With its 11,300 capacity stadium on the outskirts of a town of half a million inhabitants, AFC Bournemouth may well be considered to be punching above its weight in the English Premier league along with the footballing giants of Manchester United or Chelsea. To put it into perspective, AFC Bournemouth has an annual wage bill of £29 million compared to Manchester United’s enormous 217 million. Put another way, AFC Bournemouth spends as much money on its entire squad as Manchester United spends on one player (Cristiano Ronaldo).
Nevertheless, AFC Bournemouth have found themselves in the Premier League for 6 of the past 8 years. As the Vitality Stadium is so small, actually buying a ticket to watch a game is quite difficult. But tonight is the less popular Carabao Cup (formerly the League Cup, but now renamed after some sort of water buffalo?!) so I am in luck. And for a mere £15, I have a ticket for the third round match against Everton.
I say I am in luck, it’s actually been raining and blowing a gale all day, so I’m not particularly looking forward to standing outside for a couple of hours. It’s an evening kick off, so I have time to go for a run first. I think my hair sufficiently indicates the strength of the wind!
After dinner, I wrap up warm and set off for the stadium in nearby Kings Park in Boscombe. It’s only a mile from home, but my ticket is for the stand furthest from my house. As I approach the car park, the flood lights are happily highlighting quite how heavy the rain actually is. I manage to stand in an enormous puddle so now have wet feet to add to my woes.
First stop is the shop to buy a fridge magnet. The shop is absolutely heaving. I think it’s more a case of people wanting to keep dry than actually purchase things. Magnet obtained, it’s time to brave the elements once more to queue for security and then pass through the turnstiles.
It takes longer than I’d anticipated. Mainly because women can only join one particular queue to be frisked by a female security guard. Also partly because every now and again, someone gets stuck in the turnstiles. Finally I am through and into the foyer which houses food and drink concessions, toilets and lots of TV screens. I make it to my seat, soaked from the waist down, with 7 minutes to spare before kick off.
The advantage of such a small stadium is you feel so close to the action. Unlike other football stadiums I’ve been to, you’re much nearer to the pitch and the players, it’s a much more intimate experience.
Luckily I made it to me seat just in time, as it’s only 7 minutes into the match, with people still trickling into the stadium, before Bournemouth score.
By half time it’s 2-0 and I’m practically dry and can enjoy the second half in a little more comfort. The stand itself is covered, I’m only wet because I walked to the ground through a cloud burst. There is some parking at the ground, but most people opt to walk or take the bus to Boscombe or train to Pokesdown and walk through the park. From what I can see, the main issue with parking appears to be the enormous amount of time to get out of the car park after of the match.
As we approach the end of the match, there’s a slightly tense moment as Everton score. It’s now 2-1. Bournemouth has managed to lose from two goals up in their last two matches, so there’s a lot of mumbling of ‘here we go again’. But it’s not third time unlucky and we round the evening off with two more goals for a 4-1 victory.
Time to make my way home along with the thousands of others spilling out of the stadium. And possibly a beer to two to celebrate – once I’ve put my fridge magnet on the fridge, of course.