Recreating the cathedral of football

Wembley Stadium

  • London, UK
  • 2007

CHALLENGE. The old Wembley Stadium was one of the most famous sporting and entertainment venues in Britain, known the world over for events such as the 1923 FA Cup Final, the 1948 Olympic and Paralympic Games and Live Aid in the summer of ’85. When the FA asked World Stadium Team (Populous and Foster + Partners) to design a replacement for their venerated stadium, the challenge was of course to provide the state of the art facilities needed for the next generation of players, performers and spectators, whilst retaining – or in fact creating – that sense of magic that made Wembley such a special place.

INNOVATION. As well as being an iconic design, the arch supports the 7,000 tonne steel roof structure, eliminating the need for pillars. The seating is designed as a single bowl, which gives every spectator an unobstructed view of the stage or pitch, as well as increasing the intensity of the atmosphere. Retractable panels in the roof allow light and air onto the pitch, maintaining the quality of that hallowed turf.

IMPACT. Wembley hosted the 2011 and 2013 UEFA Champions League Finals, and will host the semi-finals and final of the UEFA Euro 2020 tournament. On the entertainment front, Take That’s record-breaking tour saw over 650,000 tickets sold over 8 sell-out nights in 2011. With its 133m arch piercing the London skyline, Wembley has reinforced its position as the world’s best known and loved football stadium, living up to Pele’s famous quote that “Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.”

• The home of English football, Wembley Stadium can also host rugby matches, concerts, American football and has held many other events, including motor sport
• The stadium can hold 90,000 fans. The record for the old stadium would have had health & safety officers quaking in their boots – an estimated 200,000 people crammed in to watch Bolton Wanderers defeat West Ham United 2-0 in the 1924 FA Cup Final
• The Wembley Arch is not just a design aesthetic, but is an essential part of the design to support the 7,000 tonne steel roof structure
• To allow for optimum grass growth, the roof can retract on the west, south and east sides to allow better light and air at pitch level
• There are 107 steps in the trophy presentation route – the old stadium was said to have had 39 steps up to the Royal Box, in the middle of the North Stand
• If you felt so inclined, you could fit 25,000 double-decker London buses inside Wembley Stadium
• Special acoustic studies were undertaken to allow the design team to finely tune the sound quality of the new stadium, maintaining the traditional ‘Wembley roar’