Perhaps the Euro 96 effect did more for English football than first thought.
Tonight sees another international friendly at England's national football stadium at Wembley, with the hosts facing Sweden. Both teams have qualified for Euro 2012, and will be using the match to blood new players, and try new ideas prior to the competition. But if reports are to be believed, it is unlikely the attendance will be north of 50,000. Is this a symptom of financial hardship in general, perhaps the public voting with their feet? Or is the magic of going to a game at Wembley gone? Since Wembley re-opened in 2007, it has played host to all manners of events - the Race of Champions, a version of Super Mario Kart for racing drivers; a now annual NFL game which is rumoured to be leading towards a London-based franchise; and even more concerts than before. Of course these events aren't anything new, but they're as vital as ever, as the stadium cost over £750m to build.
Knievel was often accused of 'parking the bus'
While playing at Wembley must still be the pinnacle of any professional's career, a quick scan through Twitter during the Sweden game will no doubt give rise to calls for more games to be played away from London. While Wembley was being built, England played all over the country, in Derby, Sunderland and Middlesbrough to name a few. Do the FA really need the money for Wembley so badly they need to play FA Cup semi-finals at the stadium as well? The poor attendances for friendly games are nothing new - in 1995, England hosted Columbia in front of a crowd of 20,038, although the game was more famous of course for Rene Higuita's 'scorpion kick'. Perhaps the Euro 96 effect did more for English football than first thought.
Scotland fans start demolition of the old Wembley
Wembley (or the Empire stadium for the pedants) was always going to be the national stadium. It's history, the name, the iconic towers/arch are famous the world over. But maybe the money men should stop and think - would the players who get one cap prefer their sole international appearance to be on the hallowed turf of their normal club ground? Would a Brazilian star dream of playing in the North-East? Or they could share the same turf as some of the world's cultural behemoths - Mandela, Mercury, Jagger, or some wrestlers instead...
Summerslam '92 - quality acting at Wembley
PS For the record, I think every England home international should be at Wembley, but perhaps moving some club games (semi-finals, play-off games, Community Shield) would retain the mystery, give some other fans a chance, and save us from paying the extortionate prices for a pie...