Football: Arsenal seek new stadium

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The Independent Online
ARSENAL ARE aiming to close the gap between themselves and Manchester United, by pushing ahead with plans to build a 60,000 capacity stadium.

That may mean moving out of north London if the Gunners cannot extend Highbury or find a suitable sight within the borough of Islington.

Arsenal's vice chairman, David Dein, believes there is nothing to choose between the Premiership's top two clubs, even though United on Wednesday qualified for the final of the European Cup, while Arsenal failed to make it through the group stages. Nothing, that is, except the size of each club's home ground - Highbury presently holds 38,500, while Old Trafford can accommodate almost 20,000 more spectators.

"As clubs in the Premier League go, I genuinely don't feel there is a lot between us on the playing field," Dein said. "We didn't win the Double last year by accident and United didn't get to the European Cup final this year by accident; we are both among the best teams in Europe.

"They are a great club, but we took four points off them in the League this season. The main difference is that they have a much bigger stadium and our mandate is that we need a stadium of not less than 60,000 people.

"We are on the case and it is priority No 1. You cannot just click your fingers and find a stadium in north London which holds 60,000 people. There is a process to go through and we want to stay here, but one of our options is to move out of the area if that is how we can get the stadium we need."

Dein was speaking after unveiling the club's new shirt sponsors, in what is thought to be the biggest-ever deal in British football.

The video-game manufacturer Sega Europe will replace JVC on Arsenal's shirts after agreeing a three-year package estimated to be worth pounds 12m to the club.

Dein has promised there will be transfer activity in the summer but warned that this sponsorship deal would not signal the start of a reckless spending spree.

"There will be movement in the summer," Dein said. "But spending money does not guarantee you success. We do not fly by the seat of our pants."