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Is Wembley a treasure or £800m farce?
IT’S the most expensive stadium the world has ever seen.
Coming in at a cost of almost £800m, the new Wembley took six years to build – three more than initially planned.
It is the Football Association’s showpiece stadium, designed to show the world how the company has marched gloriously into the new Millennium.
As Saints fans are finding out, though, there is a huge and embarassing design flaw.
And it is one which will lead to thousands of seats needlessly lying empty when the club face Carlisle in the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy final on Sunday, March 28.
Saints will take around 44,000 supporters with them to the new Wembley, the biggest exodus of south coast football fans to the capital in history.
It will be around 11,000 more than Pompey will take to their FA Cup semi final at the stadium next month, and 19,000 more than the FA Cup finalists each receive.
Though 44,000 is more than twice Saints’ average league crowd at St Mary’s this season, no doubt they could shift even more tickets for the club’s first Wembley appearance for 18 years.
Saints took around 35,000 to Wembley in 1992 for the Zenith Data Systems final against Nottingham Forest.
So no, nobody is saying Saints haven’t got enough tickets.
The problem is, they could do with more – but it’s the bizarre lay out of the national stadium that is at the heart of the issue.
The stadium has been designed to easily stage games with a 50-50 split of fans – like the major Cup finals where each club gets the same allocation with the rest going to ‘neutral’ associations.
Wembley’s problem comes when it stages games where one club is so much better supported than the other.
Then, as we have seen before and are again seeing with Saints, the problem of ‘segregation’ kicks in.
Not in terms of keeping fans apart outside, more a case of keeping them apart inside.
The authorities claim that fans would be mingling in the giant concourse areas underneath the tiers of seats.
Also, the way the turnstiles are set out creates another problem for the police who would not want different sets of fans queueing up close to each other.
Those are not massive problems at more high profile events like the FA Cup final because turnstiles for ‘neutral’ areas like Club Wembley members are in between the two sections reserved for fans who bought tickets through the two clubs.
Though all that is understandable, this is the 21st century.
And I repeat, Wembley cost the best part of £800m to build.
Surely for that money they could have put in place a better segregation system, or have the ability to bring in extra segregation as and when it’s needed?
Those are not difficult questions to answer.
Not many Saints fans will have too many kind words to say about the Football League, certainly not with last year’s administration and subsequent points deduction in mind.
But, in this case, they are not to blame.
Even they can see the stupidity of holding a major final at Wembley with thousands of empty seats, and some of them needlessly empty.
In this section
- Benjani to Saints? Seems a bit unlikely
- Does Saints boss deserve to have pressure piled on?
- The magic of the Cup - MK Dons style
- Bring on the clichés
- Why are some fans losing patience already?
- Not much glamour but at least Yeovil are on the way up
- Saints were to blame for our demise!
- They think it's a takeover - it is now!
- Life is never simple with Saints
- Are some Saints fans right to go marching on?