. The “Arsenalification” of Emirates Stadium in 2009, adding Arsenal FC identity to the stadium is a good example. At Wembley, although Tottenham Hotspur FC is temporarily using it during the construction of their new ground, there is no particular club identity.
To end the three-day London Stadium Tour, we enjoyed a matchday experience at Wembley. We were impressed by the efficiency of the crowd management, able to get 80.000 fans in the stadium very smoothly to watch Tottenham Hotspur FC – Fulham FC.
The FBA, an ESMMA Partner, offers its students a Professional Master in Football Business with the objective to deliver them all the necessary tools and an optimal learning environment in order to succeed in the passionate and dynamic football industry.