The Stade Velodrome is the home venue of the premiere soccer team in Marseille, the Olympique de Marseille, who participate in Ligue 1 club play. The Marseille Stadium has a capacity of over 60,000 people, making it the largest soccer venue in all of France. This venue already has a long and rich history, having been one of the host venues of the 1998 FIFA World Cup. Long before this time, the tradition had already begun to take hold in the city of Marseille, when the Marseille Stadium played host to World Cup matches when the finals were held in France in 1938.
The first match ever played by the Marseille football team at this venue was one year prior the World Cup in 1937, and featured the Olympique de Marseille versus the club team from Torino. Although the Stade Velodrome has never sold out all 60,000 plus seats that are available, there are plans to go ahead and increase the size of the facility, including adding a covered roof, pending the sale of the club to investors. Many of these changes could take shape before 2016, the year that France is set to host the UEFA Euro. The new Marseille stadium will draw even more fans to the grounds for not only soccer, but also rugby games that are often played in unpredictable conditions. Adding a roof to the top of the stadium is a major advance and the seating improvements increased the capacity to 67,000 people.
Stade Velodrome Marseille, shown here before the new roof was completed in 2014.
The Marseille Stadium is divided into four stands that are each named after a different athlete or sports figure that is significant in Marseillaise culture. There are a variety of loges and luxury boxes, mezzanine level concessions and activities for kids, a VIP hall, and a modest amount of seating (about 260 chairs) for disabled attendees. For people visiting Marseille and attending a game at the Stade Velodrome, you can generally expect to find most of the same services and features that you would normally encounter at an NFL stadium. You will not have any problem locating plenty of things to eat and drink, as well as lots of souvenir shops where you can purchase everything from jerseys and t-shirts to hats and shoes.
And the Olympique de Marseille football team is not the only people who put the stadium to good use. Rather, some of the biggest concerts and events that pass through this third largest city in all of France play at the stadium. This kind of venue is reserved for only the biggest acts, as not many others could even come close to filling a stadium of this size. You will only see the likes of Madonna, U2, Oasis, and other heavy hitters coming through stadiums of this size.
If you are already planning a trip to Marseille and want to get a feel for what real soccer enthusiasts are like on the day of a big match, think about heading over to the Stade Velodrom for a sporting experience that you will not soon forget. Taking in a game is an excellent thing to do in this part of the world.