Title of Case Study: Impacts of Stadium Relocation: Evaluating Arsenal FC
In today’s modern era sport has been transformed from a sociable activity for fans and sporting teams on a Saturday, to a multimillion pound profit driven industry. The modern game has turned football players from sportsmen to celebrities, with multimillion pound contracts and playboy lifestyles. Players and clubs seem to have lost touch with their fan base, it has become a clubs priority to make sure profits are maintained and football has taken a backseat in terms of the results and entertainment on a Saturday afternoon. Clubs are now run like businesses with a selection of financial directors, sporting directors and CEO’s now constructing the hierarchy of most football clubs. Football has become a business and teams run with like one, the owners focus is on generating maximum potential revenue through whatever means necessary, the power that was once held by the fans has very suddenly shifted to the business orientated owners who generally have no emotional ties to the club. An inevitable trend from local to international ownership of football clubs in the quest for higher profits, is the relocation of the club to immensely enhanced super structures that would dwarf the average stadium, all in an attempt to boost revenue tenfold and monopolise capital in the area. A good example and focus of this case study is Arsenal’s relocation to the Emirates stadium from Highbury in 2006.
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Aspects of the move
For Arsenal FC the reasons to relocate came down to the need for the club to progress in terms of their financial power and sporting prestige. As football entered into the twenty first century, the times dictated the move, the view being that although Highbury stadium was rich in heritage and emotions in the eyes of the fans, the ground held too many constraints for the future success of the club. The 38,000 seated capacity was constricting financial flow to the club as well as aiding to inflated season ticket prices for its fan base.
Relocation was seen as the only viable option with expansion of the stadium impossible due to three stands leading onto public road and housing.  A site in the borough of Islington was chosen due to its relative perimeter being only five hundred yards from the existing ground. Plans for the move were announced in 1999 for development to finish in around four years, this date soon became inconceivable and completion was pushed back until 2006. 
The Stadium was initially going to be named after the industrial site it was situated on at Ashburton Grove, however with a need to generate extra financing, the naming rights were given up to the airline Emirates in 2004 on a £100 million 15 year deal.
The relocation to a world class sporting facility will enable a myriad of potential benefits not only to the club as a whole but also to neighboring communities in the borough surrounding the ground. The grandeur and magnitude of the stadium will attract worldwide visitors thus heightening the clubs profile and making them a more exciting prospect to potential investors.  With the overall match day capacity of the Emirates just exceeding 60,000 the revenue has inclined dramatically seeing operating profits soar to an increase of 275% to £51.2 million in their first financial year, this has been made achievable through new executive boxes and high gate receipts (now operating at 50% of Arsenal’s total income compared to 30% at Highbury).
 The increased capacity level of the Emirates now means that on average Arsenal will look to take around £90 million from gate receipts alone compared to around £45 million at Highbury. 
The benefits do not only exemplify the financial gains achieved through the relocation, other benefits that embody the move draw on the limitless prestige that can be obtained through having a stadium that competes through its infrastructure on a global scale against teams rivaling the club for domestic and European honors. A world class stadium will provide affirmation of the clubs goals and ability to compete sustainably on and off the field with rival clubs.
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Arsenal’s relocation has brought forth massive benefits to the Islington area, when the move was commissioned Arsenal agreed to a section 106 planning agreement, meaning that the building of the stadium would also encompass regeneration benefits for local residents, businesses and visitors. The development has created over 2500 new jobs for local people, and heightening the construction industry with the development of 2500 new and affordable houses which have provided much needed relief to an area with a small size and over powering density. Over 1500 of the jobs created will be sustainably long term, increasing financial security to families within the borough of Islington. Previously unoccupied derelict land on Lough Road will now be developed as part of Arsenal’s regeneration scheme into new commercial space including a £60 million waste and recycling, which has already seen recycling rates increase by up to 15 %. This site, in conjunction with three others has also been approved to develop community health facilities which will not only create a substantial amount of new jobs but will also greatly improve aspects of health care to the community. 
The main problems with relocating to the Emirates has been maintaining the identity of the club within its original fan base, the historic origins of the club are vastly important to fans and a new location is often deemed as being detrimental to the history that has encompassed everything the club has been about in the past. Highbury had been home to Arsenal football club for more than ninety years and incorporated a vast tradition of success and prestige, the decision to move although deemed right for the future success of the club would ultimately lead to initial protest. Features such as the marble hallways and the infamous clock end of Highbury would be lost to rubble, it had been these features that had personified Arsenal to date.
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The move to the Emirates would ultimately end up costing Arsenal hundreds of millions of pounds, the money was credited from the banks and would lead to Arsenal being wracked with debt. The recent recession has also seen house prices fall dramatically, meaning that the exclusive flats being developed at the Highbury site will lose money on the initial forecast. Yes, the potential revenue will undoubtedly lead to the future exoneration of any outstanding debts, and will allow sustainable longevity in the clubs ability to compete in the transfer market, however the short term negatives will ultimately linger in the thoughts of the fans and the manager of the team. The increased income, profitability and cash generation will be ploughed back into the debt repayments, meaning that the club will not be able to compete effectively in the transfer market, which could be detrimental to the success of the club.
The relocation to Ashburton Grove has lead to some families having to move from their existing homes, legal action was taken in July 2002 by people in the area to try and prevent the move and claim for damages, however their case was thrown out. As well as the uprooting of some local residents, the stadium and subsequent external infrastructures has lead to restrictions being placed on over 13 major roads around Islington on match days, and with Arsenal’s appearance in four major competitions, amounting an excess of over 50 games, access to residents around the area will be greatly affected by noise, potential hooliganism, transport and parking. 
How effective has the move been?
Success or Failure?
With all the information to hand it can be argued that there is really very few detrimental factors involved with Arsenal’s relocation to the Emirates stadium. The old Highbury site has been turned into modern, executive apartments, adding appeal to an area of north London that was once seen as degenerative. The new ground has been built on derelict brown field land,  with the existing refuse business near the site, moved to a new prime location in the vicinity and expanded to create more jobs. The infrastructure of the whole borough of Islington has been modernized and improved, both in terms of its security and its looks. The Club has not only managed to construct a new world class stadium they have initiated progressive regeneration into an area which was in desperate need of help and enable the local community to thrive.
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In terms of the club itself it has seen operating profits rise to almost double of what could be expected at Highbury, it could be argued that there is substantial debt to be repaid, however the club’s policy of sustainability means that financial independence will be achieved within 10 years. Yes the short term has been bleak for Arsenal with no major competitive honor since the switch, and no money available for transfers, but the club is still challenging for all domestic and European trophies, and in a time where club administration has become a common outcome, Arsenal’s longevity looks extremely healthy, the clubs development has been able to increase to an optimal level whilst maintaining its sustainability.
It can be argued that even the heritage of the club has been maintained, the new site is a mere 500 yards from Highbury, the idealized clock tower has been saved and can be seen in Arsenal’s museum. It can be argued that Arsenal have sold out, however in an era where finance is everything, the move had to be taken to relocate in order for Arsenal to stay at the top of the football ladder. The new Emirates Stadium has been recognized as one of the best grounds in the world and has also contributed to England’s bid for the 2018 World Cup, in being named a host ground if the competition should come home.
It can be argued that there are positives and negatives to any decision someone makes, certain groups have been against the relocation however for Arsenal as a business and Arsenal as a football team the overriding outcome is one of progression of regeneration.
 Bale, John; Sports Geography; Routledge; 2003; Page 95
 Bale, John; Sports Geography; Routledge; 2003; Page 94
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