Is a new stadium a boon or a millstone? A look at ongoing PL ground improvements

by Tony Attwood

At the moment there are a lot of people denouncing the Kroenke family who own Arsenal, just as for quite a while there were people around who denounced Mr Wenger for not giving Arsenal more than three FA Cup triumphs since moving to the new stadium.

And the angst among some Arsenal fans seems to be growing because Tottenham finally broke the long sequence of seasons in which they came below Arsenal in the league.

So now we come to the next step in the saga.   Tottenham’s rebuilt ground finally opened in 2019, with much pazzazz and celebration, although also with an awareness that the Tottenham home crowd figures for 2018/19 were dramatically down on those of the previous year.   (Figures from European Football Statistics).

Pos Club Average crowd Change over year Highest crowd Lowest crowd
1 Manchester United 74,498 -0.6% 74,556 74,400
2 Arsenal  59,899 +1.0% 60,030 59,493
3 West Ham United 58,336 +2.6% 59,988 56,811
4 Tottenham Hotspur 54,216 -20.2% 81,332 29,164
5 Manchester City 54,130 +0.1% 54,511 53,307
6 Liverpool 52,983 -0.1% 53,373 50,965
7 Newcastle United 51,121 -1.7% 52,242 48,323
8 Chelsea 40,437 -2.0% 40,721 38,593

Arsenal’s crowds (or for those who worry about the number of no-shows, the number of tickets sold) were up last season by 1%, while Tottenham’s were down last season by 20.2%.   The Tottenham decline was probably partly because of the uncertainty over the ultimate opening date of New White Hart Lane, partly because of a dislike of Wembley, partly because of the distance between Tottenham and the top two, and partly because Newhl is smaller than Wembley.

So we wait and see what will happen to them in the coming season: will they fill the ground and bounce back into second place for average home attendance?

Meanwhile Chelsea’s project of rebuilding their entire ground took a bit of a knock a year or so ago when the owner announced that the club had put the plans for a new stadium on hold.  Nothing seems to have happened since to change the view that the “on hold” position looks permanent, unless the government decides to give him his work visa back.

So I though it might be interesting to see who else is planning some stadium work, and consider once more what can happen when a new stadium is built.  Here I’m just looking at PL clubs, and trying to gather up the latest information.  If I have missed something, my apologies – I often do make mistakes, but do welcome corrections with details of the source of the information.

This interest in stadia has been a long running feature of Untold, since we first published the table on what has happened to clubs that move or rebuild.  Here’s a reprint of the table

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 Div 3 ’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 for 10 years*
Cardiff City Stadium Cardiff City 2009 Won D2 2012

*Plus three FA Cup wins.

Our conclusion was that mostly building a new stadium was bad for results, largely because of financial constraints and the psychological factor of enhanced expectation and player uncertainty.

Which leads on to the question: what clubs are currently undertaking some work on their grounds?

Crystal Palace

Crystal Palace  have  permission to increase the capacity of Selhurst Park to over 34,000 by building a bigger a four tier Main Stand.  It was supposed to start this summer – although I can’t find anything on the internet to confirm that this is actually now ongoing.  If you have seen it happening please do let us know.


AFC B said they were going to leave the tiny Dean Court ground and build a new 25,000 capacity stadium close by in Kings Park with detailed plans about to be announced.  Certainly plans for a new training centre have been announced in the local press, but is anything else happening on the new stadium?  The club did originally say they would be moved by August 2020 – so we should be seeing some signs now.  The last statement on the club site on the subject was posted in July 2017.


We had a lot of arguments on this site over the fact that Liverpool council were subsidizing the financing of a new Everton ground at Bramley Moore Dock, with Untold saying this was totally against EU regulations.  But since then, nothing.  No formal plans or proposals, and no application for planning permission, no clarification on the financing   But still a lot of up-talking on the club’s website

Liverpool have clearly not had any knock-back from financing the recent work, other than a short period of fan protest over seat pricing and they have outline permission to expand the Anfield Road End, to take the stadium up to 60,000. No timetable has been announced, and planning permission expires this year – unless it has been extended and I have missed it.
Manchester City

Manchester City were given their ground on the cheap after the Commonwealth Games and they have been expanding it under their new ownership. The latest plan is a third tier for the North Stand to take capacity up to 61,000 but I have not been able to find a timetable.  If you know of one published by the club (rather than speculation) can you let me know?

Manchester United

There are tales of rebuilding the Sir Bobby Charlton Stand on one side of the ground with a view to take the ground up to 90,000 capacity but nothing seems to have happened to take this forward. I wonder if the owners really want to spend the money when they are making such a lovely profit anyway even with the club in sixth.

Wolverhampton Wanderers

Wolverhampton Wanderers want to build a new stand to replace the Steve Bull Stand which would take capacity up to 36,000.  Then they want a single tiered stand to replace the Jack Hayward Stand at to add another 10,000.  There is talk of starting the project in 2020.

Aston Villa

It is said that Villa have planning permission to redevelop the North Stand but there are no timetables, and it is likely that the original permission will run out before work can begin.


Watford want to add extra seating and perhaps an extra tier to the Sir  Elton John and Graham Taylor Stands but there are no details, plans or permissions as yet.

Meanwhile, at the latest new stadium – Newhl – the arguments never seem too far away.  After all the comments about why the ground slipped so very far behind schedule (you might recall our reporting of the coverage in the trade journal Construction News on the topic), the latest story is a report in the Observer about the level of fly-tipping in the area having a negative effect on the image of the new stadium.  The story is Tottenham are refusing to pay for a clean-up of the area.   One note reported by the Observer written after a meeting between Tottenham H and the council, says the club were “very dismissive as to the current state/appearance of Tottenham and implied that this was not an acceptable environment for their new stadium and supporters…. the comment adding“Spurs as you may be aware quite an aggressive operator. When the question of all the extra cleaning needed was raised and who would fund it, it was made very clear that it would not be paid for by Spurs.”

Another memo says Tottenham want the council pay £500,000 to resurface Tottenham High Road “as its appearance is detrimental to the street scene around the stadium.”

The Observer newspaper quoted Martin Bell as saying, “The attitude of Spurs beggars belief and is insulting to the people of Tottenham. The club has a legal and moral responsibility to ensure the area around their new stadium is kept clean because ultimately they are the ones who are really benefiting from it.”

As for Tottenham’s results at the new stadium, they have four wins, two defeats and a draw.  In the league that was three wins, one defeat and one draw.

03 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v Crystal Palace W 2-0 Premier League
09 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v Manchester City W 1-0 Champions League
13 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v Huddersfield Town W 4-0 Premier League
23 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v Brighton and Hove W 1-0 Premier League
27 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v West Ham United L 0-1 Premier League
30 Apr 2019 Tottenham H v Ajax L 0-1 Champions League
12 May 2019 Tottenham Hv Everton D 2-2 Premier League

Their total in the league for the season including the games at Newhl was 12 wins two draws and five defeats at home – a 63% win rate.  At the new stadium it was a 60% win rate.  Arsenal, for the record, had 14 wins three draws and two defeats at home.  A 74% win rate.

3 Replies to “Is a new stadium a boon or a millstone? A look at ongoing PL ground improvements”

  1. On a personal note , I would like history to repeat itself , and see the occupants of the newest (albeit refurbished)stadia follow the rest (other than the Arsenal, of course!) and spend some time in the low reaches.

    Again I repeat , this is only my own personal wish , but like minded friends are most welcome to pray for divine or other intervention to see our hopes fulfilled !

    With some measure of austerity due for the next few(?) seasons , I can truly see it coming to pass.

    And if need be they might sell the family jewels , to pay the bills , which should weaken them some.

  2. I believe it tomP that showed with facts, using performance of teams in the 5years leading up to when they built their stadium, and in the 5years after stadium move, that teams tended to have done better after the move. Those teams you tell us were relegated a few yrs after the stadium move, probably were promoted after the stadium move, had a fairytale run for some years before returning to status quo

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