Ground Force

By , Posted on 30th November 2011 - Posted in: Football News, News

One of the most startling changes to the landscape of British football in recent times has been the appearance of brand new stadia across the country. For more or less a century the vast bulk of our professional clubs played in home grounds not fundamentally changed from the original bricks and mortar four-sided arenas designed and built by the Victorians.

Though these stadia were, and in many cases still are, iconic landmarks it’s also true that the ravages of time has long overtaken the vast majority. Nips and tucks here and there, perhaps a new stand, the removal of terracing or the upgrading of catering and toilet facilities can only go so far. Many of these grand old places sit hemmed in urban areas, often stuck in the middle of rows of terraced housing. Not built with the age of the motor car, nor the demands of modern day corporate hospitality in mind, it was evident a long time ago that more radical solutions were needed.

Hence the proliferation of new, edge of town stadia, built with a careful eye on modern requirements. Scores of clubs across all league divisions and spread the length and breadth of the land now ply their trades in bowl shaped, glass and steel monoliths thanks to this second generation of football ground construction.

With the success of Arsenal’s move to the 60,000 seater Emirates and Manchester City’s taking over of the Commonwealth Games stadium at Eastlands a clutch of top Premier League clubs, yet to move out of their original homes, are now looking to push on with various schemes of their own.

Liverpool, after a decade of legal wrangling, are still looking to build a ‘new’ Anfield in nearby Stanley Park and Chelsea too are now exploring the possibility of leaving Stamford Bridge, perhaps taking up an opportunity to develop the Battersea Power Station area. Spurs and West Ham have been caught up in a squabble over who is going to move into London’s new Olympic Stadium after next summer’s games, and QPR have also recently announced plans to leave their 17,000 capacity Loftus Road ground and build a new 45,000+ seater stadium somewhere in the west end of London.

The expense of building again from scratch can be offset by selling off the old stadium and the land it sits on – often prime house building land – and of course the lure of future increased gate revenues can tempt a billionaire owner to bankroll development work without too much persuasion. In addition, lucrative naming rights to the new stadium can bring in colossal sums of sponsorship money. The sensibility of the average football fan means this is simply not possible to do with existing stadia. For example, the supporters of Liverpool or Tottenham Hotspur could never countenance the replacement of ‘Anfield’ or ‘White Hart Lane’ with the name of some tawdry sponsor. This emotional barrier is removed with a brand new ground.

But sometimes the best option for a club is to stay put. Manchester United, perhaps uniquely amongst English football’s larger clubs, have no requirement to leave their Old Trafford home. It’s been cleverly redeveloped over many years and, at a whopping 75,000 capacity, arguably stands alone as the country’s finest.

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