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

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
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

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick