Football Stadium Dressing Rooms

dressing room ajaxIn the world of football, one of the most under-appreciated aspects of a football club is the dressing room. For supporters, it matters not a jot and many won’t even think about it unless they have done the club tour and have been able to sit in the seat used by their heroes before kick-off. For the players, meanwhile, the dressing rooms are all-important, given that they are where they spend their time before the match and during half-time. Dressing rooms can be a place of comfort and relaxing for players before the game gets underway.

Of course, they can also be used as a an opportunity to intimidate the opposition. Football clubs have tried all sorts of tactics over the years to stop the away team from feeling welcome in the dressing room that they supply them with. The result is that there have been all sorts of amusing stories that have emerged from the football dressing room over the years, which we’ll look at here. Ultimately, the dressing room might not be the most important part of a football ground, but it’s certainly close to the top as far as the players are concerned.

It Is The Inner Sanctum

man city tourWhen it comes to football matches, there are few locations as sacrosanct as the dressing room. That is the place that the team prepares for a match and the players gain their concentration. It is where managers get their orders across to the people that are responsible for carrying them out on the pitch, and it is the location for frank exchanges of views when things aren’t going right. In short, the dressing room is the inner sanctum of a football ground, where all supporters would love to be a fly on the wall to see what takes place.

There is often endless speculation about what happens in dressing rooms. When players don’t seem to be playing for the manager any more, the person in the dugout is said to have ‘lost the dressing room’. It is always been the most important place at a stadium from the point of view of the players, even if the original ones were little more than shacks on the side of the pitch. Given the sheer number of personalities and characters located in a dressing room as part of a football team, getting the atmosphere right in there can be the difference between winning and losing.

Size Matters

large dressing room football stadium

It is not uncommon for football clubs to try to make life as difficult as possible for their opponents. Whilst this should mainly be happening on the pitch, there is certainly a case for forcing opponents to get ready for the match in uncomfortable circumstances. Liverpool Football Club once installed carpet on the home dressing room floor but had the away dressing room floor made up of tiles, for example, as this meant that opposition players had to be really careful not to slip over when wearing their studded football boots.

In 2022, Chelsea were slapped with complaints from Liverpool and Brighton & Hove Albion over the size of the away dressing room. The two opposition clubs weren’t happy with the size of the rooms that they were allocated, meaning that the Stamford Bridge club had to revamp the changing rooms in order to meet Premier League regulations. The home changing room at the West London club’s ground had always been bigger than the away one, but they were forced to knock into the press room in order to expand the room allocated to visiting clubs to the Bridge.

Toilet Humour

By Barbara van Cleve (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

It is fair to say that top-level footballers have always been guilty of having a low sense of humour. This was taken to a new extreme by Brighton & Hove Albion when the club was drawn to play Crystal Palace in the Championship play-off semi-finals. The rivalry between Palace and Brighton is well-established, but not even the most fierce of Eagles haters will have been quick to approve a decision by one member of the Brighton team. Ahead of the match at the Amex, they decided to do a poo in the middle of the away dressing room.

Ian Holloway, the Crystal Palace manager at the time, was far from pleased with the gruesome discovery. In fairness, his opposite number, Gus Poyet, was equally displeased and was forced to send an email around the whole club remonstrating with the person that thought it would be a funny prank to play. Perhaps the most irritating thing from a Brighton point of view is that it wasn’t even a good prank, given that they went on to lose the first-leg of the play-off semi-final 2-0. If you’re going to poo in order to intimidate someone, you better make sure you can deliver.

What Happens In Dressing Rooms Stays In Dressing Rooms…Usually

football dressing room concept

There are numerous different stories that have emerged from football dressing rooms over the years. In 2009, for example, Stoke City went to the Emirates in order to play Arsenal in the Premier League. The Potters lost the match 2-0, which led to the club’s then-manager, Tony Pulis, announcing that the Christmas party was cancelled. Temperatures were high, with Stoke player James Beattie confronting the manager and receiving an angry response. So angry was Pulis, in fact, that he allegedly head-butted the player whilst naked.

Stories like that are always going to be outrageous enough to make it out of the confines of the dressing room, but things happen within their confines all of the time that supporters don’t learn about for years, if at all. Dressing rooms are filled with cliques, with players from different countries often befriending each other, therefore being unwilling to turn against the people that they know. There is also a sense that managers are reluctant to interfere with spats between certain cliques or players for fear of appearing as though they’re taking sides. In football, what happens in the dressing room should, normally, stay there.