Arsenal fans, fans of rival clubs and even non-football fans all enjoyed a special tour of the Emirates stadium in north London, home to one of the country’s most famous premiership teams.
ThinkForward young people from three schools in London – Highbury Grove, George Green’s and City of London Academy, Islington – were joined by five students who travelled from Kent to take part. Young people from Strood Academy, Folkestone Academy and the Marsh Academy in New Romney all made a special trip to London for the visit.
Jack Ferguson, who works on the community programme at the club, hosted the hour-long tour which began in the directors box. With it’s plush dining room serving a three-course meal before games, and the best view in the stadium, students saw how the people who run the club enjoy match days in comfort.
There was also the chance to sit in Arsene Wenger’s seat in the dug out and imagine what it must be like to hear the roars and chants of more than 60,000 fans.
A highlight was getting an insight into the away and home team dressing rooms. The home team’s pre and post-match prep space was certainly superior with its physio tables, a large hot sunken bath and padded seats.
Jack told us how Arsene Wenger had an interest in feng shui after spending time in Japan, and was involved in designing the changing room so it was horseshoe shaped – a sign of good luck – rather than square like the away team changing room – a sigh of bad luck.
There was also a visit to the media room, with seating for 150 journalists, where the manager hosts post-match press conferences. Impressively Wenger speaks six languages.
Students were fascinated to hear just how many people work for Arsenal to keep things running smoothly. With 4000 match day staff and 500 non-match day staff the club is a major employer in the area.
Liam Kennedy, a Year 9 pupil from George Green’s School said: “I was surprised to find out how many people work at the club and also how may questions Arsene Wenger has to answer from journalists at the end of games.”
For Arsenal fans and Highbury Grove students Hisham Bernasko and Zinedine Ferroukhi the behind the scenes visit was inspirational. One wants to play for the club and the other wants to run it.
Zinedine has dreams of being a professional footballer and playing for his team, while Hisham said: “I really enjoyed the visit. I want to work in the marketing team and I want be the boss here one day!”
Mickey Ambrose who organised the visit and who works at ThinkForward as the employment and education coordinator in London commented: “The trip to the Emirates was definitely fun and interesting but it also had a serious side, showing young people how a big football club employs a really wide range of people. It could be somewhere for them to work in the future, whether they are interested in hospitality, media or being a electrician or plumber. It was a real eye-opener for the students to realise that.”