Arsenal given go-ahead for new stadium

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The Independent Football

Arsenal's attempt to win planning permission for a new 60,000-seat stadium was passed by 34 votes to seven last night at a full meeting of Islington Council, arousing what one member called "unprecedented passions". The most important of the four motions to be discussed took two hours and left the club optimistic that approval to turn Highbury, their home for 88 years, into flats and houses, would also be granted, though the facade of the listed East and West stands would have to be preserved.

The meeting was moved to a local church to accommodate 1,000 people, mostly supporters of either the club or the Islington Stadium Communities Alliance, the residents' group that has campaigned against the plan.

Council officers had previously recommended that Arsenal's application should be granted. The decision in favour must be approved by the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, who has indicated that he is in favour of the scheme. Even then, the Government could instigate the public inquiry opponents of the scheme want.

The club had built their case around the regeneration of an inner-city area, promising new housing, improved transport, sports and leisure facilities and health centres. The new site, Ashburton Grove, is half a mile from Highbury, where the existing capacity of 38,000 is regarded as insufficient to compete with the biggest clubs in Britain, let alone Europe. Finance would come from the sale of Highbury, City investment, and up to £70m from the club, who would expect to increase their revenue by £30m a season. They hope to have moved in time for the 2004-05 season.

Arsenal were represented by their vice-chairman, David Dein, secretary David Miles and director Danny Fiszman, who received a mixed reception on arrival. Fiszman said after the vote: "The margin of support was beyond our wildest dreams. It's not all done yet, but there's cause for optimism."

Brighton & Hove Albion have put a £4m valuation on Bobby Zamora to deter Everton. The striker is top of the Premiership club's wanted list and the Everton manager, Walter Smith, has been given the money to make an offer of around £2m. Everton need more firepower, with Steve Watson being forced to play in attack, and Zamora could be the answer to their short-term problems.

The First Division leaders, Burnley, will have to double their money to sign the Bradford City striker Robbie Blake. Burnley have made an offer worth £600,000 for the forward, but Bradford have turned it down and want a deal worth £1.25m based on instalments and a promotion bonus.

David Beckham will be back in Manchester United's side to face Middlesbrough on Saturday after two games on the sidelines. The England captain sat out United's last two matches at home to Boavista and West Ham, and there had been speculation that this was the result of his poor form. However, it now appears that Beckham was left out by agreement with Sir Alex Ferguson, who was concerned about the player's back and groin problems affecting his performances.

* George Best is to have a liver transplant next summer. "There are going to be a few raised eyebrows when I get the transplant – people saying there are more deserving cases," said the 55-year-old former Manchester United winger, who has a history of alcohol abuse. "But [my consultant] trusts me and he doesn't give away livers willy-nilly."

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