In 2018, sport stadium designers Mather & Co designed the new Wembley Stadium Tour. This month we spoke to Simon Wickham, Senior Commercial Manager at the Football Association about what makes Wembley so special and how the tour brings that to life.
- What were/are your biggest challenges when maximising visitor engagement in the Wembley Stadium Tour?
Wembley has offered a tour of the stadium since 1994 to provide the public with the opportunity to visit the areas of the stadium usually only seen by the sports men and women and artists performing in the stadium. It was our intention to create a rich, unique, distinctive ‘best in class’ stadium tour experience for visitors to Wembley Stadium as they explore one of England and London’s most famous, iconic sporting landmarks. Whilst the stadium is an awe-inspiring feat of architecture and engineering – a fact we definitely look to celebrate within the tour – we also wanted to create an experience that makes a human connection, bringing to life the Wembley stories of sportspeople, fans and artists alike. We want a visit to Wembley to be more than just a walk through an empty stadium.
- In your opinion, what role does the new Mather & Co-designed graphics and displays play in visitor engagement within the Tour experience?
The Wembley Tour gives visitors the chance to relive the stadium’s greatest moments, whilst creating some new ones of their own. Historical treasures such as the 1966 World Cup Final crossbar and the Jules Rimet Trophy are just some of the original items on display with The Crossbar Exhibition and Walk of Legends developed by Mather & Co. These unlock the Wembley archives to showcase the stadiums origins, rich history and heritage dating back as far as the British Empire Exhibition of 1924.
- Have visitor numbers increased on the tour? Does it bring fans to the stadium outside match days?
We have seen year on year growth in terms of the tours visitor numbers, however our numbers are largely dictated by the number of days that we can operate as we typically don’t run tours on or around event days.
- How has the Tour experience been received since the renovations and additions?
Feedback about the two new installations has been extremely positive and as well as providing new spaces in which to tell Wembley’s stories, it has also had a direct, positive impact on our operational model as visitors can begin their tour from the moment they arrive on site and can make their way through them at their own pace accompanied by a multi-media device that guides them through the spaces. Historically, the Wembley Stadium Tour consisted of a fully ‘guided’ experience with a fixed capacity operation with timed tours delivered each hour. This created capacity issues and thankfully, this is no longer the case, making the tour much more accessible.
- How does having a stadium tour help the overall Wembley brand?
Wembley is the home of the England national football team and many, including Pele, would argue ‘the heart of football’. But it’s also much more than that – it’s the heart of England’s sporting and cultural life. Since its inception, it’s been the setting for an extraordinary range of events, from the 1948 Olympics, to Live Aid, the 1966 World Cup Final to sold out gigs from some of the greatest music artists of the 20th and 21st Centuries. For artists and athletes to ‘play’ at Wembley – whether on the pitch or on a stage – it marks the pinnacle of a career. For fans it’s a place of nail-biting anticipation and epic drama. Mention the word Wembley in any remote corner of the globe and there will be recognition of the world’s most famous stadium. It’s a national institution and a venue that has played a pivotal role in the lives of every sports fan or music enthusiast across the country and beyond. Sports man, woman or Rockstar, to appear at Wembley is the fulfilment of a dream. Nowhere on the planet has seen such a concentration of emotion and adrenaline. It’s a venue that evokes memories of tears of joy and pain and holds a special place in the nation’s hearts, under the shadow of the twin towers and now the magnificent arch. It’s this rich diversity and an emotional connection that we look to bring to life to those taking a tour of the stadium.