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Does building a new football stadium lead to success?

We look at some of the stadia redeveloped (and built anew) in recent memory

The opening of the new ground at Spurs got us thinking about the number of new stadia that have been opened in recent times and ask: Is it a shortcut to success?

The answers are mixed – ranging from “yes” to “no” and “it depends” (on how you measure success).

We cannot cover every new ground and we’ll treat the main three from the capital in alphabetical order (so Spurs fans may wish to look away now).

Arsenal: The Emirates Stadium (capacity 60,260)

Completed in 2006, the ground at the time had the third highest capacity of all stadia in England (only beaten by Wembley and Old Trafford). It will be overtaken by the Spurs ground which will hold 62,062. The original plan at Spurs was for 56,000 seated. Wonder why it changed?

Has the new stadium been successful for Arsenal?

Well, certainly they have been in terms of income which, of course, makes any team better able to spend the crazy amounts they do on players. But, in terms of trophies?

Since moving to their new ground the Gunners have had a hat-trick of FA Cup final successes. Fans of many other clubs would sacrifice parts of their anatomy for just one such trophy let alone three. But Gooners crave the Premiership (who doesn’t) so discontent mounted with Arsene Wenger to the extent that he stood down at the end of last season.

We feel it should be noted that Wenger achieved minor miracles by keeping Arsenal in the Champions League for more than 20 seasons – even when his budget was cut to help pay for the ground.

Chelsea: Stamford Bridge (capacity 41,631)

The club has plans to expand capacity to 63,000 by the 2023–2024 season. When expansion starts, like Spurs, Chelsea intend to play at Wembley until they are able to return. They did consider the home of rugby at Twickenham.

Today’s stadium was redeveloped stand-by-stand to bring spectators nearer to the pitch. Back in the 1960s there was a greyhound track around the playing area.

The north, west and southern parts of the ground were converted into all-seater stands by 2001, so we’ll take this century as our benchmark when measuring the success of the club in relation to the ground they play in.

Since the start of the new millennium it has been an impressive trophy haul that includes five Premiership titles, five FA Cups, three League Cups, one Champions League and one Europa League.

On wonders if they really do need a new stadium!

The running track is covered for West Ham matches but it makes fans feel more removed from the action. Picture: London Inspire

West Ham United: The London Stadium (60,000 capacity)

The other big London side to have a new ground is, of course, “your West ’am” as TV character Alf Garnett used to say. They moved to the former 2012 Olympics stadium near Stratford in 2016. At one time Spurs had been in competition with them for it.

The Hammers (some call them the Irons) have struggled to settle in their new stadium but the recent move to name one of the stands after Billy Bonds seemed popular with the fans. Others are names after England World Cup-winning captain Bobby Moore and Sir Trevor Brooking.

Interesting to see what the future holds. Their previous home Upton Park/ Boleyn Ground (take your pick) was an intimidating one with the spectators seeming to be right on top of the players. At the London Stadium, the continued presence of the athletics running track has made fans feel removed from the action.

Impact in terms of trophies? Well, none – but that was also the case for quite few years at their previous home. So no difference really.

Well that’s the big boys from London. What of sides elsewhere?

Liverpool have developed the main stand at Anfield which increased the capacity by 8,500 seats. At the time of writing the Premiership continues to elude them, but they are in with a really big shout at changing that situation. Neighbours across Stanley Park – Everton – are also looking into building their own stadium. Plans for a combined Everton/Liverpool stadium slap band between the two in Stanley Park have long since been ditched.

Manchester City took over the stadium built for the Commonwealth Games and turned it into the Etihad. They have done rather well (understatement, or what?) since but, given the spending power of their owners, we doubt if the ground was a particularly significant factor.

Manchester United have the second biggest ground in England with a 70,000+ capacity which also has been developed one stand at a time. The capacity might be even greater were it not for the presence of a railway track along one side of the ground which has prevented the development of the stand where the managers and substitutes sit.

In conclusion, it might be simpler to talk about the teams that haven’t had anything done to their grounds. But we’ll finish with a special mention for the teams at Bolton and Sunderland who built grounds ready for Premiership football. But you know the rest …

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David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past publications worked for include the South-East London Mercury*, Kent Messenger, Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor for an East Midlands-based publishing group.

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