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New stadium anyone? Let the tax payer pay.

By Tony Attwood

We’ve talked a lot off and on about the Olympic stadium – a stadium which by the EPL’s own rules can only go to The Orient, since they are the local team (and before you ask, no, such rules did not exist when Woolwich Arsenal moved from Plumstead to Highbury).

But Tottenham, as we know have made a big deal of all this, because although they have planning permission to rebuild WHL they don’t want to do this, and would sooner kick out the running track at the Olympic Stadium and play there.

Now what I didn’t realise in following this story was that there was a bid in for some big athletics do-dah in a few years time.  The Eternal Verity Lord Coe has put in another bid (he knocks them out in his spare time on friday afternoons) this one being for the 2017 World Athletics Championships and we’ve beat a middle eastern state to hold the games at the Olympic what-not.

So if Tottenham had won the bid to move to the Olympic venue they wouldn’t have been able to until 2017 – which is six or so years away by my counting.   I wonder if they knew.

I am also reminded about the bullish way in which ministers have castigated other Olympic sites for being left to rot after the show is over (take a look at Athens, or tragically some of the world cup venues in South Africa).  Now they have a stadium, no tenant and a need to hold onto it in the current form until 2017.

Big sporting events create stadia that subsequently no one wants.   Not always (the Olympic swimming pool in my local town of Corby is there and seems to be flourishing, and doing a lot for the local community) but quite often.  (Actually they don’t always create new stadia – apparently the ones in the Ukraine aren’t finished, and nor are the railways or airports, so going to the Euros next summer is going to be a pain.  Fortunately I am not planning to go, although I am sure the Ukraine is a nice place.

But moving on we have Chelsea and QPR looking for new grounds, and Fulham wanting to develop part of their ground.  (If you have read Making the Arsenal you will know that the architect/site manager Leitch worked on both Chelsea’s ground and Fulham’s at the same time.  Quite a feat!)

Ken Bates (for reasons that have never become clear to me) set up a separate company owned by lots of fans, that owns the pitch at Stamford Bridge, and they have to agree to sell.  Mr Abramovich doesn’t want to build a new ground if he can’t sell off the existing ground.  I think some of the shares are owned by non-Chelsea fans, or by Chelsea fans with a real sense of tradition, because they said no.

I am not sure if that is odd or not.  Chelsea, like Thames Association (whom we covered on the Arsenal History site last week) were clubs created to fill a stadium, rather than being like Arsenal, Fulham, Tottenham or Orient, created by local people who wanted to play football.  (WHU is different again, as they were created by a paternalist factory owner who wanted his work force to engage in healthy exercise, rather than being down the pub.  Brentford were created by a cricket team who wanted to do something in the winter – they took a vote and football got fractionally more votes than rugby.  But I digress).

The matter at Chelsea is confused by the fact that the register of owners of shares in the ground is horribly out of date and not in digital form, (some people who are no longer with us are listed) and the fact that shares are still available, and so can be bought.  What’s more a few members of the “no” campaign have said that anyone whose name appears on the “role of honour” on the supposed new stadium, because they voted yes will be “dealt with”.

Fulham have announced quite a radical approach to expanding their ground, which includes (and I quote from their web site) the need to expand into the River Thames.  Which sounds like fun.  What would Henry Norris have made of that?

Meanwhile in other venue news, there’s Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park, where the local council has agreed to pay £1.6m for Home Park and rent it back to the club for £135,000 a year.  This is after the club bought the ground from the council for £2.7m in 2006.  Pesky things, grounds

Swansea City play at a council-owned ground too, rented to Swansea City and the Ospreys, and run at a loss.

Actually I think Corby Town’s lovely  new stadium, opened for this season is also run by my local council at a loss.  But in this case I don’t mind, even though I am paying for it.   The town is rebuilding itself after years of neglect and a decent football stadium for a Conference club is a good bonus.

The Keepmoat Stadium in Doncaster is much the same I think.

And now we know Tottenham want to have public money (actually offered by Boris, the London Mayor, to build their stadium.   Worse, they are saying, “if Arsenal can have public money, why can’t Tottenham?”  Not that they expect to get it, but it is just another Tiny Publicity Stunt against Arsenal, of the type they have been running ever since they came seventh in the Southern League and got elected to the Football League, while the clubs above them didn’t.   They were so embarrassed they decided to blame Arsenal for getting promoted to the first division when we came fifth in the second.  (Confused? yes they are like that down the Seven Sisters.)

What is shocking about Tottenham is that they want public money to help them build a stadium.   That is disgusting, disgraceful and awful.  That’s why I keep the campaign against dreadful idea running on this site.

But I admit I am torn – I like the fact that the local council built my town’s club a new ground as part of the redevelopment of the area.  I like the fact that Arsenal did it all themselves and are making money out of it at the same time.  I like the fact that Chelsea fans said no to the oil multi-billionaire.  I like Fulham’s idea to build a stand over the River Thames.   I like the fact that Tottenham didn’t seem to realise that even if they wont the Olympic site they could not move into it for years and years and years.

The only bit I don’t like is the the Tinies attempt to get public money in the way Manchester City did in a deal which (in the Man C case) means that despite the owner of that club owning half the world, UK tax payers are still having to pay for that stadium.   That’s the one that annoys me.   Quite a lot really.

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8 comments to New stadium anyone? Let the tax payer pay.

  • fowler

    this is why financial fair play simply cannot be fair. financial fair play has to mean that every club has to act the same way throughout the world.however this is simply not possible especially when arsenal spend £365m on a new stadium and go through 6 years of transition and win nothing to pay for the stadium, then there are other teams like swansea and city (and possibly tottenham) who are able to get their new large stadiums paid for them which allows them to progress with city probably goin to win the league and swansea now in the prem.

    finacial fair play will not work because football is not fair!!

    simple.

  • SA gunner

    so u reckon some of da world cup stadiums in South Africa have been left 2 rot? well i have 2 say dat is utter RUBBISH!!! as a south african football fan who follows the local game i must tell u dat all da stadiums dat were built get used almost on a weekly basis (we do have a local league 2 make use of da stadiums, our league is actually ranked among da top 10 leagues in da WORLD) in fact in da year since da world cup, 5 of da 8 stadiums built have bn profitable, 2 have broken even & only 1 wasn’t profitable. of da 3 dat aren’t profitable yet they r all expected 2 b within 18 months. i come 2 untold arsenal because firstly i’m an arsenal fan but also because untold is a blog of high quality n i don’t expect lazy journalism on this site. anyway da rest of the article is good, i just had 2 correct on that 1 point

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    The question whether the public purse should pay for the building of new stadia is an excellent one, especially since the beneficiaries of the new stadium will be the local commerce and residents, particularly if they are football fans.
    From my experience here in Montreal, when the Olympic Stadium (Stade Olympique) was built, it instantly became a great boondoggle and money-pit for the Mafia and politicians (basically the same lot ,but wearing better ties) and a white elephant for the taxpayers, who are still paying for it after 44 years!
    I am on the fence for this one. Sports stadia do offer local growth and economic development opportunities that didn’t exist before and a Sports centre which can provide services to the locals if properly managed but they can also drain the public purse. Is it better to build new schools,hospitals or community centres for the same money spent on a sports stadium? Its the same old debate about aircraft carriers versus schools and will not be resolved anytime soon.
    I tend to lean towards social projects like schools and the like since they add far greater value to the community than a sports stadium, especially one that makes the Club owners richer and doesn’t add much value to the community.However I am proud that AFC could build the Emirates and not burden their local community with tax debt or whatever….we did it the right way not lets see if the Totts can do the same without public monies!

  • nicky

    @Tony,
    What, in your opinion, can the Olympic Stadium be used for during the years 2012/17?
    @fowler,
    If a local authority decides to build a stadium and lease it to the local Club, I fail to see how this affects financial fair play PROVIDED a fair commercial rent is paid.
    Insofar as Arsenal is concerned, it must be a source of pride that the Emirates has been a self-financing miracle in these perilous economical times and a lesson to be learnt by many.

  • AJ

    This is a very interesting topic. I live in the U.S. and it seems that all new stadiums are built through a combination of public finance and imminent domain laws (in which it is possible for the government to essentially take your private property if there is the prospect of higher taxes to be collected by some other use). Though I love sports of pretty much any flavor, I love that Arsenal has used their own resources (or at least the ability to find sponsors willing to pay) to fund their grounds. I’m not as up on the state of the UK’s finances as I could be, but I am of the impression that they are more constricted than those of the U.S. at this point in time. I would be absolutely livid if I were involuntarily tapped to help pay for a rival team’s stadium with my tax dollars.

  • Sorry I got the South African story wrong – I took the info from a person who I thought was authoratative on the subject – will look into it further.

    Just read today that Halifax has a council owned stadium too. They are playing in the FA Cup today.

  • Gooner Gal

    @ SA Gunner, I am interested by your post as my understanding was similar to Tony. Are you saying that the 10 stadiums built for the WC are running at a profit(they cost $1.5bn to construct) and are being used at full capacity on a weekly basis? Just 18 months later, if so this is a phenomenal feat in a global economic downturn and flys in the face of many other reports that beg to differ.

    Whilst SA is experiencing a period of national growth, estimated to be around 3-4% GDP growth in 2011, the country still has high unemployment at around 25%, a growing debt ratio and it’s major trading partners the EU & China are feeling the pinch right now, which will no doubt have a ripple effect later on them unfortunately. Therefore I am interested and think it would be great if you could elaborate on your points.

    I am also aware that CAF qualifiers and local football clubs like the Kaiser Chiefs and Ajax Capetown have used the venues, but from what I understand – even the sold out games have failed to claw back the money spent. Even with the CAF being held there as well as rugby matches also, the maths do not add up. FIFA did not give SA an interest free loan, SA is paying interest on the billons of dollars borrowed to stage the world cup.

    @ Tony, in my opinion, I don’t think who ever you spoke to was that wrong actually. Below are a few links, but I am sure there are many more. I read a fantastic paper written, I think by a professor in May about the SA economics and football situation, but I can’t find it now to provide a link.

    http://www.channel4.com/news/what-was-the-world-cups-legacy-for-south-africa

    http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/24/magazine/you-are-here-overtime-in-soccer-city.html?_r=2

  • Gooner Gal thank you for that. You are running the view that I got too, and indeed since the comment came back that I had got it wrong I have been going through various sources and finding the same sort of thing as you are quoting.

    I think I am back to my view as printed in the piece – that South Africa is having a hard time of it with its stadia.