Arsenal 'happy' to ground share with rivals Tottenham

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The Independent Football
Peter Hill-Wood, the Arsenal chairman, said yesterday that the club would be "happy" to share its planned stadium at Ashburton Grove with Tottenham Hotspur, but accepted that Gunners fans would oppose such a move.</p>Hill-Wood said it was "dotty" that clubs such as Notts County and Nottingham Forest, Everton and Liverpool - who are "a stone's throw away" - did not share a stadium. "But the likelihood of any of those things happening is remote," he admitted. The Arsenal directors had discussed sharing "some time ago", Hill-Wood added. "I think the board would be happy but I think the fans would not be happy." He went on: "The local residents would also be up in arms." There would also be difficulties in gaining planning permission.</p>His comments came as Arsenal Holdings plc, the club's parent company, revealed that £94.6m has so far been spent on Ashburton Grove - an ambitious 60,000-seat stadium just half-a-mile from Highbury - even though the project may have to be shelved. The move, two years behind schedule, is still planned for 2006 but has been racked with difficulties.</p>As yet, the club has still not secured £250m in bank loans, though the managing director, Keith Edelman, said: "We have time on our side but we should be in position to have got [the funding] done by the end of the year. If it goes on longer than that, then we are into a problem period which means it might not come together."</p>Arsenal would then either remain at Highbury while they tried to iron out the problems or sell the new site "and look at alternatives".</p>The vice-chairman, David Dein, is said to support sharing the new Wembley but Edelman added: "We had a board meeting just a couple of weeks ago and this [Ashburton Grove] is the No 1 option." Hill-Wood also dismissed talk of Wembley. "We are going to go there for cup finals only," he said.</p>The £300m Arsenal need to borrow for the new stadium looks less daunting after they managed to secure their £55m kit deal with Nike, coupled with £10m raised from a debenture scheme and £30m from Granada. Nevertheless, developing the 30-acre Ashburton Grove site also includes upgrading an underground station, building two new bridges, relocating a waste recycling centre and more than 100 businesses while providing new housing.</p>The total cost is estimated at between £400-500m but Arsenal insist it is manageable and that the club needs a bigger ground to compete with Manchester United in gate receipts. Highbury only has a capacity of 38,500 - Old Trafford's is 67,000 - with 34,000 Arsenal fans on the waiting list for a season ticket. "We are in a good position to make a lot of this happen because of our position and our importance to the community," Edelman said. "It is a big project, a very big project. But it is in the middle of London and we have already got some property profits from selling the land that is surplus."</p>The club also denies the stadium has had an impact on Arsène Wenger's team-building. In a reference to Roman Abramovich's Chelsea, Hill-Wood said: "We are not going to spend £110m on new players in the transfer window but we are reasonably comfortable. Wenger said he wanted a new goalkeeper and a new centre-back and he has got those." Arsenal are also confident that once work restarts on the site, Wenger, who has pledged much of his future on Ashburton Grove, will stay. </p>