Back in 2000, ex-Man Utd and Republic of Ireland “hard man” Roy Keane famously came out with his “prawn sandwich” quote as a way of describing a quiet Old Trafford crowd that had just seen their team eek out a 1-0 win over a poor Dynamo Kiev side…
"There were one or two stray passes and they [the crowd] were getting on players' backs. It's out of order. I don't think some of them can even spell football, let alone understand it. Away from home our fans are fantastic. But at home they have a few drinks and probably the prawn sandwiches, and they don't realise what's going on out on the pitch."
The remark was aimed directly at the new breed of “corporate Man Utd fans” – how they weren’t really “fans” because they were more concerned with the wining and dining side aspect of their day out than they were with what was happening on the pitch.
But Man Utd do not hold the monopoly on corporate hospitality.
Even “little Everton” appreciate that some matchday attendees are looking for a bit more than a cold sausage roll, a questionable hot dog and a warm beer poured from a can into a plastic glass – and therefore have numerous matchday hospitality packages on offer, many of which over the years I have been lucky enough to experience.
I’ve sat in every stand/section of Goodison Park during my 47 year “involvement” with the club and I have to say being in amongst it, with the other fans, sharing the highs (yes, there have been some!) and the lows is a great experience. However, every now and then being able to enjoy a nice relaxing lounge before and after the game whilst having a delicious meal and a few drinks (out of an actual glass!) and then sitting in the some of the best seats in the stadium does make for a very enjoyable day.
I’ve enjoyed similar experiences at Man City and Man Utd, as well as at Wembley. Here’s a little review about my most recent adventure at the latter…
Nowadays, any big sporting occasion carries a security concern. We were here to watch England play Montenegro so as it was the national team and they were expecting 70,000 fans (they actually got more than 77,000), there was a high security presence as we approached our entrance to the stadium. I think by the time we reached the box we were in, we’d had our tickets checked at maybe 4 or 5 different stages of the journey. Those doing the checking were for the most part pleasant enough but you could see that their remit was much more of a functional/operational one (in a similar way to the security at Ladies Day). Yes, they mostly lacked that “Welcome, lovely to have you as a customer” vibe but I didn’t really mind that as I felt safe in the knowledge that no-one who shouldn’t be here, wouldn’t be here.
The box itself is very much like a lot of these around the country – not the biggest room but enough space for an 8 seater dining table, 2 seater couch, fridge and storage cupboard for coats, bags, etc. There were 8 of us in there and it didn’t in any way feel cramped. Our hostess was waiting for us outside when we arrived and was very pleasant, chatty and efficient – as were the numerous other “matchday officials” we had, all checking we were okay and being well looked after. It did at times feel a little bit like the more senior officials were checking up on our hostess to make sure she was delivering the “Club Wembley hospitality” … in my opinion, she was.
At the far end of the box is a set of patio doors, on the other side of which were our 8 seats. What I really like about these boxes is the fact that despite sitting on a balcony, you are still part of the crowd as there are regular seats immediately in front of you – a real bonus to accompany those “fantastic views”.
Food & Beverage
We were treated to a delicious 3 course meal which was of a high standard. One of our party had an issue with gluten and was catered for without any problems. There was a bit of a lag between starters and mains which meant by the time the dessert arrived, the match had started. It was a cold dessert so kept quite well till half-time when it was accompanied by some delicious mini steak pies … much appreciated on a cold November evening!
England 7 Montenegro 0 – they were really poor, England were pretty good. The match itself sometimes comes secondary to the occasion when in a box (just ask Roy Keane!) but seeing a good win for your team is the cherry on top of the icing on your cake.
The whole evening was excellent and it is a great way to watch football. Boxes like this are excellent vehicles for family treats, get togethers with mates, work outings or schmoozing clients and for those who have never experienced this before, it’s fair to say many would be “stunned by Club Wembley hospitality” – the private venue, attentive hostess, delicious food and drink, etc. and the “fantastic views” are hard to argue with too.
There was another quote I found on the website : “A club like no other”.
Did Club Wembley give me anything significantly different to what I’ve experienced at other football venues … not really. Box rooms are pretty standard, many grounds have the patio door/balcony seats set-up (Man City being one) and in hospitality you would always expect to get a nice meal and a few drinks. Admittedly, Club Wembley membership does also give you priority access to non-football options – other sporting events (rugby, NFL) and music concerts – which you wouldn’t always get at a regular football stadium but whether that makes it “a club like no other” …. I’m not so sure.
So, what could they have done differently?
I’ve been to similar events at other football grounds who have used a couple of little amplifiers Wembley may want to consider: