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Stadium awards: Which are the most prestigious?

To some, a football stadium is just a building. To others, it’s a home. Then you have the brains behind them; for them a football stadium is everything. Thankfully, each year, there are numerous stadium awards ceremonies – like the architects equivalent of the Oscars – to recognise the best of the best. Here we look at some of the most prestigious in the industry.

What do stadium awards cover?

Of course, the prior mention of the Oscars is a tad tongue in cheek – stadiums to acting are hardly comparable. It’s not a reference made for no reason though. It’s widely acknowledged that the Oscars covers off numerous categories ranging from Best Actor through to Best Sound. Stadium awards are the same. They recognise a wide array of achievements. These can include events, fan experience, innovation, sustainability and technology to name just a few.

So, what are the most prestigious stadium awards?

World Architecture Festival Awards

Stadium awards: World Architecture Festival Awards

We kick off our look at stadium awards with a brief glance at a ceremony that pays tribute to feats of architecture that span much wider than solely the world of football. The World Architecture Festival is the world’s major architectural awards programme. This is one award function many top stadium architects look forward to.

In total there are over 500 architects shortlisted with each of them able to present their projects to industry-leading experts. Now, we acknowledge that of those 500 plus presentations most of them will relate to non-football designs. That’s fine. We’re only here for the category that focuses specifically on the ‘best-completed sports buildings'. One of the recent arenas to dominate talk at the showcase is the home of MLS side Atlanta United, the Mercedes-Benz stadium. The environmentally conscious approach to architecture and design were what set it apart from the competition.

Although sport covers a small section of this awards festival, winning the top prize is a big deal.

World Football Summit Industry Awards

Okay, we’ve given a nod to the generic architectural awards. Let’s turn our attention to an event that focuses specifically on the football industry. Step forward to the World Football Summit Industry Awards. This annual event looks to celebrate and reward the hard work completed by professionals who operate in the shadows of the much worshipped beautiful game. These are the people who work day in and day out irrespective of the 90-minute game we all love so much to ensure the sport of football is a game that is inclusive and enjoyed by all.

Despite the relative youth of the awards ceremony (they only started in 2017), they are already considered some of the most respected out there. The winners are selected by a panel of judges that have been chosen for their knowledge and expertise. The ceremony has gained impressive momentum since its launch with plenty of high profile guests attending from the world of sports each year.

The categories offered include things like the best club commercial initiative, best women’s football initiative and most creative campaign. The most coveted prize, however, is the best venue award. Any stadium that goes on to collect such a win will be in good company; past winners include the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta USA (yes, again), Atletico Madrid’s Wanda Metropolitano in the Spanish capital and San Mames Stadium in Bilbao.

Stadium DB Awards

Our next stop on the stadium awards tour is one with a difference. The Stadium DB Awards are based 100% online; you might think this devalues the awards somewhat but you’d be wrong. Instead, Stadium DB’s approach has been hailed as taking an innovative approach and given they’ve been going strong for over a decade, it’s hard to argue any other way.

The awards themselves are dished out by the stadium review website StadiumDB, hence the name of the awards. The company behind the online ceremony are based out of Poland and offer two prizes on an annual basis. These are the Stadium of the Year award and the Stadium of the Year Jury award. Yes, we know what you’re thinking; ‘what’s the difference?’. Good question. The latter of the two awards is voted for by an independent panel of industry-leading architects. Meanwhile, the other award is opened up to the general public for voting purposes.

The public voting element might cause you to question how legitimate the winners are. It’s not something that has shown any signs of being dominated by the same old venues each year though. A look at the past proves that. Prior winners include the Sultan Ibrahim stadium in Malaysia, the recently opened Puskas Arena in Budapest and Volgograd Arena in Russia. The experts, meanwhile, have given the top prize to SoFi Stadium in the United States, Japan’s National Stadium and the DVTK Stadium in Hungary. It just goes to show the real global appeal and coverage that StadiumDB can boast. There are significant differences in grounds when you compare stadiums then and now, and surely advancements should be rewarded.

The Stadium Business Awards

Stadium awards: The Stadium Business Awards

The last stop on our look at the most prestigious stadium awards is the 11-year-old Stadium Business Awards. This is probably the leading event in this niche. It celebrates strong leadership, innovation and the all-round achievement of delivering the top drawer of football stadia. It doesn't just honour the big boys though. The Stadium Business Awards also pays tribute to those who operate at a lower level; everyone from the grassroots game all the way to the elite stadiums is in with the chance of scooping silverware.

The event is held at Old Trafford – the home of Manchester United – and is considered the event to be at. It’s no mean feat to scoop a prize though. Despite having a plethora of categories up for grabs, which include Venue of the Year, Event of the Year, Unsung Hero, Product Innovation and even Fan Experience you’ll be up against a host of nominees. It’s believed there are thousands each year.

Of course, those winners from the lower levels are unlike to pique the interest of too many; bigger names that have walked away with the top honours in recent years though include those behind the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium and the Marvel Stadium in Australia; those two were named Stadium of the Year in 2020 and 2019 respectively.

There you have it, the most prestigious football stadium awards.