“Wembley is the cathedral of football. It is the capital of football and it is the heart of football.” Pelé
The original Wembley Stadium opened its doors in April 1923, so will soon celebrate its centenary. Over the last hundred years, it has fixed itself firmly into the nation’s hearts and minds, thanks to hosting some truly incredible moments in footballing history – including England’s famous World Cup win in 1966 and the nail-biting action of EURO ’96.
Built for the British Empire Exhibition of 1924, Wembley was due to be demolished immediately afterwards. However, businessman and civil servant Sir James Stevenson suggested the stadium stay open, as football had been played on the grounds where it was built since the 1880s. Soon after, King George V officially opened the stadium and the pitch was dubbed the ‘hallowed turf’.
The home of sport
Of course, Wembley is about so much more than football. As the pre-eminent sports and entertainment venue in Britain, it’s hosted a wide range of events from rugby (league and union) to speedway championships, stock car and greyhound racing – and just about everything in between.
The stadium was a venue for the London 2012 Olympics, the 1948 Summer Olympics, and the 2015 Rugby World Cup. It is now an established home of NFL in the UK, and has staged several unforgettable boxing world-title fights.
Magical musical moments
Music is woven into Wembley’s identity too, with the high note arguably being the ‘Live Aid’ multi-act charity concert of 1985. Music fans still regularly fill the stadium to capacity to watch world-class acts such as Ed Sheeran, Madonna, Taylor Swift and Bruce Springsteen.
And as its 100th birthday approaches, you can be certain of one thing: Wembley will continue to witness history-making moments that will remain forever with those lucky enough to say ‘I was there’.
A history of jaw-dropping events
1923: Ready, steady… – on April 23, the British Empire Exhibition Stadium is ready – just five days before The FA Cup Final, its first event.
1924: Billy the first – Billy Walker is the first player representing England to score at Wembley.
1938: Smile, you’re on TV – Preston North End v Huddersfield Town is the first FA Cup Final shown live on TV.
1948: Quadruple Dutch – Wembley is the main setting for the 1948 Olympics, as a Dutch mother of two, Fanny Blankers-Koen, wins four gold medals.
1953: The ‘Matthews’ Final – Stanley Matthews, 38, finally collects an FA Cup winners’ medal as Blackpool beat Bolton Wanderers 4-3.
1966: England top the world – Geoff Hurst scores a hat-trick to as England beat West Germany 4-2 in the FIFA World Cup Final.
1978: Viv breaks new ground – Viv Anderson becomes the first Black player to represent England at senior level.
1985: Freddie wows the world – 72,000 fans see Queen headlining the first Live Aid concert – it’s still regularly voted the best live performance in the history of rock.
1996: Gazza’s finest moment – Paul Gascoigne strikes the solo goal that confirms his place in England footballing history, as England face Scotland at Wembley in EURO ’96.
2007: The Cup comes home – after closing in 2000, Wembley is rebuilt and the new stadium hosts its first FA Cup Final – 89,826 watch Chelsea beat Manchester United.
2007: Live Earth – more than 150 musical acts come together to raise climate change awareness.
2007: NFL makes its debut – the Miami Dolphins face the New York Giants and Wembley becomes a regular venue for NFL matches.
2014: The Lionesses make their bow – the new Wembley stages its first England women’s international match.
2015: Wembley in Union – the stadium is one of the venues for the 2015 Rugby Union World Cup.
2017: Adele hits new high – Adele's concert on 28 June is attended by 98,000 fans, a stadium record for a UK music event.
2019: England v Germany – England’s senior women’s team break the record for the highest attendance at a Lionesses' home fixture. A staggering 77,768 were in attendance at Wembley to watch England take on Germany.
2020: The show goes on – Wembley powers through the pandemic with a number of behind closed doors events including England fixtures, Play-Off Finals and an Emirates FA Cup Final.
2021: UEFA Euro 2020 – Wembley hosts 8 fixtures at UEFA Euro 2020, including England’s first final since 1966 vs Italy.
2022: Another massive year – Coldplay, Ed Sheeran, a UEFA Women’s Final. Another packed out year for the stadium.