After his tours of Lord's Cricket Ground in the UK and the home ground of Real Madrid Football Club in Spain, Jason Dundas had many letters requesting him to check out an English Premier League club, so off he went to Emirates Stadium, the home ground of Arsenal in London
, not just for a tour but to watch a match between the team and Stoke City.
Arsenal, known to fans as "The Gunners", is one of the most successful English football clubs to date, having won 13 First Division and Premier League titles and 10 FA Cups. The club holds the record for the longest, uninterrupted period in top-grade English football and is the only Premier League side to have completed a season unbeaten.
The club's traditional colours of red and white have evolved over time. It has also changed location. It was founded in Woolwich in 1913, then moved across the city to Arsenal Stadium in Highbury. In 2006, Emirates Stadium became their home ground. The three-year old stadium became the fifth largest in the UK and cost a staggering £430 million ($805 million) to build. It seats 60,000 people and for a small price, you can take a professional tour.
On the tour you'll get to see executive boxes which cost £150,000 ($280,000) a year. There's a walk to the massage rooms, showers and spa and dressing rooms. Players tend to arrive by coach an hour before they play, way later than most die-hard fans. Players spend the night before in a hotel and play loud music in the coach on the way to the game. Music is varied as there are about 16 nationalities, all with different tastes.
Some say the press room can be tougher than playing in an actual match. Things can get pretty heated in there. There was much filming and writing when William Gallas wept on the pitch after Arsenal lost a game and an end to his captaincy was called for. No time for emotions there!
The interactive Arsenal Museum is included in the tour. It has exhibits including Michael Thomas' boots from the league championship decider at Anfield in 1989, Charlie George's 1971 FA Cup final shirt and Alan Smith's shirt from the 1994 European Cup final.
Every game is a sell-out and fans arrive at the ground already pumped. It's almost a religious pilgrimage. Generations have sworn allegiance to their team, and woe betide anyone who'd ever consider changing sides.
Another tradition is to drink a few pints at a nearby pub to celebrate or commiserate.
Emirates Stadium in London
Emirates Stadium tours run on Saturdays and Sundays during July and August. Standard 45-minute tours are around $30 for adults and $15 for children. The stadium is a 30-minute tube ride from Heathrow.
The Arsenal Australia Supporters Club is the official arm of Arsenal Football Club in Australia. Membership to the AASC is $25 a year for adults, $5 for juniors (under 16 years as of January 01) and $40 for a family (2 adults and 2 children). For more information log on to www.arsenalaustralia.com.au.
Arsenal Tours is a non-profit service run by one Arsenal Australia member for all members of the AASC and Arsenal fans around Australia. The tour includes the Arsenal Stadium Tour taken by Jason. Log on to www.arsenaltours.com.au.
Emirates has flights to London.
- Perth $1897
- Melbourne $1948
- Sydney $1965
- Brisbane $1971
These fares are for a limited time only. For the most up-to-date fares, call them or visit the airline's website.
Prices are correct at September 24, 2009.
For further information
Ph: 1300 303 777
Emirates Stadium Tours
75 Drayton Park
London N5 1BU
Ph: +44 20 7704 4505
Fax: +44 20 7704 4001
London N5 1BU
Visas: Visas are not required for Australians entering the UK for tourism for stays of less than months. If you wish to work, you must obtain the appropriate two-year visa in advance.
Electricity: 220V with a three-point plug.
Time: The UK is on Greenwich Mean Time between October and March. The rest of the year it is on British Summer Time.
Currency: The British pound sterling.
International dialling code: +44.