One of the questions that was raised at the Fan Forum meeting on Monday night was about the expansion of St. James’ Park, and there had been some plans in place when Freddy Shepherd was Chairman to potentially expand the ground to a capacity of around 60,000.
St. James’ Park
There was an initial question on this and then a follow up question.
Document question: Can you explain the position concerning the sale of an asset in terms of the land to the rear of the Gallowgate End and the message that it sends to supporters in terms of the club’s ambition or lack of, concerning opportunities for ground expansion in the future. The current board of Newcastle United are mere custodians of a famous and historic football club and have a duty of care to ensure that their actions do not cause damage to future ambitions.
Answer: The club confirmed that it is public knowledge that the land located beyond Strawberry Place next to St. James’ Metro station is up for sale and confirmed there are two interested parties, which it could not name due to commercial sensitivities. The board stated that the land was sold to a joint venture (the club and American media group, MGM) in 2004 for a casino site and that MA had purchased the land back in 2008 once the casino plan had been scrapped to bring it back into ‘group ownership’, not specifically ‘club ownership’.
Follow-up question: “Would it inhibit your ability to expand the ground?”
The board outlined that it was a potential option but not its only option. It was explained that the club had not pursued expanding onto the site as it did not make commercial sense to outlay approximately £30M – £40M to expand for the sake of an extra 6,000 – 8,000 seats. It was also explained that the club did not own the road between St. James’ Park stadium and the land (Strawberry Place) and would have to purchase the road in order to fully expand the Gallowgate End.
The board stated that building a hotel or similar development on the land would require a huge cost outlay.
It seems that the cost value analysis doesn’t support any ground expansion, but it never would, and it’s a case of building and expanding St. James’ Park, so that it remains an iconic football stadium in Europe.
We’d still like to see the ground expanded to 60,000, and there has to be a way to get that done, and it’s what Liverpool will be doing with Anfield, under their American owners.
The plans are to upgrade Anfield and it will cost around £230M to expand the ground from the current capacity of 45,522, and John Henry and his directors have wanted to expand the ground for quite some time.
That’s not much of a business case either – to spend £230M to increase the ground by just 15,000 – but that’s not what it’s all based on at Liverpool and other top European clubs.
It’s that the Liverpool owners are much more ambitious than Mike Ashley – and they want the very best for Liverpool Football Club and their supporters.
Mike Ashley just doesn’t seem to understand that everything in this world – including football – is not always based on a business case and money.