Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Tumbling Down the Rankings When It Comes to Bums on Seats; THE AGENDA: How Everton's Stadium Plans Show Newcastle Risk Being Left Behind by Top Eight Newcastle United's St James'Park Used to Be the Second-Largest Stadium in the Country - It Could Be Just the Ninth by 2021. Chris Waugh Reports

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

United Tumbling Down the Rankings When It Comes to Bums on Seats; THE AGENDA: How Everton's Stadium Plans Show Newcastle Risk Being Left Behind by Top Eight Newcastle United's St James'Park Used to Be the Second-Largest Stadium in the Country - It Could Be Just the Ninth by 2021. Chris Waugh Reports

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Waugh

NEWCASTLE United now risk slipping outside the top eight for stadia capacity in the Premier League, with Everton considering building a new ground which will hold 60,000 supporters.

St James' Park was extended to 52,000 capacity at the beginning of the new millennium, at the time leaving Newcastle with the secondlargest club stadium in England - behind only Manchester United's Old Trafford.

However, the Magpies now sit down in sixth place, with Arsenal's Emirates Stadium (60,260), West Ham United's Olympic Stadium (60,000), Manchester City's Etihad Stadium (55,097) and Liverpool's Anfield (54,074) all able to hold a greater number of supporters than St James' Park.

Tottenham Hotspur, meanwhile - who will temporarily play their home matches at the 90,000-capacity Wembley Stadium this season - are in the process of building a new 61,000-seater ground next to the old White Hart Lane site.

Chelsea have also been granted initial planning permission to expand Stamford Bridge to a 61,000-person capacity by 2021, while Everton's new ground could also hold 60,000 supporters.

According to official documents from Everton's stadium designers Buro Happold Engineering, leaked on to a fans' forum last week and the details of which were published by The Daily Mail, the development in the Bramley Moore Dock area of Liverpool would boast a capacity of 60,000 and likely cost more than PS350m.

It had been initially thought that Everton's new ground would hold around 50,000 supporters, placing it below St James' Park, but these leaked proposals suggest plans have been upgraded to increase capacity by another 10,000.

Should all this trio of developments come to fruition, Newcastle risk having just the ninth-largest stadia in the Premier League within half a decade.

The Strawberry Place development has raised concerns among fans' groups in recent years as to whether this will limit St James' Park potential to ever be expanded.

More than 40,000 season tickets are believed to have been sold ahead of the new season already and, should Rafa Benitez remain at United and eventually deliver success, then interest will only grow further.

A capacity of 52,338 had always given United an advantage over the vast majority of their top-flight rivals - Old Trafford is the largest by some distance at 75,653 - but there could now be eight Premier League stadia between the 52,000 and 61,000 mark by 2021, with St James' Park at the bottom end of that spectrum.

There is no doubt that Premier League clubs no longer rely on ticket revenues like they once did. The guaranteed annual PS100m top-flight windfall is now worth four times more to Newcastle than their matchday income (which was PS24.7m in 2015/16).

The latest lucrative TV deal also allows even the likes AFC Bournemouth - whose 11,464-capacity Dean Court is barely more than a fifth of the size of St James' Park, and is only the 66th-largest club ground in the country, below even Gateshead's International Stadium - to compete in the top flight. …

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