Inside & Pictures of the Arsenal Emirates Stadium
Published 27 September 2009
I had the extremely good fortune of knowing at the right time and being at the right place to take advantage of buying some tickets for an Arsenal football match. As Arsenal is such a popular team with a huge fanbase, it is usually almost impossible for the supporters, let alone the general public, to be able to purchase tickets for a home game at the Emirates Stadium in Highbury.
A few weeks ago I managed to get tickets for the Arsenal vs West Brom Carling Cup match. I heard about it just when they went on general sale to the public that morning, and managed to snag some tickets 5 rows from the pitch and near the midway line too! And all for a bargain price of a tenner each. Why were such good tickets still available? It was because it was a cup match and on a weekday afternoon; apparently Arsenal supporters only like to watch their first team play, and Arsene Wenger, the coach, likes to play his youth team in cup competitions. Still, Arsenal’s youth team isn’t taken lightly by the opposition, and in fact could probably beat half the Premier League teams on a good day. Indeed, they did not disappoint on this occasion and won the match 2-0, with a red card and a shot that hit the post providing some drama.
Anyways, this article is about the stadium, and I will stick to that topic! Having been to a couple of football stadiums around the UK, I have to say that the Emirates Stadium beats all the others in terms of atmosphere. Even with a largely touristy crowd that night, the songs were in full flow, the chanting continuous. Those Gunners really know how to be the 12th man on the pitch! The modern seats were cushioned and much comfier than the hard plastic ones in some of their rivals (*cough* Chelsea *cough*), and the leg room was enough to fit an eight foot giant if needed. The stadium is a bit big though, with a maximum capacity past 60,000. I have sat in some of the seats on the Upper Tier before, and frankly, if you get a seat way up there on a back row, you might as well watch the game on TV! But if you can get some tickets on the lower tier in the first few rows, the view from there is just amazing and you can see the players close up. The best seats and views in the house, of course, are located in the corporate boxes, in-between the lower and upper tiers!
Arsenal fans are generally very well behaved, and everything you have read about hooliganism in football has largely disappeared with the times. How can a low-class, no-life football hooligan afford tickets anymore? Instead, the crowd is made up of fathers bringing their sons, tourists, and the various bankers/lawyers/etc working in London. Everyone sits down when they are meant to, says “excuse me”, and drink imported beers instead of local lagers.
Practical Information & Getting There
The whole stadium is very modern, and behind the seats there are plenty of food and drink serving points, as well as plenty of clean toilets and of course loads of gift shops. The two Arsenal merchandise shops are normally open until 5pm every day, but on matchdays they do open later and there are special stands inside the stadium with a limited range of Arsenal souvenirs like football jerseys, t-shirts caps, and footballs.
However, they do charge an arm and a leg for food and drinks, and a hot dog and a pint will set you back almost a tenner. You can bring outside food and drinks into the stadium, but they will insist that any bottles have their caps removed (so they can’t be used as effectively missiles). The smart thing to do, however, is to arrive early and get a bite to eat either at a posh restaurant near Highbury station or Upper Street, or one of the numerous burger and kebab shops around Holloway Station and down Holloway Road. They are definitely not the tastiest, but are filling and cheap!
As most games are sold out, one should arrive early so you don’t miss the kick-off. During game days, Holloway Road Station is shut and so the Piccadilly line stops at Arsenal Station (5 minutes walk), and the stadium is also only a 15 minute walk from Highbury & Islington Station. Holloway Road is still open and buses still go up and down, but its so jammed during match days that you’re better off just getting off at some point before and walking the rest of the way.
Can’t make it for a game?
The best way to experience the stadium is to watch a match, but having said that it is hard to get tickets, especially if you’re a tourist and only in London for a few days! The only other option is to go for a guided tour of the stadium, which will show you all the important stuff as well as some of the history. More information about the Arsenal Stadium Tour and how to book online is available here.
Anyways, here are some pictures of the stadium that I took during the game!