The redevelopment of New Wembley was a painful process, costing far more and taking far longer than anyone had anticipated.
CPS’ commercial manager Tom Roe is hopeful that the same problems won’t beset the building of an all-new licensing programme designed to exploit the undeniable global prestige of this North London venue.
The foundations are already in place and looking good. Wembley signed with CPS in the first quarter of the calendar year, since when the firm has been conducting research as it builds towards a major licensee day, at Wembley itself, on June 16th.
There is certainly much to work with. Us Brits have a tendency to overstate the importance of our sporting teams, history and venues. And it’s certainly true that stadia such as Barcelona’s Camp Nou and the Estadio Do Maracana in Brazil have iconic status. But, there’s still nowhere quite like Wembley.
Roe reflects: “Firstly, it’s the home of English football. As Pele says, ‘Wembley is the church of football, it is the capital of football and it is the heart of football’. Wembley also has a unique history. It is a stadium for all fans, not the fans of one particular football club or one particular sport.
“For football fans, Wembley is the ultimate goal and getting to Wembley is synonymous with having had a successful season.”
Everyone knows, though, that football is tribal. Loyalties lie with clubs rather than venues. And for most clubs and supporters, surely Wembley is just an area of North London they’ll never visit? Roe disagrees: “Getting to Wembley will always be a dream for every professional football club and its fans – just look at Barnsley and Cardiff who played there in the FA Cup this year.
“Wembley also hosts the FA Vase and FA Trophy finals, the Johnstone’s Paint Trophy and the Championship, League One and League Two Play-Offs, so it’s not true to say it's just a stadium for the big clubs.”
It’s also not just a stadium for football. Or even just for sport. Since its relaunch it has hosted American football matches, rugby union, rugby league and even motor racing – and it’s a blue chip venue for the biggest pop concerts in the UK. George Michael, Muse and the Foo Fighters have already played there over the past few months.
Roe continues: “Wembley Stadium has become a national landmark and a global icon. It is more than just a football brand. It represents a destination experience. We see it as part of the London landscape alongside Big Ben and Canary Wharf. It’s about English history; think Horse Guards Parade rather than Old Trafford."
The licensing programme itself, on the other hand, is shiny and new. No products have been launched as yet. Roe sees the roll-out starting later his year with “a staple souvenir programme or similar – key rings, badges and posters”.
Prominent on all products will be the arch, the architectural centrepiece of the stadium. It’s already become as effective a visual shorthand as the twin towers were in Wembley’s first incarnation.
That, as much as anything, is evidence that the wait was worth it and that Wembley is a truly world class stadium. What it needs now is a licensing programme to match.
For more information on the Licensee Event on June 16th, please contact Gemma Drummond.