“ The Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion is a stadium located in Stuttgart, Germany. Before 1993 it was called Neckarstadion, named after the river Neckar, which is only a short distance away. „
Whilst it is undeniably a very impressive-looking stadium, especially in light of the recently-completed final phase of rebuilding work, the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion in Stuttgart suffers severely from a lack of atmosphere, a problem which means that it is not a particularly attractive place to watch a game as a neutral. This is due in no small part to the amazingly fickle nature of German football fans: I have seen three games at this ground now, and while league matches against average opposition draw crowds of 20000 or more, the German FA Cup quarter final tie (against second division side Hannover 96) was witnessed by about 2000 spectators, a laughably small amount scattered around a 50000-capacity stadium. The situation has not been helped by the team’s appalling league form this season, as VfB Stuttgart have been stuck in the relegation places since September, but the lack of support from the seats means it is doubly hard for the team to get going, as they have little or no vocal support to spur them on. In fact, the best atmosphere I have witnessed there was for the UEFA Cup tie in September 2000 against Heart of Midlothian, as the Scots brought a 3000-strong army of travelling fans to fill the away terrace and seats, and despite the dull nature of the 0-1 defeat in front of them, this branch of the Tartan Army bounced, sang and danced their way through the 90 minutes, much to the amazement of the locals! The ground itself is very impressive, comprehensively rebuilt in the last decade and transformed from a large terraced bowl (in the traditional style of many old German grounds) into a well-appointed, fully enclosed and covered arena. 45000 seats are complemented by space for 6000 fans on the small terraced areas that are home to the ‘Ultras’, and the stadium is equipped with a superb PA system and large digital screens for pre-match entertainment. The main problem is that the authorities, in their infinit e wisdom, decided to retain a running track between the pitch and the rest of the stadium, a move which put paid to any hopes of generating atmosphere unless the ground is packed to the rafters – any chants or noise seem to dissipate long before they reach the ears of the players out on the pitch. This also means that if you are seated or standing at one end of the stadium, you will be watching little matchstick men whenever play is concentrated around the far goal! Tickets are very reasonably priced, starting off at 15 DM for a space on the terraces (although if you are going in the away end, be prepared for a full body search, including removal of some outer garments as the stewards search for concealed weapons, it will make you drop your bratwurst!). Seats cost more, depending on where you are in the stadium, but even the most expensive ones only come to about 60 DM (currently equivalent to 20 quid, which is still cheaper than any Premiership ground you’ll come across). One massive advantage that the Gottlieb-Daimler-Stadion shares with many other German grounds is that it is extremely well served by public transport, and it is also very easy to get to by car. If you are travelling under your own steam, the ground is well signposted through the centre of Stuttgart after you leave the A8, but just bear in mind that the main car park is shared with the Schleyer-Halle next door to the station, and traffic bottlenecks can build up there as thousands of people attempt to get back to the motorway. However, the trams (lines S1 and U11) run regular football specials from the main station on match days, a service that is included in the price of your match ticket. All in all, this is a very comfortable and well-built stadium that has all the conveniences you would expect – although in a break from the norm, only alcohol-free beer is sold within the stadium grounds, which means long queues at the kiosks surrounding the perimeter fencing – but it is severely hampered by a terrible lack of atmosphere, which does detract from the enjoyment of a Saturday afternoon.