When I am in England researching my Groundhopper’s Guide to Soccer in England, I always try to tour the stadiums. It’s cool to go into the locker rooms, stand on the touchline, meet supporters, and hear stories.
Here, then, are images from a tour of Stamford Bridge at Chelsea FC in London.
Quick note: I took this tour in January 2014, so a few things might have changed, like Frank Lampard having a spot in the locker room.
We start outside, in the vibrant neighborhood around Fulham Road. What always amazes me about many of these stadiums, and one of the things that I think Americans will love about watching soccer in England, is that these grand stadiums, home to legendary clubs, are often in the middle of town!
Just about every stadium has a statue of a club legend outside; in this case it’s Peter Osgood, the “King of Stamford Bridge.” He scored 150 goals in 380 games, and won the FA Cup and Cup Winners’ Cup.
The tour starts in the club museum, where you can see the usual array of legendary players, trophies, and other displays. In Chelsea’s case, these are pretty extensive. They have won the top English league five times, the second division twice, the FA Cup seven times, the League Cup five times, plus the Champions League, Europa League, Cup Winners’ Cup, and UEFA Super Cup.
(By the way, if you’re interested, here is a guide to all the leagues and cups of English soccer.)
My favorite thing here was this video showing the history of the stadium’s building and re-building — including the explanation of why one end is called The Shed End, when there’s clearly no shed.
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Next your guide meets you and walks you through the place, starting in the seats for the big perspective:
Here’s a panorama of the whole 45,000-seat stadium:
Next you go into the locker room and other behind-the-scenes locations, including the media room where — and this happens on every tour — you have sit and wait for people to get their photos taken where the managers sit after the game.
And finally, the highlight, at least for me: going to the side of the pitch. Never onto the pitch, mind you; that is grounds for immediate expulsion. In fact, the glowing thing you see on the field is basically a mobile greenhouse that helps grass grow in front of each goal.
Here’s a video that gives you some perspective on what it’s like from the touchline:
These stadium tours are a great way to spend a few hours, and at bigger clubs like Chelsea they are available pretty much every day there isn’t a home match. And speaking of home matches, I’ve seen two at Stamford Bridge, one of which was pretty memorable. I call it Sunderland’s Big Day at Stamford Bridge.