The process of ‘Arsenalisation’ - turning the Club's home into a very visible stronghold of all things Arsenal through a variety of artistic and creative means - is well and truly underway.
To find out more about the process, we spoke to Arsenal's Chief Executive, Ivan Gazidis.
Read his Q&A below and click on the PLAY button above to watch a special feature on 'Arsenalisation'. A second FREE clip will be available later this week.
Ivan, what can you tell us about Arsenalisation?
This whole process is about making the stadium into a home for our fans. When I arrived at Arsenal, it was quite obvious we had a beautiful stadium, but we had to put the soul into it. So we've engaged in a long process of consultation with the fans to work out how we can make Emirates Stadium more of a home. This is an ongoing process and we’re only at the beginning, but is something we're committed to going forward into the future, in order to make our stadium a constantly evolving home for our fans.
The ideas come primarily from the fans. It's a case of sitting down, listening, looking at the Club's history and finding ways to celebrate that history. The best ideas we've had have almost universally come from the fans.
Our players, supporters and staff are immensely proud of Emirates Stadium, and by taking steps to illustrate and celebrate our rich history, we cement its place as not only the best stadium in the country but, more importantly, our home.
So you get the idea from the fans, and what’s the process after that?
We’ve got some great people that have been working on the project. Design teams that look at what we’re trying to do in concept and then make it into a reality and that process takes some time. Then it’s a question of going back to the fans with the concept drawings and consulting with them again and refining those ideas and ultimately putting them into implementation.
Most of the work gets done in the close season and then when fans come back for the new season, there are some pleasant surprises around the place!
The execution for all the ideas is obviously vital because you are decorating your own ‘house’!
You’ve got a fairly small window in most cases in which to do it. We literally start work on these programmes straight after the final match of the season and work continues throughout the summer. We usually unveil the developments in time for the first match of the season and a couple of the projects actually take a couple of weeks into the season until they’re fully unveiled.
Let's talk about the changes that have already happened before this season. ‘Heroes Together’ is the artwork with the Arsenal players on the outside of Emirates Stadium - what was the process there?
When you walked up to the stadium, it was quite obvious that there was a space [on the outside walls of the stadium] that we could really use to evoke an emotion among our fans.
We looked at various different designs that we could go with and I think in the end this image of our great players embracing the stadium in a giant team huddle is one that resonated very powerfully. It has really worked well and you see we now use that image in a number of ways, not just at the stadium. I think it’s very popular with the fans as well, you always see fans outside the stadium taking photos near to these images.
And we have the ‘Spirit of Highbury’ on the outside of the stadium as well. Tell us about that.
The ‘Highbury Shrine’ is one of my favourite parts of our redevelopment works. It’s an incredible picture. It’s a team photo of every single player that ever played at Highbury. It’s a tribute to the memory of Highbury and it’s really wonderfully done. If any of the fans haven’t seen it, I’d really suggest they seek it out and go and have a look. It’s outside the stadium at the south end, just above The Armoury Store.
And there’s also Armoury Square. That’s where the fans can get involved.
We wanted the fans to have their space, where they can have their own personal messages and be a permanent part of the stadium. The interest for Armoury Square has been incredible. As a consequence, we’ve had to expand the project further than we initially envisaged.
Also, the fans seem to be particularly pleased with the return of the Clock to inside the stadium.
This was something we had been hearing from the fans, that they missed having the clock inside the stadium and they missed the names of the stands. So as well as bringing the clock back into the stadium, we have also re-named the stands, and called them the North Bank, Clock End, East Stand and West Stand. It’s been so well received by everybody and it’s great to have that continuity.
And this is all part of a general push to improve the atmosphere at Emirates Stadium?
Yes, this is all tied into trying to work out ways where we can have our fans feel like this is their home - somewhere they’re comfortable and engaged. We’ve got a lot of different things on that front, not just with the stadium, but also interacting with our fan groups.
Having banners in the stadium and traditional elements that they want, so we can promote a great atmosphere in the stadium. Football’s a very unique sport where the fans aren’t just spectators they are actually a part of the game and part of our representation of Arsenal. So we want to try and create an environment in which our fans can be a very vibrant part of it.
At Highbury, those in the stands used to sing to each other. Can that happen again now?
It has to happen organically and that has to happen from the fans. I think it would be wonderful if it did and I also think fans come up with new traditions sometimes as well, so we will see how that evolves.
And Club Level has also been ‘Arsenalised’.
We have included Club Level in the Arsenalisation process in response to feedback from supporters and also the changing nature of the hospitality market. Whilst what happens in the 90 minutes on the pitch is undoubtedly the focal point, the experience of going to watch live football is essentially a day out and we want to create an environment at Emirates Stadium which enhances the overall matchday experience.
We’ve embarked on a four year programme to really push Club Level up to a standard that is unprecedented in professional sports. The initial step has been to redevelopment of a quarter of Club Level, which has seen the creation of two new members Clubs, the WM Club and The Foundry.
We have also introduced improved facilities that all Club Level ticket holders can enjoy in the Woolwich and the Legends Bar. Throughout all the spaces we have celebrated the Club’s history and traditions, so that people feel they really are at the home of Arsenal.
The redevelopment offers incredible environments for people that want to have a high-end experience or simply want to enjoy a drink before the game and there’s been a fantastic response to it.
In the future, I think we will see that expand around Club Level. Again, even though we’re in this wonderful stadium, we are always looking forward to ways in which we can improve and position ourselves where we want to be five to 10 years from now, as well as this year.
The two icons used in Woolwich and WM Club are Arsène Wenger and Herbert Chapman. Are they now on a par in the Club's history in your opinion?
I can’t make that judgment! They are clearly two giants of this Club and it’s a great idea to have their achievements side-by-side in the Woolwich and WM Club.
What’s your favourite part of Arsenalisation?
I love the ‘Spirit of Highbury’, it’s the most fantastic piece of artwork. To see all of those players attributed to the Club's history and all the names of the managers there is a fantastic piece of work and I really hope people see it and enjoy it.
Finally, how much more is there to do?
There is a lot more to do. This is just the beginning of the programme. I want every year the fans to come back and see more elements for them to be surprised by. So that everywhere you walk and everywhere you look you see pieces of our culture and history. I think the next big opportunity we have is to continue to improve the General Admission area in the lower tier and the upper tier, but also the podium outside the stadium. We have to ask ourselves how can we make these spaces really come alive? We really want to feel the different elements from our history within our stadium.