Newcastle On Brink Of Bold New Era – St. James’ Park Expansion Must Be Retained For The City’s Sake
“Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”
A thriving, successful Newcastle United can be the catalyst for the city of Newcastle upon-Tyne’s economic revival so short term plans for the sale of the land behind Strawberry Place for student flats must be shelved on Friday for the good of the club, city and even entire North-East.
The site in question is prime land in the heart of the city centre and, rather than be sold to the highest bidder, should be used for civic purpose benefiting the citizens of Newcastle upon-Tyne and the community.
The correlation between the club’s success and the city’s economic well-being of the region has long been established and a successful Newcastle United established in The Premier League competing for the title, Cups and in Europe under the world’s most decorated manager, Rafa Benitez, can be the flagship to regenerating the city.
A manager who has won The Champions League with Liverpool and has a history of guiding every big club he manages into the latter stages of the lucrative tournament must be supported not just by the club & its fans but also the city’s leaders due to the economic potential he can unlock in the city through a successful side.
For example, the Manchester News reported “Football nets £330m a year for Greater Manchester’s economy, with 8,500 jobs supported by the beautiful game.”
And an Infographic published by OneFootball in 2015 highlighted the tremendous impact of a Champions League side to local economies:
“This past season, for example, it has been estimated that thanks to the early exit of Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal, a combined £4,032,600 was lost for the two cities. The true figures do not assess ticket sales; however, a mind blowing £169,768,300 was generated by the 215 games played in this year’s competition, with some 778,700 journeys made by travelling fans.”
Football is one of the boom industries of the early 21st century and Newcastle, like Benitez, are a Champions League level club playing in The Championship right now ripe for upgrade to their true status.
Recovering the club’s Premier League status by winning The Championship is Benitez’s priority at the moment which alone would massively boost the city’s economy:
The Chronicle reported last year that “a 2013 study into Swansea City’s first season in the top flight estimated Premier League football generated £58m for the Welsh economy…and 400 jobs were created or protected by a campaign in the top division, according to the research by Cardiff University.”
Directly relating to the North-East’s economy:
“recent figures showed football tourism raked in more than £22m for North East coffers.
That is because last year 26,456 overseas visitors came to the North East for a football related-trip, spending an average of £855 per person – which works out at a total of £22,619,880.”
Early reports that St. James’ Park’s potential (and necessary) future expansion when Benitez establishes the club back in The Champions League would not be affected are wide of the mark – its not just a physically bigger stadium that require space but crucial access to it as well as supporter amenities.
Boxing The Gallowgate off with two unnecessary buildings – the city is over run with new student developments – is a short-sighted plan that must be halted for the preservation of the city’s cultural heritage & economic health.
Newcastle is one of the few one-club cities in England and St. James’ Park proudly dominates the sky-line attracting visitors from all over the UK, Europe and the world to England’s most northern city.
As NEXUS travel company have pointed out, the new development would also throw a spanner in the works of long-planned expansion Metro into the city’s West End which will block future bridges to narrowing the city’s economic disparities between richer and deprived areas which are such that a NUFC Fans’ FoodBack was recently set up to harness the power of the Newcastle to helping the West End FoodBank which is the largest in the UK.
And in the post-Brexit economy with its drastically reduced numbers of international students, the likelihood of such luxury apartment buildings being used is also drastically reduced meaning the development could quickly become a white elephant especially due to design flaws disabling easy conversion.
Geographically and economically, it is sheer folly and, football-wise, in an area when comparable clubs like Liverpool, Spurs, West Ham and Chelsea are expanding to 60,000 capacity stadiums or moving to new stadia, it is a complete backwards step that will negatively affect future economic growth.
Make no mistake, a fully-fuctioning Newcastle United which the club will inevitably become again under Rafa Benitez’s complete control with backing can be one of, if not the, biggest clubs in England but also in Europe and the world – a ‘Barcelona of the North’ and Newcastle would reap the economic benefits.
In the 1990s under the governance and ownership of Sir John Hall and The Magpie Group, Kevin Keegan’s side swept from the brink of 3rd division obscurity to within a whisker of The Premier League title then memorably into The Champions League under Kenny Dalglish and Sir Bobby Robson.
Instead, it was Manchester United first who pipped Newcastle then Man City, second, who joined The Champions League gravy train, massively boosting the Manchester economy as the Manchester news reports:
The report estimates the worldwide exposure Man United has given to the city as whole over the past 21 years is the equivalent of £1bn-worth of advertising.
And it adds Man City’s rise to prominence, combined with the ever-increasing popularity of the Premier League around the globe, will deliver an even bigger boost in years to come.
The study states: “It is likely that the advertising value of the clubs to Brand Manchester will increase further in the future; over the next 20 years, this could be worth in excess of £2.5bn.”
Once momentum is going in the right direction at St. James’ Park, advancement can be very rapid and in the 1990s, the stadium was expanded twice in quick succession to first 36,000 then to its present capacity of 52,000.
If Newcastle had won a title or Cup turning into the trophy-winning side it threatened to be under Keegan in the mid-90s & Sir Bobby Robson in the early 00s, then we may be looking at one of Britain’s super-clubs already.
Yet things change very quickly in football and Newcastle United can recover not just the almost-glory days of the last two decades but, under Rafa Benitez’s management, those of its most successful eras in history – the FA Cup winning-decade of the 1950s, Fairs Cup-winning 1969 side & the English-football dominating 1900s.
The best is yet to come for Newcastle United under Rafa Benitez and the city will enjoy the economic ripple effect so it is the long-term not the short-term that must be planned for by both the club & city.