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October 2016
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What will happen to the three Premier League clubs with their new grounds.

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.

Stadium Club Built Promotion/Releg
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).

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18 comments to What will happen to the three Premier League clubs with their new grounds.

  • insideright

    What we have also learned recently is that whoever lends you the money to build/redevelop a stadium also demands that you have everything else in place to ensure that money does not have to be diverted away from repaying the loan to them. Hence Spurs have had to completely change their business plan and squad development policies which have operated for decades.
    They have. at last, got a manager that they can get to sign a five year contract and have, at last, had more than a little success with youth development (a major saving in the transfer market on which they previously relied).
    But success has to be maintained throughout the next few years of moves and stadium building with preferably Champions League qualification ‘guaranteed’. There’s no room for flashes in the pan or anything less than consistency at the highest level for them.
    They’ll only be able to buy players after having previously sold and youth will be required to come through every season – and to succeed.
    Meanwhile there are five or six other clubs who will expect to be ‘top four’ as of right. Somehow the maths don’t convincingly work in their favour.

  • Leon

    I love it that Historic England are claiming that the building of a new stadium in Tottenham would “cause substantial harm” to the character of the area. This is a contradiction in terms. Have they ever been to Tottenham?
    Another stadium not mentioned above is AFC Wimbledon’s new Plough Lane development which has been approved by Merton Council and only needs rubber stamping by the Mayor of London for work to progress. As the new mayor is a local lad there should be no problems. Super story which is continuing with the play off finals on next bank holiday Monday.

  • Florian


    Swiss Ramble believes the Totts are still having a £300m financing deficit for the stadium, which will supposedly be covered by increased commercial revenue. In this light, the recent St. Totteringham’s Day surely didn’t help their cause.

    “Tottenham have already spent £100 million, while financial adviser Rothschild have arranged £350 million of loans from three banks, leaving a gap of £300 million to be funded (assuming the higher cost).”

    Also, we are the PL club with the fastest commercial revenue growth in the last 3 years (97%, from £53mil in 2012 to £103mil in 2015), while their revenue will stay flat for a long time due to the long-term deals they will have to put in place, as we know all too well.

    “Forever in our shadow” seems to be legit.

  • ARSENAL 13

    News news news…..Mr Wenger has a stadium after him.

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony, I can claim no knowledge of commercial rents for the London area.

    It would appear to me, that apart from football, no other source was likely to be feasible? Renting out the London Olympic Stadium.

    Therefore, from the available evidence, only WHU and/or Spurs, were feasible tenants? With the stadium available for football for 11 months, The rental agreement being, August to June the following year!

    The same applies to the Manchester Commonwealth Stadium? I do not have any particulars regarding the tenancy agreement.

    Then, there is the Glasgow Commonwealth Stadium, I have no details regarding a tenancy for that site.

    With no expertise in commercial renting, there is a case in my humble opinion, that a sole tenant applicant, means a tenant’s rental value?

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Arsenal should not wait to be left behind in Stadium redevelopment drive before they too start to expand the sitting capacity of their Emirates Stadium from the just over a few hundred over 60,000 seated fans to 68,000 all seated, sooner rather than later I would imagine.

    Report had had it that, there are thousands of Arsenal awaiting season ticket fans on the queue. So any lack of Arsenal fans to take up any increased sitting capacity at the Ems won’t be an issue at all.

  • Jambug


    As far as I know the issue regarding increasing capacity is with the local authorities.

    The main problem, as I understand it, is with local transport infrastructure, and the dispersal of fans after the match.

    I believe the Stadium has been built with the facility to increase the capacity to 70,000 +, hence the current bucket sized seats, but we would have to be prepared to improve the local infrastructure at our own expense.

    Massive massive costs, therefore hardly likely to happen any time soon.

    If I am wrong on this I am sure somebody will put me right.

  • Florian


    That is correct. The London tube station at Holloway Road is the main blocker, as it would require major upgrades in order to receive the extra thousands of people flowing out of the gates. The project is expensive because the station is buried deep, and it would take special equipment to do the drills that host the elevators – not to mention the elevators themselves. But, most of all, from what I remember, Arsenal paid money a few years ago already, only for the Council to redirect them towards other projects – to put it nicely. It’s therefore understandable why Arsenal are reluctant to get involved in further discussions with an entity that demonstrated appetite for inefficient spending;) (where did we that kind of institution before?)

  • Jambug


    Thanks for that.

    Seems we had the misfortune to deal with a local authority with a slightly more circumspect attitude to that of the authorities West Ham and Spurs have the good fortune to deal with.

  • Andy Mack

    Tony, the TinysTotts/Arsenal ground share has one very big hurdle for the Tinys to overcome before it can even be considered.
    They would have to pay us ‘Up Front’ enough money to put a roof on the stadium before any share would be possible.
    The problem is that after any Tinys game the fumigation process would take far to long without a roof.

  • Menace

    OT – Nice to see Thomas Vermallen pick up a winners Copa del Rey for Barca.

  • para

    Everything seems over complicated when it comes to money and new stadium, yet Arsenal managed to do it so sublimely.

    To use one of the meanings of subline: “An ultimate example” Yet no one has who we have(AW) that could pull it off, so no wonder they all cannot do it like Arsenal did and have to resort to other means.

    Even Chel$ who have the dosh is still going to have problems.

    It must be becoming apparent to even the blind Arsenal fans what a great acheivement that was by Arsenal.

    So lets look forward to the new season where the top 6 may well be so changed as to be unrecognisable, except in the case of Arsenal of course. 🙂

  • Brickfields Gunners

    @ ARSENAL 13 – May 22, 2016 at 5:15 pm – A real honour bestowed on Arsene Wenger .But it has got me worried . Can there be two stadiums with the same name ? Would FIFA or UEFA give their approval ? They’d probably try to block it out of spite .
    I’m sure that all the AKBs here are of the same opinion as me , that the Ems will one day be surely called the Arsene Wenger Stadium , after the man who was instrumental in its building .
    It will probably be done after he retires with more honours and hopefully in about in 20 years time ! Long after all those corrupt moron on those bodies are dead and gone .
    Or what about ,’ WHERE FOOTBALL IS AN ART’ Stadium ? It has a very nice ring to it. And we’d all know its true meaning !What do you guys think ?

  • Florian


    “Where Football Is an Art” – I would wholeheartedly support that for a naming:)

  • para

    Would that not have to be: “Where football was an art” if AW is gone from Arsenal? 🙂

    Maybe Arsenal should call it “The Football Stadium” which really says it all, meaning “the place where football is played”, insinuating that it is the only place where football is played.

    But Arsenal does not insinuate. 🙂

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Sarcasm at its Best….*

    Checking out at the store, the young cashier suggested to the older woman that she should bring her own shopping bags because plastic bags weren’t good for the environment.

    The woman apologized and explained, “We didn’t have this green thing back in my earlier days.”

    The cashier responded, “That’s our problem today. Your generation did not care enough to save our environment for future generations.”

    She was right — our generation didn’t have the green thing in its day.

    Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so they could use the same bottles over and over. Yes, they really were recycling.

    We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen; and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull.

    But, we didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

    We walked up the stairs, because we didn’t have an escalator in every shop and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didn’t climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks.

    But, she was right. We didn’t have the green thing in our day.

    Back then, we washed the baby’s nappies because we didn’t have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an ‘energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts;’ wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing.

    But, that young lady is right. We didn’t have the green thing back in our day.

    Back then, we had one TV, or radio, in the house — not a TV in every room. And, the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of the county of Yorkshire .

    In the kitchen, we blended and stirred by hand because we didn’t have electric machines to do everything for us.

    When we packaged a fragile item to send in the post, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

    Back then, we didn’t fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power.

    We exercised by working so we didn’t need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity.

    But, she’s right. We didn’t have the green thing back then.

    We drank water from a fountain or a tap when we were thirsty instead of demanding a plastic bottle flown in from another country.

    We accepted that a lot of food was seasonal and didn’t expect that to be bucked by flying it thousands of air miles around the world.
    We actually cooked food that didn’t come out of a packet, tin or plastic wrap and we could even wash our own vegetables and chop our own salad.

    But, we didn’t have the green thing back then.

    Back then, people took the tram or a bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service.

    We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances.

    And we didn’t need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 2,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest pizza joint.

    But, isn’t it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn’t have the green thing back then?


  • ARSENAL 13

    @ Brickfields,

    I think eventually we’ll name the stadium after Mr Wenger. Its just a matter of time.

  • Rich


    Not sure you’ve ever looked at this angle before, but might Boris Johnson’s passion for Brexit be motivated at least in part by looking to avoid any showdown with the European Commission * over the stadium?

    West Ham might just fund a battle bus or two for this one.

    As yet, i’ve only ever heard of this commission investigating football clubs- Spanish and Dutch- and not actually doing anything; but still, it would be nice to make the threat disappear entirely.