David Gold

Since being offered the chance to witness the Tottenham vs Werder Bremen clash, which the Londoners won 3-0 last night, I have been having a lot of fun. My best friend is a Spurs fan. My brother is a Spurs fan. In fact, everywhere I seem to go, everyone I seem to spend time with, I appear surrounded by Spurs fans. The opportunities for light heartedly winding them up have not let up. Just to rub it in, I’m an Arsenal fan. What I hadn’t factored in, was spending an evening with Spurs fans three days after our most embarrassing defeat to them since, er, April.

Nonetheless, last night at White Hart Lane was a unique experience, thanks to the good people at Heineken, who generously plied me with a wonderful evening of hospitality. Heineken of course, are one of the main Champions League sponsors, as well as sponsoring the Heineken Cup and the Rugby World Cup. On Champions League matchdays, they offer spectacular hospitality across Europe, from London to Athens. Though they offer hospitality to hundreds of guests every Champions League matchday, their most spectacular experience is the Star Final. It is an experience which demands every superlative and cliché going. A unique experience, an event money can’t buy, a once in a lifetime opportunity.

So what is it? The star final is where Heineken take fans to a stunning location to enjoy a superb break and the opportunity to watch the Uefa Champions League final live. They are still deciding where the experience will be this year, but last year the all expenses package saw Heineken secure a part of Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana beach to hold their party for 300 winners of the Star Final experience, who were able to take in the football on large screens and then enjoy a party put on for them afterwards. And of course, there is as much food and drink as you could wish for. When this year’s venue is decided, anyone can enter via heineken.com. It’s not hard to understand why Heineken places such emphasis on their football hospitality and offers. According to a study commissioned by them, football doesn’t only come top of the list of topics discussed when men get together, but it’s almost twice as popular as the second most pressing conversation – women.

The star final, whilst the star attraction on offer from our beer producing friends, is just one of the treats on offer. They also offer star seats and back stadium passes. Another thing that Heineken do is the trophy tour, where the Champions League trophy is taken around the world on tours each year. It has gone on tours around Latin America, Asia and Africa, and last year travelled the United States, from New York to Los Angeles.


Last night I was given the backstage experience, which began with a tour of the stadium from a UEFA official, who showed us around the pitch and to the studios from where the game is shot and directed. We sauntered into the main van outside the ground in which the director orders around his minions, to view a slick, well oiled machine. It really makes you appreciate how much goes into our live TV feed at home.

Impressed by that, I wasn’t expecting what came next. The van controlling 3D coverage. I was truly impressed with this, as I haven’t yet had the luxury of watching a game in 3D. This was partly owing to an apathy on my part, and a presumption that 3D was a gadget for technology geeks. I’m not a big technophile, but I know what I like. And I was truly impressed with the 3D pictures I saw. It genuinely brings a game to life, and watching it does make you feel as though you are at the game even from the comfort of your sofa, or in my case, standing up in a cramped TV van on Paxton Road.

Away from the vans, we were taken back into the stadium to enjoy the delights of the Champions Club, resplendent with free Heineken and snacks ranging from mini vegetable pies to chocolate tarts. A tip to anyone who finds themselves in one of these clubs is this; pace yourself. When you come back at half time and after the game, there are an increasing number of sweet, mini chocolate based desserts. And still just as much Heineken. Before the game, you’re then swept away to go pitchside to view the warm-up prior to the match. At this point I must confess came the highlight of my evening. I received a gift. Well, we received a gift (I was with another recipient of the Heineken experience).

I looked at my co-guest as we were handed a bag with two footballs, and he looked at the bag, back at me and we both had the same thought. They weren’t just any footballs.

“Are they official?”

“Yes, they seem to be.”


“And by the looks of things they’ve been kicked around by the players.”

“Even better!”

Only a football fan would possibly be pleased to be offered a present that someone has been indiscriminantly kicking as hard as they can. Football fans are an odd breed; they often fight each other at the end of games for sweaty shirts thrown at us by middle aged sportsmen. We were then whisked back off to the Champions Club briefly before taking our seats for the football in a prime spot at the front of the West stand. We saw Spurs beat Werder with ease, but the German fans were in surprisingly good voice. They performed a rendition of ‘you only sing when you’re winning’, to which the Spurs fans responded with a rather rude chant about Germans. Not to be outdone, the Werder fans responded with an improvised German song about Spurs fans that is too rude to be interpreted here, before going on to sing Karma Chameleon much to the amusement of all. Choral banter aside, the Heineken experience is such that actually watching the game itself ceases to be the focal point of the evening. Whilst the Werder fans run it close, the Heineken perks provide the bulk of the entertainment. Usually at the football, you spend an hour pouring over a thin booklet which will go out of date three hours later in the freezing cold, waiting for the game to begin, and then consoling yourself as you wait for several thousand people to clear the way home.

To sum it up another way, on the Heineken experience, the football is not the central attraction; it’s merely a complimentary feature. And that’s not just because I had to endure the constant chants of ‘stand up if you hate Arsenal.’ Though given that we had given away a two goal lead to lose to Spurs over the weekend, and lost 2-0 to Braga last night, I was actually hating Arsenal a bit at this moment myself. And when you have 35,000 loud, celebrating Tottenham fans, most of whom are much bigger than you, singing about how much they hate you, the Heineken backstage pass is exactly what you need.