By Paul Donegan
This guide is based on the match against Chelsea in the Women’s FA Cup semi-final on 31st October 2021 which I went and watched. Normal warning that things might be different if you decide to make a visit to the Academy Stadium.
Manchester, M11 4TQ
Location and Ground History
The stadium is in the east side of Manchester, across the road/footbridge from the Etihad Stadium. It opened in December 2014 as part of the Eithad training campus. Along with the women’s first team, it also hosts men’s under 23s and youth matches. The women’s side have played there since 2015. This will be one of the venues for the Women’s Euros in 2022 hosting 3 group games (Belgium v Iceland, Italy v Iceland and Italy v Belgium).
Manchester is well served by trains and coaches from around the country and buses from the surrounding areas. There is also Manchester Airport to the south of the city. I got the Metrolink from Piccadilly station towards Ashton Under Lyne and this took about 10 minutes (if going from the city centre then add a few minutes onto this). The closest stop is Velopark which is over the road from the stadium. If you want to see the Etihad Stadium or visit the City Store, the Etihad Campus stop is closer to these and around a 10 minute walk from the stadium. There are a number of buses that stop outside the ground (Velopark Metrolink stops). The ground is about a 40 minute walk from the city centre. Car parking is available in the blue car parks which are past the Etihad Stadium and about a 15 minute walk. There are some accessible car parking spaces onsite at the stadium.
I bought tickets online which cost me £10 for this match. On the confirmation email, there are links to click to download the ticket to Apple Wallet or G Pay on your mobile which you need to do if buying tickets online. At the turnstiles, you scan the ticket on your mobile to gain entry. There is a supporter services and tickets kiosk outside the Academy Stadium on matchdays (on the west side, under the footbridge) where you can buy (paper) tickets if available and these are the same price as online and it is card payment only.
There are 4 separate covered stands at the Academy Stadium with gaps in each corner of the ground. The stadium has a capacity of 7,000 with 5,000 seats. The two side stands (east and west) are seated with a nice mixture of sky and dark blue seats. The West Stand has the tunnel in the middle and dugouts and TV camera position (stand not opened for this or most matches). Supporters sit in the East Stand which also has the directors box, press and hospitality facilities. The roof hangs fairly high above the seats so you might still get wet if it rains and the wind is blowing (as happened to me).
The two ends are terraces but neither were open and covered with banners. In the north west corner, there is a scoreboard. There are toilets at either end of the East Stand. There are turnstiles in the 4 corners and for this match the ones in the north east and south east corners were open. They opened about an hour before kick off and there was a bag search then a body search with one of those devices where they don’t actually touch you. Outside of the ground, behind the south end, there is a moral painted on the wall which looks pretty cool.
Food and Drink
There are food kiosks (contactless payment only) at either end of the East Stand near the turnstiles. Something a bit different to eat at a football match with toasted English muffin with Cumberland or quorn sausage with Moroccan veg stew was available along with meat or chickpea pies. Also, there were muffins and bakes for £2 and crisps and chocolate bars for £1.20. For drinks, there were cartons of juice and water along with hot drinks. There is a big Asda over the road from the ground if you want something different from what is available at the ground plus many places to eat and drink in Manchester.
In the north east corner near the turnstile, there was some merchandise available including shirts, t-shirts, scarfs and bobble hats (of course more is available in the main shop near the Etihad). Also in that corner of the ground was a stall where you could buy programmes which again was contactless payment only. There is a fanzone inside the west stand before the match with games and such. In normal times after the match, there is autograph alley but as announced at the end of the match, this isn’t happening at the moment due to Covid.