Wembley: the £83,000 ticket
VIP fans get top seats at a price. THE best seat in the house to watch the first England game at the new Wembley? That will be £82,955.
THE best seat in the house to watch the first England game at the new Wembley? That will be £82,955.
Britain’s well-heeled are paying a small fortune for the privilege of being able to watch the golden-booted stars of football in the 90,000-capacity national stadium.
As an estimated 100,000 “ordinary” England fans this week set off for Germany by road, rail, air and sea for the 2006 World Cup and their team’s opening game against Paraguay in Frankfurt on Saturday, the rich and famous are buying 15,000 VIP seats in the yet to be completed stadium.
Buyers include Lakshmi Mittal, the steel magnate and Britain’s richest man; David and Victoria Beckham; and Jodie Kidd, the supermodel. They have all committed themselves to seats in the Corinthian Club, the name given to the VIP area overlooking the half-way line. Robbie Williams, the singer, is also said to be interested.
In addition there are 2,000 seats in corporate boxes. A 20 - seat box costs £270,000 a year. Roman Abramovich, the owner of Chelsea and Britain’s second richest man, has bought one. Sources close to the buyers this weekend confirmed the sales.
Kidd, 27, who painted the cross of St George on her fingernails when she attended the Beckhams’ World Cup send-off party last month, said:
“I love it. I have saved a seat in the Corinthian Club. I want to watch all the England games and every time my team, Liverpool, reaches a cup final.”
Wembley is not the only new stadium using elite seats as a moneyspinner. Arsenal’s new Emirates stadium has 7,000 “club class” seats, costing £4,750 a season, in a final break with the era of windswept terraces represented by the old Highbury, the north London club’s former home.
Arsenal’s even more exclusive Diamond Club will charge 80 of the Gunners’ richest fans £25,000 for a minimum three-year licence plus £25,000 a year for a season ticket, including lunch in a restaurant run by Raymond Blanc.
At Wembley’s Corinthian Club, a seat costs £16,100 plus Vat for a 10-year “licence” and an additional £5,450 a year, plus Vat, for a season ticket. This comes to £82,955 over a decade.
For that, the buyer gets a cushioned seat 4in wider than the average fan’s perch. It will come complete with armrests and access to a private bar and restaurant. As a bonus, members will also have use of a health club in Buckinghamshire.
The holders can consider themselves several levels above the so-called “prawn sandwich brigade” of corporate guests at Old Trafford once sneered at by Roy Keane, the former Manchester United captain.
Wembley’s 160 boxes have all been sold, mostly to companies. In all, the stadium has sold £400m worth of licences, recouping more than half its £757m cost.
The Football Association and the firm set up to run the stadium say ordinary fans have nothing to fear and that season-ticket holders should be seen as “angels” paying for the stadium rather than the privileged few reserving the best seats.
Michael Cunnah, the chief executive of Wembley National Stadium, said: “We’re building the greatest stadium in the world, with levels of comfort better than fans have ever experienced.”
The Corinthian seats are part of a range of VIP tickets to be known as Club Wembley. So far, 10,000 of the 15,000 have been sold. The cheapest, behind the goals, will cost £3,900 plus Vat for a licence and £1,350 plus Vat a year, a total of £20,445 over 10 years. The FA claims the cost will work out at £140 per event.
The seat holders will have a guaranteed allocation for every football game, including England matches and FA Cup finals played at Wembley to 2017. The season ticket will also give them first choice to attend other events, such as rock concerts.
A sell-out of all the VIP seats and boxes would raise £600m and help cover the building costs of the stadium, due to be paid off by 2018 at the earliest. A source said: “It is the most successful sports marketing exercise carried out in the UK. This is the new age of football. People will go to Wembley to be wined and dined and enjoy the football.
“Those buying into Club Wembley range from an average plumber who has got some spare cash to people on The Sunday Times Rich List.”
Some supporters fear the new Wembley may be too keen to cater for rich patrons. Steve Darke of the Football Supporters’ Federation, said: “We just hope they are not going to price ordinary people out.”
Fans have been promised that England tickets in the 73,000 ordinary seats will be on a par with Premiership grounds in London. Chelsea fans paid £60 a game last season.
Article published by kind permission of The Sunday Times