Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Chelsea Football Tour Part 2

So there we were, a 12 year old Spurs fan posing as a Chelsea fan complete with team shirt and a thirty-something West Ham fan boldly admitting her allegiance to a rival team. Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea FC - one of the richest football clubs in the world – genuinely welcomes football fans of all persuasions. Our guide even went as far as thanking me (an unofficial West Ham rep for the day!!) for providing Chelsea with so many good players over the years… Joe Cole and Frank Lampard are just two of the current Chelsea squad who came from West Ham.

Elvis, our guide, made a point of finding out where everyone was from in the world and who we all supported. His football knowledge extended way beyond the realms of Chelsea FC though his passion for the club was unmistakeable. Having had the introductory tours from the stands where we could admire the grandeur of the stadium, we moved onto the press room (pictured above right with Elvis at the desk). Elvis kept the jokes running whilst continuing to give us stories and snippets of information about the club and the various areas we visited.

One thing that really impressed me was the number of photo opportunities given to visitors. In fact, there were no photo restrictions at all which was brilliant. Consequently, I do have photos of every conceivable view in the stadium which was maybe a little extreme! The visitor changing room (above left) was basic to say the least and reminiscent of a school changing room. Apparently it used to be much smaller and they purposely only provided 10 pegs and lockers for an 11-man team! There are just two treatment tables compared to 5 in the home changing room and the white board (used for pre and mid-match team talks) is stuck in the corner behind the door! Not surprisingly, Chelsea does nothing to assist their rivals with the exception of Molton Brown products in the showers so that their opponents smell nice!

We were in for a real treat when we arrived at the home changing room as the genuine kit had been laid out in preparation for the public training spectacle the following day. Usually, visitors will see player’s shirts in the dressing room and be able to have their photo taken next to it but, whilst we couldn’t stand right next to the kit for security reasons, we could see their shirts, shorts, tracksuits, boots, trainers and shin guards- everything they would need for a training session or game. My nephew and I were so excited by this that we took photos of every single player’s kit! We were amused to see that most of the players don't bother to undo the shoe laces of their trainers before taking them off! The facilities for the home players were much more luxurious with spacious showers, ice baths, drink machines and a physio area.

Elvis had chosen a home and visitor captain to lead us through the famous tunnel (left) to the ground and my nephew continued his web of deceit by leading the Chelsea “team” onto the pitch! By this stage he wasn’t even embarrassed by his deception and I wondered if he was about to swear his allegiance to Chelsea! To be honest, the tour does have this kind of effect on people and I wouldn’t have been entirely surprised if Spurs had been forgotten!

We had heard a rumour that Jose Mourinho (ex-Chelsea manager) had had a heated seat installed for himself at Stamford Bridge but could not see any sign of a special chair in the manager and players area. When I asked, we were told that it was Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, who had had some extras installed in his personal box on the opposite side of the pitch, including heated seats and even carpeted stairs! We were also told though that “Mr” Abramovich is an incredibly generous man and paid for all of his staff (including the tour guides) to travel to Russia last season for the Champions League final. Very generous indeed!

The attention to detail at Chelsea is quite unexpected. Around and behind the manager and players seats are the “family seats” intended for younger fans (pictured right, my nephew sitting in the manager's unheated seat). At a cost of only £15 per seat compared to the average £50 seats, there is the added advantage for kids to get close to players in the squad who may be out injured or suspended and seeing the team arrive and leave through the tunnel. If the kids get bored during half-time then there are a number of X-Boxes provided at the back for further entertainment! They think of everything!

All in all, the Chelsea FC Stadium Tour is a wonderful experience. Regardless of who you support or even if you don’t follow football, it is a real eye-opener to visit such a high profile premiership football stadium and find out what goes on behind the scenes as well as on the pitch. I would thoroughly recommend this tour for families, sport-lovers and anyone who fancies doing something a little bit different in London. The London Pass includes this tour in its attraction list and, as well as free entry, you also receive 10% discount on merchandise in the megastore.

The Chelsea FC Stadium Tour is a well-deserved recipient of a Ding Dong Award for the excellent tour guides, access to most areas, numerous photo opportunities and general entertainment value!

Chelsea FC Stadium Tour is available every day except match days on the hour from 11am to 3pm.
Tip: Phone beforehand to check availability
Adult Entry: £15
Child Entry: £9

London Pass holders are offered free entry to the tour and museum and 10% discount on merchandise at the onsite megastore.

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