Blades gamble on casino development

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The Independent Football

Sheffield United have followed Rangers in unveiling plans for the development of a casino at their ground to try to help ease their debts.

Sheffield United have followed Rangers in unveiling plans for the development of a casino at their ground to try to help ease their debts.

On Tuesday, the Glasgow club unveiled plans, in partnership with the American company Las Vegas Sands Inc, to build a £120m entertainment complex next to their Ibrox ground which will include a Las Vegas-style casino. Yesterday, the Blades signed an agreement with the same company to build a complex behind the Laver Stand at Bramall lane, subject to planning consent and deregulation of the gaming laws, with the prospect of a hotel to follow.

The announcement comes on the day the Blades revealed their half-yearly figures to 31 December, 2003, which show an increase in revenue from ticket sales, merchandise and other business ventures. United's overall debt is up £900,000 to £9.8m in the last six months, although that still represents a significant improvement compared to the same time last year when the Blades were £13.1m in the red.

Turnover has risen by £1.5m to £6.2m, with the average crowd attendance up 24 per cent to 20,438 from 16,500 over the same period last year, and with season ticket sales also up 34 per cent to 13,000 from 9,699.

Other improvements include a £700,000 increase in media and television revenue; sponsorship, advertising and merchandise sales up 26 per cent to £2.2million; turnover from the Blades Enterprise Centre up 47 per cent and conference and banqueting sales up 31 per cent.

The £900,000 shortfall is due to a 12 per cent increase in operating expenditure to £6.5m, while player wages and football management charges rose £300,000 to £2.8m. "The results demonstrate the progress being made," said plc chairman Kevin McCabe.

"Prospects for the second half of our season remain exciting. We continue to carefully manage the difficult financial problems that face the football industry and utilise our resources to compete both on and off the pitch."

* Portugal plans to use military air bases to help cope with the massive increase in passengers during the European Championship in June. The military airfield of Cortegaca, about 170 miles north of Lisbon, will be used for extra capacity in the north of Portugal, where Porto is the main airport.

The air base at Beja will double for Lisbon 110 miles away, while the military air base at Figo Maduro near Lisbon will also be upgraded.

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