Arsenal consider leaving hallowed marble halls

Football

Arsenal have identified three potential sites on which they could build a bigger stadium if their plans to expand Highbury, the club's traditional home, are blocked.

Alexandra Palace, Finsbury Park, both in north London, and a disused site next to King's Cross station have been named as viable alternatives to Highbury, the club's 80-year-old ground.

Arsenal must increase their ground's capacity from 38,500 to nearer 60,000 if they want to be seen as one of Europe's leading teams. While the club would prefer to redevelop Highbury, they are anticipating strong objections on planning grounds from Islington council. The present site is landlocked and a redevelopment would require compulsory purchase orders. Furthermore, the East Stand, with its famous marble halls, is a Grade Two listed building and therefore cannot be touched.

The club is understood to be discussing ways of paying for the new stadium, which has been estimated to cost about pounds 75m. Its annual report for the year to the end of May 1997 reveals that, despite a sharp increase in sales, the club is still making a loss.

If Arsenal relocate then they will be added to a growing list of Premiership and First Division clubs who have moved. Middlesbrough, Sunderland, Huddersfield, Derby and Bolton have built new stadiums to replace outmoded grounds.

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