UEFA’s Elite Football Stadia – Part 1.By: The Offside | April 11th, 2009
After a severe bout of curiosity resulting in far too much time perusing the internets, we finally came upon a conclusive list of Europe’s Elite football stadiums – UEFA’s codeword for the ability to hold a Champions League final. We contacted Bill of Bill’s Sports Maps to have him make one of his infamous maps for UEFA’s Elites and it’s, as Michel Platini would say, fantastique.
Back in the day – and by ‘day’ we mean pre-2006 – winning 5 star credentials was simple. It was nearly all about capacity, and the stadium only needed to hold 50,000 – along with minor accommodations – for a host be considered among the elite. But soon after Platini entered the fray, both the regulations and name of those stadiums changed, transitioning from 5 Star to Elite and adding a slew of rules which numb the mind. Such as…did you know the illumination of the stadiums floodlights must shine at more than 1400 lux onto the pitch? Exactly.
So certain stadiums that you might expect to be on the list – such as the Emirates – haven’t made the cut just yet. They might, and would certainly appear to hold eligibility, but who’s to say that Arsenal’s home provides 2000 meters squared for the OB van area – whatever the hell that is. Or that it provides one urinal per 125 spectators? And supposing someone knows that – who’s going to admit it?
* – And it appears the Emirates is not an ‘Elite’ stadium via UEFA’s code, which may come as a surprise. They applied for a European final, alright, but it was the Europa League final – not the Champions League – which has lessened requirements.
On the flip-side, some stadiums make the cut which you may not expect. Hampden Park? Elite. De Kuip? Elite. Of course that doesn’t mean they’ll be given a Champions League final – it just means they’re eligible. Platini has made it clear he only wants his finals in the biggest of big, and no final in recent times has been given to a stadium which seats less than 60,000. (Platini is shooting for 70,000+ in the future.)
And since the initial list, a few stadiums have been added – most due to finished construction and testing post-construction, which is no small task. Both Allianz Arena – Bayern’s relatively new home – and the Bernabeu were recently gifted Elite status when they applied for their upcoming Champions League finals.
Further more, just last week Shakhtar Donetsk announced Donbass Arena, their modern stadium to be opened in the summer, will be the first stadium built under the new Elite guidelines put forward by UEFA. So mentally add that one to the list – provided UEFA agree it’s up to snuff, of course.
Feel free to peruse the PDF for regulations which only stadium officials will know the details of and enjoy the confusion for yourselves – particularly if you enjoy looking at meaningless data.
Part 1 of 4 to quench our, and perhaps your, curiosity.
Amsterdam ArenA is known for two things: very colorful seating and the annoyance of doubling up on the capitals in ‘arena’. A tribute to the double-a of home team Ajax? Who knows.
The Camp Nou is well known for its history, but the future seems the most appealing. Famed architect Norman Foster was selected to remodel the existing structure to seat 106,000, turning a mere football stadium into a glowing landmark.
Estadi Olímpic Lluís Companys
Don’t blink, or else you’ll miss Espanyol’s home since 1927. There are quite literally weeks before the stadium closes, despite its status, and Barcelona’s other team moves to the new and more appropriately designed (at least for Espanyol’s requirements) 40,000 seat Estadi RCDE, which is still under construction.
Still going strong after all these years, Olympic Stadium is certainly one of the biggest in all of world football. Commissioned by a certain dictator for the 1936, it was reconstructed recently in time to host the 2006 World Cup final and might just have a Champions League final left in her rebuilt legs.
And it’s probably the only stadium on this list which housed an undetonated WWII bomb until 2002.
Though eligible, Millennium isn’t really a club football stadium. It’s mainly used for the Welsh national team, London 2012 football matches, rugby and various other events which don’t relate to the Champions League. Again: they’re eligible, but with the new Wembley hanging about, don’t expect a big CL fixture any time soon.
Veltins, brand spankin’ new in 2001, already has a World Cup and a Champions League final under its belt, which is a job well done for a stadium in a city of only a quarter-million. And another job well done for having one of the few movable pitches in the world – yes, that’s the pitch outside the stadium.