I remember going to an England vs Hungary friendly in Wembley in September 1990. As a child I watched FA Cup Finals with huge excitement and dreamed, like most other kids, of walking out in front of the 100,000 capacity crowd.
Wembley truly was a stadium of dreams. But when I took my seat that evening behind one of the goal I remember thinking to myself: “What a bloody awful place to watch a soccer match”.
Wembley was originally built for the Olympic Games. Although athletics had long since departed, there remained a dog track around the field. When John Barnes scored the winning goal against Hungary that night, he must have been 150 meters away from me. The pitch looked like the size of a tennis court.
The simple fact is that multi-purpose stadiums are terrible for watching soccer. When the new Wembley was being designed the idea of a running track was soon jettisoned. And a good thing too.
In Dublin we have two stadium controversies which can be linked to the size of pitch needed for soccer and gaelic matches.
Some GAA clubs have raised hell about the fact that the new Tallaght Stadium is being reserved for soccer. They are wrong about this and they should drop the thing before it causes more ill-feeling than it already has.
Any attempt to build the Tallaght stadium for GAA matches would ruin it for soccer. An inter-county GAA pitch needs to be 140 meters long. The minimum is actually 130 meters but no inter-county match could realistically be played on a pitch that short. For safety then, the surface length of a gaelic pitch would have to be 150 meters long.
Meanwhile, a soccer pitch needs 120 meters to comfortably fit it in. That means an extra 15 meters at each end, which would seriously erode the viewing experience. Bearing in mind that most matches at the stadium will have crowds of less than 5,000 spectators means that the atmosphere would be destroyed by increasing the size of the ground.
When you add in the probability that there will be two soccer clubs at the ground, the scope for more fixtures is limited.
Keep the Tallaght stadium for soccer. The GAA’s need for a small stadium on the southside is a different issue.
GAA fans have good grounds (hee, hee) to feel peeved. All along they were promised that the new Lansdowne Road would include gaelic games.
Now this is not going to happen because the playing area is too small at 120 meters long.
That’s fair enough given the alignment of the pitch and size constraints in the present design. But the question must be asked: why is the stadium being built in this direction when there is plenty of room to turn it round by 90 degrees?
Cramming it in where it is has forced the roof up to 48m high compared with Croke Park’s 35m.
Dublin City Council and the local residents are asking the same question. We could be back to the drawing board yet.