With Chelsea proposing to buy up the shares currently owned by Chelsea Pitch Owners in an attempt to either rebuild Stamford Bridge or move to a new stadium, Spurs angling for a new home after the failed bid for the Olympic Stadium and Liverpool still pondering their next move, does moving stadium guarantee success on the pitch? Or is it purely a money-spinning move?
Arsenal are most certainly the prime example here. They moved to The Emirates in time for the start of the 2006/7 season and then built the Highbury Square development on the site of their old hallowed ground. The theory behind this was that it would help generate funds to help the club further down the line.
The latest accounts released by the club have seen the club generate a healthy £56m pre-tax profit and for the first time since their switch, the club are now making money from the Highbury Square developments.
The sale of the Highbury Square apartments that were part of the move to the Emirates, generated £156.9m and allowed Arsenal to repay in full the £129.6m in bank loans taken to fund the original construction on the site. Along with a small profit from the net sales of players, Arsenal recorded an increase in turnover from £313.3m to £379.9m.
While this is of course an exceptional case – not every side is located on such prime real estate as Arsenal were, in a congested part of North London – the move to the Emirates was sold to fans on the provision of generating more funds for the future purchase of players – a promise most Arsenal fans will feel rightly aggrieved about as it’s simply not been kept.
But the real acid test will be how Arsenal go on from here, Wenger now no longer has any excuses. A failure to spend in the future, now that the money is clearly there for all to see, would be foolish to say the least.
Man City moved to the City of Manchester stadium, now known as the Etihad Stadium (nothing dodgy about this one at all) back in 2003 after it was purpose-built for use at the Commonwealth Games.
However, while Man City certainly increased their attendance from the 32,000 at Maine Road to 47,805 at their new home, Man City finished 16th, 8th, 15th, 14th until they were bought out by former Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in 2007. Sven Goran-Eriksson was then appointed manager and allowed to open the chequebook and they went onto finish 9th after a bright campaign.
Moving to a new ground did not solve any of City’s problems, nor did it help them bridge the gap. They finished 9th after winning promotion back to the promised land in 2002/3 under Kevin Keegan at Maine Road.
But, and this is a big but, it did help the club attract more investment, which in turn led to improved performances on the pitch. The club are now undeniably a major force in the top flight since being bought out by the Abu Dhabi United Group in 2008.
This appears to be the major obstacle that’s stopping clubs like Everton from expanding. Any potential investor in the club will have to fork out the good side of £200m on building a new stadium before they can even think about seeing a return on their investment on and off the pitch – for most investors, it’s a problem that’s far too fraught with danger and it’s regarded as simply too long-term in it’s outreach.
Man City’s new stadium was part of what made them such an attractive proposition, but only the subsequent reinvestment in the playing staff, firstly by Shinawatra and then the Abu Dhabi United Group is what has taken them to the next level.
Building a new stadium does not guarantee success on the pitch, it merely guarantees more profit off the pitch. For Chelsea, the move simply appears to grant them more freedom and control to do as they wish in the future, as they already have wealthy Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich in charge.
For Spurs though, while under the guidance of Chairman Daniel Levy, they are a club that‘s hit a glass ceiling. Although the club can hardly be considered paupers, it’s clear that in order to move up to the next level and secure future investment, they have to address the stadium issue first, which goes some way to explaining to protracted saga involving the Olympic Stadium.
This was Spurs big chance to move up a level, but they missed out to West Ham. To move into a stadium, that while it required adjusting to accommodate a Premier League club, was built and funded by the taxpayer and it would have been worth it’s weight in gold going forward.
Liverpool are still pondering over whether to rebuild Anfield, much like NESV did with Fenway Park, the Boston Red Sox team’s home, or move to a new stadium altogether – a much more costly course of action. NESV are thought to favour redeveloping Anfield simply because it’s a much cheaper option.
Having a brand new stadium is a lot like converting a loft in a house – it adds sell-on value to the club. Clubs all over the land looking to make the leap from also-ran to major player are eyeing up new homes.
Chelsea, Spurs and Liverpool will not be the last to consider such a course, but until their plans come to fruition, they’ll continue to bang their head against that glass ceiling as they fail to make the most out of the massive potential the Premier League offers in terms of making money.
Football is a business now and a new stadium is a crucial part of that – Man City have provided the model by which others will look to follow in the future.
It reminds me a lot of the line Al Pacino utters in Brain De Palma’s seminal 1983 crime flick Scarface: ‘You gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, then you get the women.’ In this analogy, the money is the stadium, the power is the new investors and the women is success on the pitch – the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Stadium’s don’t guarantee success, just look at Arsenal, they are six years without a trophy, but they do lay the groundwork and conditions upon which to build a successful club.
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