For any soccer fan, a visit to the new Wembley Stadium is a must. Not only is it one of the world’s most outstanding modern stadiums, but is host to the best of English football and features a veritable ‘footie-fest’ of the nation’s leading cup finals and Football League play-offs every season.
The Football Association – the sport’s governing body – is planning a £12million move of its administrative headquarters from Soho Square to the new Stadium during July 2009. As Wembley is also the home venue for all of England’s international fixtures – including the qualifying games for the 2010 World Cup Finals – the move will firmly establish the stadium as the ‘home of English football’.
As the English football season progresses towards its climax in May, Wembley hosts a number of prestigious finals including the traditional finale to the football season – the FA Cup Final. But, before that the cup final season begins in either late February or early March with the staging of the Carling Cup Final. This show piece cup competition of the Football League will celebrate its 50th anniversary at Wembley in 2010.
Next up is the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy Final played at Wembley in early April. This competition is exclusively for clubs that compete in League One and League Two of the Football League. The 2009 final was an absolute thriller with Luton beating Scunthorpe 3-2 after extra time in front of a substantial lower league football crowd of 53,378.
In May the games come thick and fast at the Stadium, starting with the FA Trophy Final and FA Vase Final, played on successive days on the second weekend of the month.
Next, and still in May, the Football League hosts the Play-off finals when the last promotion spots for The Championship, League One and League Two are decided. Indeed, The Football League Championship play-off final – normally played on late May Bank Holiday Monday – is billed as football’s most lucrative ‘one-off’ game. The winners will be promoted to the Barclays Premier League and with that comes access to lucrative TV money.
Finally, the last weekend in May sees the traditional season finale; the FA Cup final. This is one of the few ‘protected’ games to be televised live on terrestrial channels and is the daddy of all football competition finals. As you can see, May is also the month when the owners of London hotels – particularly those situated around Wembley – rub their hands in glee at the glut of ‘no vacancies’ signs, as they accommodate the thousands of football fans travelling to the capital to watch their teams in action.
But, fans of football that can’t get a ticket to a game at Wembley needn’t despair. They can still access the stadium and sample its marvellous features at first-hand by buying a Stadium tour ticket.