The Stade de France has a capacity of 81,338 and is the home of the French national football and rugby teams. I visited the stadium to see Italy play against Spain in UEFA Euro 2016. The match yielded an attendance of 76,165, a very impressive figure. However, one might have expected the match to be a sell-out due to it being a knockout game in a major tournament between two very good teams. There were probably more Spanish fans, both in the stadium and in Paris before and after the match, but the Italian fans seemed to make more of an atmosphere. This is unsurprising seeing as they were leading for the vast majority of the match, but one may have expected the Spanish fans to try and get behind their side more than they did to try and turn the game around. As is common with European football fans, there was more whistling than actual singing or chanting, especially when the opposition had the ball, but the fans still made a lot of noise.
I thought getting to the ground was brilliantly organised, as there were two train stops that people could use to access the stadium; LA Plaine Stade de France, and Stade de France – Saint Denis. This was great, particularly for foreign fans as both stations had Stade de France in their name so it couldn’t have been easier to see where to get off the train. The walk between the station and the ground was also very straightforward, with fans just having to walk in a straight line to get to the ground. People had to go through security checks, which slowed things down somewhat, but they were as efficient as possible while still being able to check everybody. The refreshments in the ground were very expensive, as would be expected, but the stewards and ground staff were very helpful, with most of them being able to speak some English, Spanish or Italian. The stadium announcements were also made in all three languages as well so everybody was able to understand what was being said.
The view itself was also brilliant, with everybody being able to see the entire pitch. The crowd was quite far back from the pitch, but that did not prove to be a problem as everybody was so high up that the area around the pitch did not have an impact on the view. I cannot find any faults within the ground, except perhaps that there was not much leg room, but that is a trivial detail. Another thing that was particularly good about the game, although it may be just because it was a major tournament, is that there were ball boys on duty at regular intervals around the pitch, meaning that almost no time was wasted by players having to collect the ball. Another aspect of the match which was probably due to the fact that it was an international tournament was that there was an opening ceremony to the match. Unlike most opening ceremonies for events, I thought the one for this match was very good, and served to really get people ready for what they were about to see.
Another thing I thought was very positive about the stadium was that, even when things went wrong at the end of the match, it was dealt with as well as possible. After full time, the trains stopped working, leading to there being a huge backlog of fans of various nationalities trying to find out why they were not able to go home. The police blocked off the entrance to the station and, although the policeman who was in charge did not speak any language other than French, he was happy to let the crowd know what was going on and letting French-speaking supporters translate to everybody else. Once the trains were running again, the police quickly started allowing people into the station and, where a British policeman might have been letting as few people through as possible to ensure everybody was entirely safe, the French police were letting as many through as was safely possible to try and clear the crowd as soon as possible. This was very good as it minimised the disruption to supporters, especially as many English people like myself wanted to rush back to catch England’s game against Iceland. With hindsight, I think most of us would have preferred to have spent the rest of the night stuck at the train station, but the police weren’t to know that!
The Stade de France is one of my favourite stadiums I have been to, and I would be very much open to returning there. I thought everything was very well organised and that the stewards coped very well trying to cope with the numbers of foreign fans. The stadium itself was very good, with everything being clearly marked and stewards available to point people in the right direction. I was particularly impressed with how well the police and ground staff coped when the trains stopped working, as there could have been major problems and trouble could have broken out if it had been dealt with less well. I definitely want to go back to the Stade de France in the near future, as I felt that I was able to enjoy the game to maximum and was very happy with the experience.