Kyle Goldsmith evaluates England’s use of Wembley after the FA announced plans to take the national team on tour in the future…
With dwindling attendances and the rising interest of a London-based NFL franchise, it is no surprise that recently lots has been said about how the England football team could become nomadic like they were between the years 2001 and 2007, when Wembley was being rebuilt. The question persists; where else will England play apart from Wembley?
In these years where the new Wembley was being built, the English national team played up and down the country, at stadiums that some countries can only dream of having. This gave fans from places such as Ipswich and Derby the chance to see their favourite players, of whom they possibly would not usually get to see. England eventually played 34 games in 14 different stadiums, until eventually returning home in to Wembley in 2007. Most fans seemed to enjoy the 6 years, despite the mass excitement to return to Wembley. Has this feeling now passed?
The new nomadic era would have to start in around 2018, as that is when the London-based NFL franchise would be likely to come in. The new franchise would be extremely lucrative not only for the owners of Wembley, but also for the FA. The ‘International Series’ has churned out at least £3 million pounds for the owners of Wembley every single one of the 9 games that has been played. That is surely too much money to just ignore.
One of the reasons for the now common empty seats at Wembley is perhaps the team. The constant disappointment has surely taken a toll, with last weeks easy 5-0 rout of San Marino being the lowest ever attendance at the new Wembley for an England game, the figure at a measly 55,990. This years World Cup early exit left the general public with a sickeningly familiar feeling of dissatisfaction. The non-existent fan-friendly kick off times don’t exactly help either. As well as this, who can honestly get excited about facing Lithuania at home on a cold Wednesday night? Also, parents might not see the point of taking kids to games if it is much easier to just watch the game at home on the TV. Maybe if one English player was to have a breakout year or even if England were to go away to one of the big nations and snatch a win, the optimism would slowly creep back in.
If England were to travel up and down the country, it would surely be around the big grounds, which we have plenty of. Money is perhaps more important than popularity nowadays. Most fans are hopeful that if this does happen, not only the major grounds will be used. The most important thing though is surely to get the fans back on side. Instead of the team being laughed at by many, it could be turned into something the country is proud of, back to the days of Italia 90. A Gascoigne-type star would be a huge help, with the likes of Barkley and Wilshere needing to step up to the plate. It is however clear that this project is a long-term thing. Until then though, attendances will continue to dwindle even at other grounds. A change is truly needed to get the kids enthused and the older fans to believe again and support the new team and go to watch the games. Where the new bunch of Three Lions will play though is not at all clear. It is surely a question that will be answered relatively soon.