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While Ashley Sells Off Newcastle United’s Future For Peanuts – Numerous Clubs Plan Bigger Stadiums

7 years ago
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Recent articles about attendances got me thinking that once upon a time NUFC appeared to have a big advantage over many clubs in the PL, whereby, we had a fairly big stadium compared to many others, as well being able to generally fill the ground most games since the last redevelopment.

This in turn brought in the much needed extra income due to the excellent corporate hospitality/facilities at SJP. I personally used to think that we had the best, or at worst almost the best, until Man U expanded again and created many more boxes/facilities than us, putting us just behind the Red Devils with the extra match day income.

However, Arsenal then built possibly the best league stadium in the UK, as well as almost doubling their gates, which I felt left us behind another club regarding maximising income via hospitality.

I started to think about other clubs as well after reading some positive comments about Leicester’s owners and their future aspirations for the Foxes, now they are in the PL.

I have always been worried about NUFC falling behind other clubs (off the field) that we are competing with.

Of course no one is ever going to catch Man U regarding attendances of up to 76k every game, then Arsenal now on 60k. The only thing that is stopping the ‘full house’ signs going up at many clubs is the empty seats in the away end. Anyway, with the Gunners and perhaps another couple of teams, I wouldn’t bet against it if they had a ground that could hold 80k, that they would almost fill it  -especially on massive games v top 6 teams. However, I feel the bigger the stadium it’s also important to lower the ticket prices.

NUFC were around 2k short of capacity on average over the course of the season just gone. I know we have a canny number of boxes and corporate rooms quite full on match days, as well as prime (viewing) seats which all adds up, but on match days for games that easily sell out, clubs who can’t satisfy on-site demand re catering and hospitality should even consider exploring the possibility of match day hospitality elsewhere and then bringing in fans/customers by bus for the game only. I know it may sound mad but everything must be considered these days to bring in those extra pennies. The only problem I have with that for big games  (local derby etc) is that many genuine fans will miss out on a ticket but many know when it comes to making money the genuine fans (and we know because the club have done it to us on a number of occasions) are not considered.

It may be fair to say that Man City with a ground that holds 48k, and in the near future could increase to 62k, will put us down the attendance league table. However, I foresee that City in turn will have to attract more home fans by either reducing prices, or attracting more families/business customers, but when you are successful on the field it will bring with that success thousands of new younger fans.

Anfield’s 44k is sold out every single game as it’s obvious demand outweighs supply and with the mickey mousers’ worldwide fan base probably matching  Man Utd’s popularity, Liverpool’s future plan for having a 59k stadium makes sense, as well as incorporating large pre-match entertaining areas, will bring in much needed money (and possible new investors/sponsorship) to compete with the mega rich owners at Chelsea and Manchester City.

Chelsea’s 42k ground is always sold out by home fans but CFC have for a long time been the worst culprits for excessive ticket pricing which goes a long way in bringing in additional income, so it doesn’t leave them that far behind their main rivals. Now that the Blues having lost out on a proposed move to Battersea and a 60k stadium, they will continue to struggle crowd-wise, leaving them to either further increase entrance fees or increase corporate match day customers.

Amazing really when you think of the old Bridge and the potential it had to be a 60k stadium, had it been planned right. Just imagine the population of the south east and the extra revenues coming in to the club with 60k rolling in 30 games a season. It annoyed me recently when I popped into Frankie’s bar at the Bridge for a quick pint when we played Fulham in March, as I couldn’t get moved for what seemed like a hundred kids running around (in Chelsea kits) having a party.

NUFC at Sunderland back in the day

The attendances down the road in SR5 prove to me that what happens on the pitch is always going to be the most critical thing at a club and which drives everything else. Everton do well to achieve what they do considering sharing the city and in the future could prove again that when new stadiums are built, clubs generally see a big increase in attendances. If they moved out of the city boundary to a 55k stadium I have no doubt crowds will go up.  Recently Leicester, who most Toon fans may probably think we should always outstrip them in many ways, are now making plans to increase capacity now that the PL gravy train is in town. Deep down the Foxes will know they won’t be able to compete off the pitch with the big boys but the owner will be doing all he can to close the gap as much as possible.

Spurs realise that having a big stadium will go a long way to competing with the best, as travelling Toon fans will testify that the Lane is outdated in many ways. Currently, with only 36k every game they know if they don’t move fast they will fall further behind other clubs, but once they move into the New Lane circa 2017, they can tap what everyone else is doing as well as bringing in much needed non-match day hospitality such as wedding, conferences etc.

No wonder the Hammers didn’t want to share with little Orient, for me it smells of greed & selfishness. Another capital club who thinks it’s only right to currently have excessive ticket prices and do its best to freeze out the working class fans but that’s the football environment these days. Hopefully those with very little disposable income will be made welcome at the Olympic stadium in the future, rather than see thousands of empty seats.

WHU will be looking at a potential fortnightly sell out of 54k, added to 1st class facilities, which will enhance their progress on the field no doubt and possibly increasing their chances of being a regular challenger for trophies. Having tapped into the football mad folk in east end and Essex who will swarm to the new stadium if the price is reasonable. One critical thing that may hold back the hammers slightly may be any pre-set financial agreements that may be in place regards non-match day income with Newham council, but still it sure will be a lot better than the current 34k.

Some Toon fans have posed the argument that due to massive TV income these days, that fans are no longer important, but if you look after the pennies the pounds will look after themselves, so it’s not a coincidence that most clubs are looking to increase income by increasing stadium capacities. Plus,  the more private boxes you have in your ground goes a long way to giving clubs that extra option of bringing in more money as well as attracting businesses and football ‘tourists’ and day trippers many day trippers (happy to pay top dollar) from various parts of the world at SJP, when the Liverpool and Man U come along.

Anyway, I could go on about Palace (plans for 35-40k), Southampton, Hull, Baggies, Villa and even QPR’s proposed new ground, which will hold 40k, all looking now to expand. Which worries me because the gap between us and  the teams we think should be below us, will be non -existent.

Then you come to Newcastle United….

When you look at what is happening around the rest of the Premier League and their plans to expand and attract ever more fans. It is simply crazy that Mike Ashley is now attempting to sell the lease on a piece of land that is essential for any future expansion of St.James’ Park.

Ashley is currently trying to finalise a deal which would see hotels and/or student accommodation being built on land opposite the Gallowgate End. The lease on this land was bought during the Hall/Shepherd days with the potential to build an extra eight thousand or so seats at that end of St.James’ Park, as part of a commercial project that would have included a casino and hotels, or similar type commercial scheme.

In the latest Fans Forum the club used the argument that the expense of expanding would be too much but that’s not the point! Who know what is around the corner and if this land opposite the Gallowgate is developed for other use then it means the NUFC ground capacity can NEVER be expanded in the future.

It is speculated that the sale of the lease would bring in a few million at most but is that what the potential future of Newcastle United is worth?

It would certainly appear so in Mike Ashley’s eyes, you’d almost think he didn’t really care what happens to NUFC in the future…

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