‘ArenA gets English feel’

‘ArenA gets English feel’

The Amsterdam ArenA is currently undergoing a metamorphosis. Starting with the January 20th home game against Feyenoord, the dug-outs will be integrated in the updated head stands. The addition of approximately 900 business seats will soon bring the total capacity to 53.052 seats. Ajax.nl took an early peek at the renovations with Ajax’s new marketing director Edwin van der Sar.

As Manchester United’s former keeper, Van der Sar knows like nobody else what it’s like to play in a stadium in which the dug-outs are integrated into the stands. But it still feels odd when the photographer asks him to sit on the brand new reserves bench. “I haven’t had to sit here very much, fortunately”, says the 130 time international with a smile. “But it certainly is a strange feeling to be here among the stands. I’m curious about how Frank de Boer will experience it in the upcoming Ajax-Feyenoord match.”

As of the last month and a half, the ArenA has once again become Edwin van der Sar’s (42) place of employment. He remembers very well what the ArenA looked like at the end of the nineties. “I recently saw images from an Ajax-PSV game from that time. Back then, it was a pretty bare stadium with lots of concrete. The advertisement boards were also quite far from the field. But through the years, many improvements have taken place. Now, everywhere you look, you see and feel Ajax. With the current expansions, the ArenA has, in cooperation with Ajax, taken account of that. The spectators’ enjoyment has come first.”

In the English Premier League, Van der Sar played for years in stadiums in which the coaches and reserves essentially sat amongst the fans in the stands. “They’ve been doing that in England for a long time. With clubs like Arsenal and Chelsea, the dug-outs are integrated into the stands. It’s great that the ArenA is the first big stadium in the Netherlands to get a similar ‘English feel’. In the past weeks, I’ve noticed that the fans are very interested in the renovations. Thanks to the current changes, the ArenA is becoming more and more a true football stadium.”
According to Van der Sar, you couldn’t ask for a better ‘opening match’ than a home game against Feyenoord. He’s looking forward to experience a Klassieker once again – especially in the improved ArenA. “It’s something to look forward to as an Ajax fan. Hopefully, we can continue our good performances from the last few months against Feyenoord. We’re currently equal in terms of points, so a win will carry a lot of weight. Both Ajax and Feyenoord have many young players. It’s likely that many of the players who will see action on January 20th will form the backbone of the Dutch national team in the future.”

His enthusiasm for Ajax is clear as he describes his first six week in the director’s role. “The past few weeks have mostly been about listening, going to meetings and gathering information. Together with general manager Michael Kinsbergen, I’m currently diving into what all departments within the club are doing. From there, we’ll get straight to work. What details can we improve on to make the club even greater and better? Those are the questions being asked right now. With management, the Advisory Board and Ajax employees, we’re doing everything we can to make the boundary conditions for the athletic part of the club as good as possible.”

Last month in his new function, he was at Real Madrid – Ajax and the UEFA Europa League draw in Nyon. There, he noticed that Ajax is held in high esteem. “The Ajax name is still spoken with a lot of respect worldwide. That’s partly due to the successes of the past, but it’s definitely also due to the talents that we’re developing here. We’ve been successful at that for years. Let’s hope that this continues in the future, so that the best talents always pick Ajax.”