Model Size: 580mm x 475mm
Scale : 1:500 Circa 1966
In a world that developed such a great devotion to sport, there are few arena's that can compare with Wembley's. Pele called it "the Church of Football".
I visited the stadium first on a school trip to see Oxford v Cambridge in a university match, and first real experience was the 1983 FA cup final, a memory that will live with me for ever. So when I had an enquiry from a client as to the availability and time scale for such a piece, it got me thinking.
The enquiry was for a model for a 40th celebrational dinner on the eve of the 2002 world cup. The specification would be to build a model re- creating how the stadium looked for the 1966 world cup final against West Germany, with working floodlights if possible. Although the time scale was extremely tight, I agreed to build this piece and keep ownership for my own collection.
Wembley, officially known as "The Empire Stadium" took 300 working days to build. Work started on the 10th January finishing in 1923. The distinctive twin towers became the buildings trademark, echoing the exotic domes of palaces on the Indian sub-continent. The stadium was constructed of the relatively new material of ferro concrete, 25,000 tons of it.
The capacity was 127,000. Over the years the stadium would host all the major football and rugby cup finals. and of course the 1948 London Olympic Games. The stadium itself continued to be modernised with addition of a much fuller glass and aluminium roof and electronic scoreboard added in 1963, at a cost of £500,000. The capacity was reduced to around 97,000 with these improvements.
The main sporting event of the decade was England hosting and winning of the 1966 world cup. Wembley was the centre piece, staging nine game including all of England's. Over the years Wembley's reputation would grow in stature and go on to host a wider range of events stock car racing, speedway and dog racing. Even non sporting events like Live Aid and concerts would take place.
In 1990 as a result of the Taylor report into the Hillsborough disaster, Wembley, as many ground became an all-seater stadium. This reduced capacity to 80,000, but improved safety, and some would say comfort. In 1996 England would host the European championships and once again Wembley would be the centre piece. This would prove to be the stadiums final swan song as Wembley fell behind with modern stadia criteria. being old in design it would prove to costly to modernise. Its fair well fixture was in 2000, against Germany funnily enough in a world cup qualifier. Wembley would stand dormant until it was finally demolished in 2002.
The model itself was going to be quite small measuring 23x21 inches, it would focus more on the stadium itself and not so much on the surrounding area's such as Wembley Way. The 1966 specification for the stadium was standing terraces behind both ends and all- seated along both sides, and would require the 96,924 spectators. The design featured two split levels (upper and lower) with an open concourse running underneath the upper level. This format continued all the way around the stadium. The roof design was flat and was supported from underneath. the stadium incorporated a greyhound track with a ring fence and within that a speedway track. both can be seen in the model, however, the speedway track can only really be seen behind the goal area's. The arch was very much the theme that supported the outside of the stadium, with a different variation on the twintowers side. This was to access and evacuation procedures quicker and easier and provided strong supports.
The outcome of this piece was very satisfying. It presented so many challenges and so little time to solve them. Just the fact that there is so much history and nostalgia surrounding this stadium, meant it had to represent more than just a model. I wanted to preserve the memory of this stadium in physical form. It’s a piece I would like to build again at a larger scale.