The tech behind the new Wembley

This doesn't just make for a bad pitch. It also means that watching matches is difficult as TV cameras struggle to cope with the contrast of shade and bright sunshine during games.

The stands at the new Wembley stadium are higher and closer to the pitch than ever before. To top it off, the pitch is 4 metres lower than the old one. To meet the challenge, the new design was computer modelled to minimise the impact of shade on the pitch. The result? At 3pm on Cup Final day only the two southern corner flags will be in the shade - if the sun manages to shine, of course.

In the pink

The modelling mimicked the effect of sunlight on the stadium. Though it obviously didn't predict that some of the seats would go pink as they did last week . Air flow and movement were also looked at. The roof can be moved quickly in the event of inclement weather too. A speedy 15 minutes is the closing time of the four acre moveable section.

The total roof area is 11 acres - most of which hangs from the 133 metre-high arch. The 315 metre arch supports all the weight of the southern part of the roof and two-thirds of the other half. It has been designed to glow rather than shine. Light pollution has been greatly considered in the design process of the stadium, while crowd noise will be kept within the bowl. Concert sound has also been minimised - though until George Michael sings his first line on 9 June, we won't fully know the effect.

The most striking and highly visible feature of the new stadium will be the 133 metre tall arch that sits above the north stand. The steel arch is 315 metres long and will become the longest single roof structure in the world. It will be visible right across London.

Another benefit of the computer modelling is that seat views can be looked at. Many clubs now give ticket holders the ability to see the virtual view from their seat in the ground. And Wembley is no exception.

Computer modelling was also used to look at crowd behaviour. Crowd Dynamics is a company run by University of Warwick Mathematics researcher Keith Still. Still has developed some revolutionary mathematical tools using a part of Chaos Theory called Orchid Fractal Analysis. He uses this to provide extremely accurate models of how crowds behave. His company specialises in producing crowd simulation software and virtual reality models for crowd analysis.

On the track

More technology was used to plan out how the stadium could host a world-class athletics event as well as football. Football stadia with athletics tracks are generally accepted to be less atmospheric than those where fans are closer to the pitch.

Architects HOK Sport and Foster and Partners got round this by designing a removable prefabricated platform that can be placed over the lower part of the bowl - hence the low pitch. The platform will cover some of the seats but it creates the increased space needed for a 400m track. The platform would take "a few weeks to install and remove," according to Wembley sources.

However, one area where Wembley won't take advantage of technology is in its ticketing - which promises to remain rudimentary. The FA refused to replace 1,600 FA Cup Final tickets issued to Liverpool fans for last year's final at the Millennium Stadium after they were stolen from a Post Office van.

The FA claimed there was no way to distinguish between the originals and their replacements. And the problem is set to continue at the new Wembley despite the millions spent on the project. By contrast, all World Cup and European Championship tickets now include a scanable chip.

At the time a WNSL spokesman told The Guardian : "We are working on a number of solutions but ultimately we will not be able to guarantee that the same problem won't occur in the future."


Dan (Twitter, Google+) is TechRadar's Former Deputy Editor and is now in charge at our sister site Covering all things computing, internet and mobile he's a seasoned regular at major tech shows such as CES, IFA and Mobile World Congress. Dan has also been a tech expert for many outlets including BBC Radio 4, 5Live and the World Service, The Sun and ITV News.