Both stadiums were built within the first decade of this century and both are in North London so they provide suitable examples for a comparison. Wembley has a capacity of 90,000 whereas The Emirates is limited to just 60,432. Wembley Stadium was built between 2002 and 2007 whereas The Emirates was built between 2004 and 2006, so straightaway there is a difference in the two projects, 5 years versus 2 - one nil to the Arsenal!
Whilst Wembley has a capacity 50% greater than that of the Emirates it cost £757 Million to build compared to £390 Million for The Emirates. So a price tag of nearly double for a capacity only 50% greater - two nil to the Arsenal!
Both projects faced challenges in terms of accessibility for construction and working around the existing built environment, if anything Wembley had it easier on this score as the site already existed and merely required demolition of the old, iconic, but sadly no longer suitable stadium.
So why the huge difference between the two projects in terms of time and budget?The Wembley Stadium project was handicapped by politics and numerous stakeholders all with an opinion and quite a few with the opportunity to exert influence whereas The Emirates stadium had a limited number of stakeholders and the benefit of a clear vision from the outset.
The Wembley Stadium project had plenty of chiefs, drawn from the ranks of the great and the good, in part because a new national stadium was supposedly deserving of such an illustrious leadership team. Arsenal on the other hand had a lean and mean team dedicated to the project. As any PRINCE2 advocate will tell you having a large number of people on a project board is a recipe for problems as achieving consensus can be nigh on impossible. Whilst I am not advocating the approach of Gianni Agnelli I would suggest that big is not always better.
The leadership team for The Emirates were primarily drawn from within the club so there was both a common aim and perhaps more importantly common commercial acumen.
Both projects took a long time to get from the drawing board to breaking ground. In the case of the The Emirates this involved delicate negotiations with numerous occupants of premises occupying the proposed site, overcoming objections from the local community and some compulsory purchase orders. Wembley on the other hand had the backing of the local community and the benefit of being a replacement for what had been there before.
Wembley Stadium was also best by changing requirements, initially it was intended to be a venue for football and athletics - much as a camel can be regarded as a horse designed by committee, mixing football and athletics in the one venue is never going to result in a satisfactory outcome. Just witness complaints from fans of West Ham now that they have moved to what was the Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
The Emirates stadium on the other hand was clearly defined from the outset and once a design and plan had been agreed there were few if any changes made, certainly none that would impact significantly on time, budget or quality.
The grand arch that signifies Wembley Stadium was a "design statement" - not only did it add disproportionate cost to the project but a dispute between the main contractors on the project and the specialist contractors for the arch added a year to the project due to changes made by the main contractor design team and ultimately led to the specialist contractors quitting the project.
One more factor of influence was that The Emirates Stadium project was paid for by Arsenal football club whereas Wembley Stadium was financed by public funds of one sort or another so the people making decisions that impacted on costs were not the ones bearing the cost itself.
Once both projects were up and operational a further difference manifested itself. The quality of the playing surface.
The pitch at Wembley has been relaid 10 times between 2007 and 2010 when it was finally replaced with a semi-artificial pitch. When designing The Emirates stadium the ground staff were consulted on what is needed to help grass grow. As a result the undulating roof of The Emirates and the open "curtain" between the facade and the roof allow for ventilation and natural light and an excellent playing surface as a result. Not exactly a small detail but perhaps the best signifier of the difference between the two projects - get the input of the right people when required.
So there you have it, a slightly biased but reasonably honest comparison of two projects with very similar objectives but significantly different outcomes. The final score is not in doubt - a resounding win for The Arsenal!
If you would like a more in-depth insight into The Emirates project check out the YouTube video on the project which is well worth a watch.