England is coming home but is home still Wembley Park?

Pele once described Wembley Stadium as the Cathedral of Football. The name Wembley is synonymous with Football and great events. It is the home of England and the FA. It is the spiritual home of Football.

So being that England have reached the World Cup 2018 semi-finals, why have Wembley Park decided to screen random films which they can show at anytime? Shouldn’t the home of England, hand over the space in front of the Arena for Football fans to watch the semi-final?

Earlier this week, in a boardroom meeting somewhere in Wembley park…

“OK team. We are based in Wembley – what is Wembley renowned for the world over? If you stopped a child in Timbuktu and asked him if he knows what Wembley is he would be able to tell you. So we are in the midst of probably the greatest World Cup in living memory. We are based opposite the home of Football. So what event should we put on the big screen in that ample space in front of Wembley Arena on the evening of the 6th of June when Belgium take on Brazil in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup in what is potentially going to be one of the games of the decade?………absolutely correct team….we are going to show a now nearly two-year old National Theatre Live production of Twelfth Night……….”

Forgive my sarcasm but really?

When you see the fever-pitch unfolding England wide as our un-fancied squad begin to excel- they have just made it to the quarter finals – just won a knock out game for the first time in 12 years – or probably on the brink of the semi finals. After the Colombia victory large parts of London came to a standstill as fans poured onto the streets to celebrate us actually winning at penalties. These scenes have gone viral with millions of views. Even the normally reserved BoxPark has handed itself over to the World Cup in Croydon and Shoreditch.

So if Football is coming home why isn’t it being shown in the home of England – Wembley? Nearby Wembley Stadium at the LDO (London Designer Outlet) there is a screen showing the World Cup but it is pitiful. The screen is in a small space outside M&S, it hardly inspires the masses to turn up.

worldcup2018 shown at ldo

People watching the World Cup 2018 at the London Designer Outlet

We have a large number of Colombians working in Wembley who were all rushing out of the area to catch the match. I know because I work with some of them. Wembley Park has missed a PR opportunity. The World Cup across London has brought communities together to watch in large groups. The weather is stunning. 23 Million people tuned into ITV to watch England beat Colombia. There is an appetite for the World Cup which has seen 85% of the TV audience tuning into to some games. Staggering figures but somehow Wembley Park is way off message and demoting football to a shoddy little area under the escalators in the soulless LDO.

Englands future home

I have a few theories. Snobbery is one. I am of the opinion that Brent and Wembley no longer deserve the prestige of hosting the National Team. You only have to pop on to a few fan forums to read what football fans think of Wembley. After England played Costa Rica in Leeds before jetting off to Russia there was a clamor by the media for England games to go back on the road around the country. Literally every pundit and writer mentioned the atmosphere in Leeds compared to the almost silence you get at Wembley.

Someone in corporate Wembley Park has decided they are too good for Football. They are attempting to force feed us the modern black plague of hipsterisim.

“We will look like a really cool area by showing a not very good (in my Thesp experienced opinion) of Twelfth Night.”

I think someone has got their wires crossed because it is really A Midsummer’s Nights Dream you need to show when it is 27 outside. And if you were really going to be subversive outside the home of Football then you’d show the NT Live Macbeth.

The Wembley Park people don’t get this area at all. It is clear from their Facebook and Twitter feeds which get hardly any shares or RT’s or Likes that they are not connecting.

Don’t try to turn us into a poncy outpost where middle class pseudo intellectuals sit on deckchairs trying to be urban whilst sticking their noses up at who we all are round here. Supporting England is for everyone. Football really brings folk together. We need that right now.

I love my Theatre – I worked in it long enough and showing Shakespeare is always a good thing – but on a massive World Cup night opposite the most iconic stadium in World Football?

I shall quote Harold Pinter to finish:

Love, Football, the arts, the occasional pint.

In that order Wembley Park

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Image credit: @NPASLondon & @londonoutlet