Ticket prices keep going up – and so do the new stadiums

The Weekend Dossier: One day all those extra seats will mean cheaper tickets

There is a paradox at the heart of the debate over ticket pricing in English football. Few spectators would disagree that tickets are too expensive, and their price growth is staggering: had the cheapest tickets increased in line with inflation since 1990, the year the boom began with the Taylor Report and Gazzamania, they should cost around £7-£10, not £15-£38 (with the most expensive £126). Even taking into account the fact that grounds are seated and facilities improved beyond recognition that is a huge rise. And yet the crowds keep coming. The average Premier League gate this season is 35,931 with a 95 per cent seat occupancy rate. Indeed, Manchester City this week became the latest club to announce plans to increase capacity in response to demand. They are aiming to add an extra tier at each end of the Etihad to raise capacity from 48,000 to 61,000.

They are not alone. Liverpool this week moved closer to the compulsory purchase of houses required to make way for their long-planned redevelopment of Anfield. Since promotion Cardiff City have squeezed 900 extra seats into a ground which is only four years old and have now received planning permission to add an extra 5,000 with a second tier on the Ninian Stand. Like neighbours Swansea, who are expanding their Liberty Stadium to 33,000, Cardiff have set a new ground record this season.

Fulham have architects at work designing their Riverside Stand redevelopment, Norwich are weighing the long-term benefits of expansion against the short-term costs, inconvenience and loss of earnings, and West Ham – further legal challenges permitting – are heading for the Olympic Stadium, which at 54,000 will have a larger capacity than any previous Hammers ground.

Across north London Tottenham, selling 36,000 seats every match day and with 42,000 on the season-ticket waiting list, are already having second thoughts about the redevelopment of White Hart Lane. At 56,000 the fear is it will not be big enough. They know that Arsenal’s 60,000 Emirates has been too small ever since it opened.

The urge to build and rebuild is not just in the Premier League. New grounds open regularly, with Rotherham’s New York Stadium and Barnet’s Hive the latest. Southend finally appear on course to build a new ground, as are Brentford, while both Bristol clubs are planning to build new stadiums (separately, such is an English fan’s parochialism). Plymouth are redeveloping Home Park, Peterborough fixing up London Road, Bournemouth have just opened a new stand, Watford have permission to build one. Scunthorpe, whose Glanford Park ground was the first new stadium in the English game for 33 years when it was opened in 1988, are looking to move again.

Meanwhile, in a dispute which has echoes of the one that has led to Coventry City playing in Northampton, Hull’s owner, Assem Allam, is threatening to build his own stadium in an attempt to force the council to sell him the KC, which is only 11 years old. Stadiums can be expensive to build and maintain, but not owning your ground limits revenue streams. In Italy, where stadiums are traditionally council-owned, Juventus have built their own and are reaping the benefits, with stadium earnings tripling.

However, not everyone has the builders in. Stoke City, Aston Villa and West Bromwich have all put planned developments on hold, as have, in recent years, Sunderland and Newcastle. In explaining the delay at the March AGM, Albion’s chief executive, Mark Jenkins, said: “We are very mindful of the current economic climate. Locally, unemployment continues to rise.”

Stoke’s concern may be rooted in history. New stadiums often propel clubs forward – look at Brighton – but Stoke have twice been relegated in the wake of development: in 1977, when the cost of repairing the Victoria Ground after a stand roof blew off forced transfers, and 1997, when the Britannia’s construction was partly financed by sales.

They may also look a few miles down the road to Molineux, which Wolves began redeveloping in summer 2012 only for the rebuilding of the Stan Cullis Stand to take place against a backdrop of relegation. Phase Two, rebuilding the Steve Bull Stand, was postponed, wisely as it turned out as another relegation means they are now, like Sheffield United, playing League One football in a 30,000-capacity ground. They are still playing to two-thirds capacity, unlike Coventry, who were attracting fewer than 11,000 to the 32,600-capacity Ricoh last season. The new grounds at Derby and Leicester are a similar size, and both are one-third empty most Saturdays. Preston’s ambitious rebuild, completed when the club was knocking on the door of the Premier League, was last season 60 per cent empty. Then there are MK Dons, who are expanding capacity from 22,200 to 30,700 despite averaging 8,612 last season and never exceeding 18,000. Still, they have a trio of Rugby World Cup 2015 fixtures.

There has always been an element of risk in stadium development – look at the mess Chelsea got into in the 1970s – but clubs cannot stand still. That they have such faith in the game’s future is encouraging, even if one or two clubs may find they have built a millstone, not a launch pad.

The hope is also that one day all those extra seats will mean cheaper tickets.

Premier grounds: For improvement

New Grounds

Club Stadium Built Capacity Record (year set) Future plans

Arsenal Emirates Stadium 2006 60,361 60,162 (2007) None

Cardiff City Cardiff City Stadium 2009 27,815 27,815 (2013) Expanding to 33,000 in 2014

Hull City KC Stadium 2002 25,404 25,512 (2007) *None (council-owned)

Man City Etihad Stadium 2003 48,000 47,386 (2012) Applying to expand to 61,000

Southampton St Mary’s Stadium 2001 32,689 32,151 (2003) Can grow to 50,000. No date

Stoke City Britannia Stadium 1997 27,740 28,218 (2002) Permission to expand to 30,000

Sunderland Stadium of Light 1997 49,000 48,353 (2002) Plans to expand on hold

Swansea City Liberty Stadium 2005 22,500 20,752 (2013) Expansion to 33,000 planned

Older stadiums rebuilt

Aston Villa Villa Park N/A 42,788 76,588 (1946) Permission to expand to 50,000

Chelsea Stamford Bridge 1999 41,837 82,905 (1935) Seeking location for new ground

Crystal Palace Selhurst Park 1995 26,309 51,801 (1979) Need to rebuild. No plans yet

Everton Goodison Park 1994 40,221 78,299 (1948) Seeking location for new ground

Fulham Craven Cottage 2004 25,700 49,335 (1938) Expanding to 30,000

Liverpool Anfield 1998 45,525 61,905 (1952) Hope to rebuild Anfield to 60,000

Man United Old Trafford 2006 75,811 76,692 (1939) Pondered expansion to 95,000

Newcastle St James’ Park 2000 52,387 68,386 (1930) Expansion to 60,000 on hold

Norwich City Carrow Road 2003 27,010 43,984 (1963) Eyeing expansion to 35,000

Tottenham White Hart Lane 1998 36,230 75,038 (1938) Permission for 56,000 rebuild

West Bromwich The Hawthorns 2001 26,272 64,815 (1937) Expansion to 30,000 on hold

West Ham Boleyn Ground 2001 35,016 42,322 (1970) Move to Olympic Stadium Aug 2016

Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreEXCLUSIVE The Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs his surreal series returns, the comedian on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
music‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do 'The Independent’s' experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
Colombia's James Rodriguez celebrates one of his goals during the FIFA World Cup 2014 round of 16 match between Colombia and Uruguay at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
News
news
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Antoine Griezmann has started two of France’s four games so far
sport
Life and Style
techYahoo Japan launches service to delete your files and email your relatives when you die
Life and Style
Child's play: letting young people roam outdoors directly contradicts the current climate
lifeHow much independence should children have?
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book
booksFind out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
News
i100
Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn
Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Alistair Carmichael: 'The UK as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts'

Meet the man who doesn't want to go down in history as the country's last Scottish Secretary