By Tony Attwood
This summer and into next season there will quite a bit of talk about stadia and stadia extensions, particularly in relation to State Aid Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham.
State Aid have their stadium and the British tax payer has paid for it. They have also qualified for the Europa League via the back door (that is because Man U won the FA Cup), but if drawn at home in the first leg their ground will not be ready for the qualifying round they have to play in, so they may well need to find another.
They’ve already sold a much higher proportion of season tickets than any other club, and so given the lack of any expenditure in terms of the stadium the money will just keep on rolling in, and in, and in. Indeed there is a chance that they will become one of the most profitable clubs in the country thanks to the arrangements made by Boris Johnson and co in handing the stadium over to the club formally known as WHU for a peppercorn rent.
Liverpool are nearing the end of their current redevelopment phase, while Chelsea and Tottenham however still don’t have matters arranged.
Several reports have been published saying “Tottenham may have to reduce White Hart Lane capacity to under 30,000” (the Mail) for the coming season, with many other papers following this line. But I can’t find anything to confirm that.
There is also the story that Tottenham are “in talks to stage next season’s Champions League matches at Wembley, confirms FA chairman Greg Dyke.” You may recall how Arsenal fared when we did that for two seasons (although in our case it was to prove that the club could attract 60,000 to games on a regular basis, in order to attract bank funding).
Meanwhile the notion that Chelsea and Tottenham could use Wembley during the actual rebuilding phase of their grounds (one year for Tottenham, three years for Chelsea) has received wide spread publicity, and was widely quoted in the papers at the start of the 2015/16 season.
Issues were also raised about the benefit that would give these clubs in terms of the FA Cup should they reach the semi-finals but apart from saying that they would have to play FA Cup matches elsewhere up to the 6th round, not much has been mentioned. The FA probably realise the outcry they would have if either club reached the semis and played at Wembley while using it as a home ground.
The last Chelsea statement about the ground was on 1 December 2015 (as always, “as far as I can see”, for it is easy to miss something) and this said that “The planning process will last beyond the end of the season [ie beyond summer 2016]; if the application is granted planning permission there will still be a lot of work to do before redevelopment can start, including obtaining various other consents. We will inform you of progress through this process.”
Meanwhile the last issue relating to Tottenham’s application came last September when, according to the Standard on 24th of that month, “Tottenham’s plans to build the biggest club stadium in London is facing objections from Historic England, who believe the north London side’s work will “cause substantial harm” to the character of the area.”
What we all know is that Tottenham will have to move for 2017/18, and that is the bit we are still waiting for information on. Repeatedly the press have run headlines such as “Chelsea sure of beating Spurs in race for Wembley” which was in the Times, with the press regularly suggesting that Chelsea will outbid Tottenham for the right to use Wembley.
The headlines from the Mail are typical…
- Chelsea have offered £11m a year to use Wembley while their Stamford Bridge home is redeveloped between 2017 and 2020
- Bid is £3m more than that offered by Tottenham to use national stadium
- Neither club could use Wembley to its full 90,000 capacity
- Attendance would have to be capped at 50,000 because of restrictions
Matters took an amusing turn a year ago when the Independent ran the headline, “Tottenham stadium news: Spurs told to move in with Arsenal – not go to Wembley” – something that is very unlikely to happen. The potential damage to the stadium is enough to rule that out.
Meanwhile in January this year, The Week ran the story that
Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspurs [sic] could end up sharing Wembley stadium as they rebuild their grounds, it has been claimed.
The Blues have submitted a four-year bid to the FA, thought to be worth around £15m a season, to use the national stadium while their home, Stamford Bridge, is being rebuilt.
But while the team had hoped for exclusive use of the grounds, it has emerged that Spurs are prepared to pay the same amount to stage their home games at Wembley during the 2017-18 season while White Hart Lane is redeveloped.
The Mail then got in on the act and said, “Football Association chief executive Martin Glenn talked up the chances of two teams sharing Wembley last year but compromises would have to be made, particularly if both sides were to be involved in European football.
“An unlimited number of matches could be held at Wembley if the attendance falls under 50,000 spectators. That would involve shutting the top tier and cutting off 40,000 seats but that would still offer Chelsea and Tottenham more than their current capacities at White Hart Lane and Stamford Bridge.”
The Telegraph then weighed in with…
“Chelsea are anxious about sharing a ground because “they do not want to make concessions over the 2017-18 domestic and European fixture lists with Tottenham and believe they must sell Wembley as a more long-term prospect to their fans.”
The funding for the two projects is of course completely different. New WHL was several years along the road before we had it confirmed that the money was coming from the banks – just as Arsenal’s money did for the Ems. Which is an interesting piece of knowledge because it means there will be a period of paying back the loans – and everyone supporting Arsenal knows for sure what that means.
New Stamford Bridge however has none of that paying-back malarkey. Mr Abramovich is paying the £600m, just as the UK taxpayers paid for the Olympic Stadium and for the Manchester Airport Stadium. Indeed on the basis of finances, Chelsea, State Aid Utd and Manchester Airport should be right out in front at the top of the league, leaving Arsenal and Tottenham hanging around way, way, behind.
So the situation remains confused and uncertain, and we wait to hear more. But what we do know is that it is not just Arsenal who suffered from having a new stadium. Indeed it is interesting the way in which clubs are looking with such enthusiasm to build new stadia, given the history of such projects.
I’ve written on this before, but I hope you will excuse me re-running some of the data again.
Between 1935 and 1995 no major new football stadia were built. Since then we have had quite a few although not always accompanied by success on the pitch. Each new club assured its fans that they would “not make the mistakes” of those who had gone before, but most did.
“D3” and similar below means the third tier. Where grounds have since changed their name the original name is used but place in italics.
|Riverside Stadium||Middlesbrough||1995||Relegated 1997|
|Britannia Stadium||Stoke City||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Reebok Stadium||Bolton Wanderers||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Pride Park Stadium||Derby County||1997||Relegated 2002|
|Stadium of Light||Sunderland||1997||Relegated 1997|
|Madejski Stadium||Reading||1998||Releg to D3 ’98|
|JJB Stadium||Wigan Athletic||1999||Won D3 2003|
|St Mary’s Stadium||Southampton||2001||Relegated 2005|
|KC Stadium||Hull City||2002||Prom from D3 2005|
|Walkers Stadium||Leicester City||2002||Relegated 2004|
|Etihad Stadium||Manchester City||2003||Won League 2012|
|Liberty Stadium||Swansea City||2005||Prom D4 2005|
|Emirates Stadium||Arsenal||2006||Top 4 throughout|
|Cardiff City Stadium||Cardiff City||2009||Won D2 2012|
Looking at the record overall we can see that the normal course of events after spending a lot on a stadium is a decline. Southampton actually went into administration, Leicester dropped to the third tier. Even Manchester City who like State Aid Utd didn’t have to pay for their stadium, took a long, long time to get to the top, and missed relegation by 3 places in 2006.
So one could say that rather like big money purchases and changing the manager, getting a new ground is not always ideal.
But there is more to this than just building and running out of money for players. It is also about atmosphere; it turns out to be hard to get an atmosphere going in a new ground, and that might be a problem. Interestingly, on one occasion when I wrote about new grounds in the past, a group of Tottenham supporters wrote in attempting (not very successfully) to mock Arsenal for taking on a ground the design of which was based on a previous ground – Benfica.
I found that curious since generally it is considered in architecture far less risky to build a major new project around a design previously tried and tested. It is when a completely new design is tried that unforeseen circumstances can arise.
There is of course one other stadium job going on: Liverpool? (we renamed them after the Europa final).
Liverpool’s £100m expansion started in early 2015 and will add 8500 seats taking capacity up to 54,000 opening at the start of the 2016/17 season. It is hard to know anything about the stadium, since the club’s top management seem to have made telling porkies so much part of their PR style, it is hard to know what is and what is not true.
But certainly Fenway expected that after five years of ownership, and what with brining in all their “expertise” Liverpool? would by now be champions of Europe and England on a regular basis. As it is the new stand opens on another non-European season. How much longer the owners will put up with the failure even to qualify for Europe, let alone the failure even to win the “not a proper trophy” FA Cup, is hard to say.
So there are problems ahead for the clubs with new or redeveloped stadia.
First, there is the fact that for most clubs, a new stadium means a downturn in fortunes. Second, and this primarily applies to Tottenham, if the finance comes from the banks, a new stadium can reduce the amount of money to be spent on players. Now Tottenham have the unique position of making a profit on player trading most years, although serious questions are now being asked by the EC about its deals with Real Madrid. But even if everything proves to have been legit, there’s no doubt this success in making a profit on player sales can’t last forever (although, mind you, we said that about Arsenal always ending above Tottenham, just before the last match of the season, and that seems to go on and on and on).
- At last, a new view as to why the media insist on ignoring the key issues in football day after day after day
- He’s at the airport and we are signing him. Arsenal’s first major transfer of the still closed window is here.
- Does Arsenal still need Klopp or Pochettino to make the final breakthrough?