The History Of Wembley Stadium

Thursday, 25, April, 2013

 

This year Wembley Stadium celebrates its 90th birthday with a blockbuster calendar of events.

While the new 90,000 stadium only opened in 2007, it is built on the site of the original Wembley Stadium that first appeared on the north London skyline in 1923.

Originally the centrepiece of the British Empire Exhibition, the old Wembley Stadium was built in under a year at a cost of £750,000. Some 250,000 tons of clay had to be dug out to form the bowl of the stadium and the stands and terraces were built with 25,000 tons of concrete, reinforced with 600 tons of steel rods.

The stadium became the symbol of English football, and the famous Twin Towers, which stood at the entrance, were iconic throughout the world.

The FA Cup Final between Bolton Wanderers and West Ham United on 28 April 1923 was the first event to take place at Wembley Stadium. The official attendance was 126,047, still the largest for any football match in England, but estimates of the number of people who entered the stadium put the number at around 200,000.

A year later, international football made its debut as England drew 1-1 with Scotland. Since then Wembley has hosted 78 FA Cup Finals, 258 England senior internationals, the 1966 World Cup, 40 League Cup Finals, six European Cup Finals and Euro 96.

But it’s not just football that has wowed Wembley...

Great Britain won 23 medals at the 1948 Olympic Games, three of them gold, while Henry Cooper floored Cassius Clay in one of boxing’s best-ever bouts in 1963.

Rugby League’s Challenge Cup Final has been a fixture here since 1929, while the glitz and glamour of the NFL has wowed the crowds since the 80s.

Greyhound racing, speedway, hockey, American wrestling and Evel Knievel are just some of the other stunning spectacles to have featured over the years and even the Pope graced Wembley’s hallowed turf in 1982!

Wembley’s credentials as a music Mecca were boosted with the global phenomenon of Live Aid in 1985 and concerts by Queen in 1986, Michael Jackson in 1988 and the Rolling Stones in 1990.

The last football match at the old stadium was England’s World Cup Qualifier against Germany on 7 October 2000. A crowd of 76,377 saw the Germans win 1-0 with Hamann’s free kick on 14 minutes.

While Wembley was being rebuilt Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium hosted six FA Cup Finals and arguably the pick of them was the 2006 match between Liverpool and West Ham United, which the Merseysiders won on penalties after a 3-3 draw.

The new £750 million venue opened in 2007, and the most striking feature of the new stadium is the 133 metre high arch that towers over the North stand. The single largest roof structure in the world, the Wembley arch supports the north roof and 60% of the weight of the south roof.

The Stadium also has a sliding roof that sits 52 metres above the pitch. Even though the roof does not completely close, it does cover every seat in the stadium, which makes Wembley the largest fully covered stadium in the world.

The capacity is now 90,000, the second largest seating capacity in Europe, with the biggest attendance so far the 89,874 who watched the 2008 FA Cup Final featuring Portsmouth and Cardiff City.

The first official match was an Under-21s friendly between England and Italy, an exciting 3-3 draw on 24 March.

Chelsea became the first team to win The FA Cup at the new stadium as Didier Drogba’s strike saw-off Manchester United.

Blues’ captain John Terry scored England’s first goal at their new home in a 1-1 draw with Brazil two weeks later.

Other landmarks moments so far include England v Kazakhstan in 2008 (which was watched by 89,107, still the record for an international at the new stadium), the UEFA Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United in 2011, the football tournaments of the London 2012 Olympics and Muse’s 2007 H.A.A.R.P. tour which was voted Wembley’s Greatest Event in 2011.

And this year, a festival of football awaits as the Champions League Final and a series of blockbuster England internationals lie ahead. And it’s not just football taking centre stage at Wembley in 2013, big name concerts include The Killers, Bruce Springsteen, Robbie Williams and Roger Waters.

Here’s to another 90 years of magical moments...