City consider ambitious stadium plan

Scheme to raise capacity to 60,000 would be linked to local regeneration project
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The Independent Football

Manchester City have paved the way for a dramatic development of their ground by undertaking a 14-month study of leading sports facilities around the world which could see their Carrington training complex relocated to Eastlands and the stadium's capacity increased.

There are no concrete plans in place to bring together the stadium and training ground, or to develop the stadium to a capacity of 60,000, but at a time when Liverpool are desperate to bring their own match-day revenues up to levels comparable to those of Arsenal and Manchester United by building a 70,000-seat arena, a substantial increase on City's current 47,726 capacity would seem logical.

An increase in match-day revenues is one way of the club's owner, Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed al-Nahyan, beginning to recoup some of his vast investment, with Manchester City Council, which owns the stadium, already taking a slice of revenues. The latest Deloitte Football Money League report revealed City's match-day revenues and commercial income were both relatively low compared to other big hitters in the Premier League.

In the 2008-9 season, City collected £20.8m annually – £8.2m lower than Newcastle United despite playing seven more matches, and around half that achieved by Tottenham despite having average league attendances 7,000 higher. City said their study would "inform [our] decision as to what potential additional football facilities may eventually be a feature of Manchester City's contribution to the regeneration of east Manchester."

The stadium is part of a 60-acre site that will be developed under the aegis of a new partnership set up by City, the council and the New East Manchester regeneration agency. City have already sought planning permission for a market place-style fan zone, called "City Street", to be created on the stadium approach in time for next season.

The wider area around the ground also presents rich development potential to build on the work carried out for the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which first overhauled what was one of the poorest areas of the city. Reports in the architectural press that a casino might be among the leisure facilities are wide of the mark, perhaps prompted by the fact the Labour government originally designated east Manchester as a possible site for its licensed "super casino" before Gordon Brown decided soon after becoming Prime Minister that such a facility would not go ahead.

However, there is scope for a hotel, restaurant and other leisure facilities. The potential size of the development, factoring in private sector investment, is huge, though the £1bn figure that has been quoted locally appears to represent guess work at this early stage and may yet prove to be wildly inaccurate.

The City manager, Roberto Mancini, has made it clear that he is unhappy that Shaun Wright-Phillips has chosen to allow his desire for a longer-term and more lucrative contract to be articulated publicly by his father, Ian Wright. "Shaun has never spoken with me. I would prefer sometimes if the player speaks to me," said Mancini, who takes his team to Sunderland tomorrow.

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