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The high cost of building football stadiums

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Manchester United and Chelsea both face a common issue that they cannot evade. While Old Trafford and Stamford Bridge have significant historical significance in the Premier League, they do not offer a promising future in their current states. Both famous stadiums have turned into burdens that are holding back their respective owners and are not suitable for long-term elite purposes. The inevitable day when the bulldozers come rumbling over the horizon is not imminent, but it is accepted as a reality even by those responsible for funding it all.

Other Premier League clubs are also modernizing their stadiums, with plans underway to increase capacities for Aston Villa, Nottingham Forest, Crystal Palace, Manchester City, Liverpool, Fulham, Everton, Luton Town, Bournemouth, and Newcastle United. However, these grand plans require massive financial commitments. For Manchester United and Chelsea, transforming Old Trafford or Stamford Bridge would cost close to £1billion, in line with the cost of Tottenham Hotspurs’ new home in 2019 and Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium rebuild.

Stadium improvements have become a necessity for clubs to stay competitive, but the rising costs are due to inflation, increasing expectations of stadium quality, and the revenue-generating potential of these new structures. Clubs need the stadium to be a driving force for revenue, and a successful example of this is Tottenham’s stadium, which has more than doubled annual gate receipts. The Emirates stadium also proved transformative for Arsenal in this sense.

Both Manchester United and Chelsea are considering rebuilding their stadiums, and as every club at the drawing board is aware, these projects cannot be considered short-term. Feasibility studies alone can take 12 months, and typically, it will take between two and three years before the construction begins. The costs and revenue potential of these new stadiums are vital for the overall success of a football club.

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