England’s iconic venue Wembley was spared demolition by a Scot

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LEGACY is a word we have heard a lot about since last year’s Olympics, both in terms of boosting participation in sport and finding a tenant for the Games’ main venue.

It may seem hard to believe now, but nine decades ago a similar debate was held over a stadium that went by the name of the British Empire Exhibition Stadium.

Located in the London suburb of Wembley, the stadium had been built as part of an Exhibition to showcase the fruits of colonialism.

The venue had been built at a cost of £750,000 – or around £40m in today’s money – but the Government always planned to bring in the demolition gangs once the Exhibition ended in 1925.

Thankfully, one influential member of the committee behind the staging of the Exhibition thought otherwise and lobbied for Wembley to be saved. Sir James Stevenson, a Scot no less, was the man in question and, eventually, his campaigning paid off and football soon had a new home.

The 1923 FA Cup final was the first match to be staged at the stadium, with fans of West Ham United and Bolton being so desperate to see their sides that a crowd later estimated at 200,000 flocked to north west London.

Only the intervention of a policeman on horseback allowed the pitch to be cleared and the final to go ahead.

Almost a year later, England played at Wembley for the first time in a 1-1 draw with Scotland.

The 1966 World Cup final remains the most memorable moment in the stadium’s history, but there has been no shortage of iconic events staged in north west London down the years.

European Cup finals – including ‘home’ wins for Manchester United and Liverpool – have led the way along with domestic Cup finals, England internationals and even the British leg of Live Aid in 1985.

By the turn of the century, however, it had become clear that the old stadium was being left behind.

Drastic action was required and it came with an ambitious re-building project.

It took seven years as opposed to the planned three and was completed way over budget, but no one now can surely argue against the new Wembley being a venue truly befitting a nation who gave football to the rest of the world. A fitting legacy, indeed.