Emirates Cup returns: but what does that mean for the stadium development?

By Tony Attwood

If you went for a stroll around Arsenal Stadium during the close season last summer you might well have been surprised by the amount of scaffolding against the walls of the ground.  It went all the way round and as a result passers by found their from Arsenal station aross to Holloway road, restricted.

Now I must admit I assumed that this was due to the development of Club Level, which was having an extra row of seats added at the front, around half of the ground – although I couldn’t quite see why one needed scaffolding outside the ground to make this happen – but I am not a builder.  Maybe it wasn’t for club level, but rather it was cleaning the outside of the stadium.

Anyway, even before we saw the scaffolding the Daily Telegraph helpfully told us what was going on in a bit more detail saying in a piece in November 2017 that Arsenal were starting a “two-stage renovation project which will take place over the summers of 2018 and 2019 to add an extra 780 seats to their ‘Club Level’ areas.”

The reason given was that somehow the ground had been designed without the number of seats for disabled supporters that it was supposed to have (at least in terms of an ideal, if not in terms of the law) and so these needed to be expanded.  As a result the capacity of the ground had declined and the most efficient way of expanding that number again was by adding 780 club level seats.  They are among the most expensive of seats and so can bring in the income to pay for the work most rapidly.

The resultant capacity was thus said to be going back to over 60,000 once more, although in typical fashion the Telegraph article then ended, “The increase will not, however, move the Emirates’ new capacity above that of Tottenham’s new ground, which will have just over 61,000.”

So that set the scene, and this season we have seen that half way around the ground there is the extra seating at the front of club level.   And given that no summer tournament was organised at Arsenal stadium last season, I assumed that the new seating and the mass of scaffolding was all part of the grand scheme of things.

But now we are told that we will have a summer tourney this summer – although only lasting one day.   Is the work already done?  Has it been abandoned because they couldn’t sell all the seats they  in last summer?   Did the scaffolding have nothing to do with anything?

One doesn’t know, but we do know that there will be two games on July 28, the first played by the women’s team and the second by the men’s team.

There has been considerable pressure for some time to have some women’s games played at Arsenal Stadium, with the clear demand being that these should be either League games or FA Cup games.   But maybe Arsenal’s plan is to tuck the women’s team into the pre-season day and then claim they have met the demand.

Of course this is an excellent time for Arsenal Women’s team to be playing at the Emirates because they have just won the league against all the odds, and against all the money that Manchester City have poured into their women’s team.  But I do hope it doesn’t mean the club thinks it has completed on its commitment.

So, it is a one day tournament, with two games, and as usual, one ticket gets one in to both games.  Tickets in the main part of the ground will start at £25 (half price for concessions) but there is no information as to whether the Club Level will be open.  I personally hope so, as in the past I have used the occasion to visit Club Level and ask for a glass of Merlot at the bar.  As a result one of the bar staff turns to a supervisor and says, “What’s Merlot?” and on being told it is a red wine goes and looks for it in the fridge.  Oh how we laugh.

Such things tend to keep me occupied.

Anyway none of the above affects the other pre-season games in the United States, in which Arsenal play Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Roma.