Fortifying the future at Fortress Etihad

Manchester City’s transformation into one of Europe’s biggest and most prestigious clubs continues with the Etihad set to become the second largest stadium in the Premier League.

A public consultation exercise showing proposals to expand the present 48,000 capacity to beyond 60,000, concluded yesterday, with City set to reveal their preferred option next week.

Vision of the future - A 60,000 plus capacity Etihad Stadium could be reality by 2015/16

Vision of the future – A 60,000 plus capacity Etihad Stadium could be reality by 2015/16

The comprehensive approach by the club has sought to address a host of topics, not least, boosting home attendances in line with City’s enhanced profile, accommodating an ever widening fan base and striving to provide a peerless match day experience, both in terms of what happens on the pitch and the atmosphere and facilities within the stadia.

With the club enjoying an excellent relationship with Manchester City Council and working in partnership on the exciting Etihad Campus development, it’s highly unlikely City will meet with any opposition to the ambitious expansion programme.

The principal focus is on adding a third tier to both the North and South stands with approximately 6,000 seats at each end. A primary consideration of the consultation process is to determine whether to extend both stands simultaneously, or opt for a staggered approach.

Topless image - a graphic from City's consultation exercise of an enlarged South Stand - minus the roof

Topless image – a graphic from City’s consultation exercise of an enlarged South Stand – minus the roof

Much seems to depend on the size of the waiting list for season tickets, hence City are launching a sales drive as of next Wednesday, inviting fans to place a £100 reservation-deposit on seats in the new third tier seating at either end of the ground.

City’s own research and data shows that all of the home sections of the Etihad have sold out for Premier League matches over the past two-and-a-half seasons, apart from one occasion.

Last season the away support section behind the goal in the South Stand sold out for 11 of the 19 PL fixtures. In most instances City supporters were able to take up the extra seats. Indeed the accommodation of away fans has been a major element in the consultation.

Ground floor - a graphic of what an expanded Etihad Stadium would like from within the three-tiered bowl

Ground floor – how an expanded Etihad Stadium would look within the three-tiered bowl – Courtesy @MCFC

Like most clubs, City are keen to have an electrifying atmosphere come kick-off time whether it be lunchtime, 3pm or tea time on a Saturday, early or late afternoon on a Sunday or night-time fixtures.

The ‘banter’ between sets of fans can often set the tone for proceedings, but as a counter balance, City – like any team playing at home – want to maximise that advantage.

The debate has raged long and hard as to whether City are too generous to opposition fans, allowing them to encourage their team from behind the goal in the South Stand.

Most away fans in the PL are shunted to the side where the perception is one that they can’t be as influential in roaring their team on, especially at corner kicks and situations in and around the box.

St James’ Park, Newcastle is a prime example. An oxygen tent and vertigo tablets wouldn’t go amiss when populating the away section at the home of the Toon.

That said, it was a heavenly experience when Yaya Toure bagged a brace in the penultimate game of City’s title-winning 2011/12 campaign.

A re-shaped Etihad could see away fans ‘seated’ (like most away fans, bums, never touch seats during the match) in a narrower band of seats through all three tiers in the corner of the South Stand.

The effect would be to nullify the benefits of a vociferous away support whilst not necessarily killing off the atmospherics. It would also make it easier to segregate away fans and therefore ease any worries from a health, safety and policing perspective.

One at a time - An impression of the Etihad if the North and South stands were developed at different times.Courtesy @ MCFC

One at a time – An impression of the Etihad if the North and South stands were developed at different times.
Courtesy @ MCFC

Conscious of wanting to optimise crowd ‘noise’ and singing, the covering of any extended North and South Stands is being assessed by acoustics experts, in a bid to contain sound within the arena, rather than have it dissipate into the Manchester sky.

Harmonising acoustics with the aesthetics is a prime consideration at the Etihad, not just for when the City fans blast out a celebratory chorus of Blue Moon, but also in its capacity as a prime venue for major concerts during the summer months.

If you’ve paid top dollar for the likes of Bon Jovi, Take That, Muse or whoever,  you want to keep that sound reverberating in your ears rather than have it drift off over Beswick and downtown Droylsden!

Initial estimates suggest the construction work could be completed within 18 months and, subject to planning permission, could even begin during the present 2013/14 season.

The construction work will have a minimal impact on the match day crowds, with the only temporary casualty likely to be the Legends Lounge hospitality suite in the South Stand.

Pricing and affordability are also key factors being considered by City’s decision-makers. With UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules to be adhered to, the club has an obvious requirement to boost match day revenues, but not to the preclusion of fans who are feeling the pinch in this economic downturn.

All change - The Etihad is set to become the 2nd largest stadium in the PL

All change – The Etihad is set to become the 2nd largest stadium in the PL

Much has been made of the proposed £299 season ticket in the extended North and South stands, helping make PL football more accessible and affordable at an average of just £15.73 per match.

More evidence of how money-mad Manchester City are ruining football…NOT!

It’s not only commonsense, it also makes business sense to ensure a 60,000 plus arena is full each and every game. The obvious knock-on effects of sales at the City retail store, food, drinks and programmes should not be under estimated.

In striving to accommodate lower income customers, City are also helping the next generation of City fans embrace the club.

City know the demographics of their support and it’s imperative the club capture the imagination of young fans to complement the ‘old timers’ , the diehards who’ve been through thin and anorexic times, prior to Roberto Mancini’s reign.

Many old City fans wear the badge of honour of : ‘We were here when we were sh*t’ and some object to the influx of new fans, often and sometimes unfairly, dismissed as ‘gloryhunters’.

Build it and they will come - City's waiting list for season tickets will influence whether the Etihad capacity jumps to 54,000 or 60,000 in one go

Build it and they will come – City’s waiting list for season tickets will influence whether the Etihad capacity jumps to 54,000 or 60,000 in one go

Rightly or wrongly, if a club is to reach the top and remain at the pinnacle of both English and European football, it has to be commercially viable.

Such success can only be sustained by ‘globalisation’ with City emulating and, who knows, in time perhaps surpassing, the popularity of Manure across the way in Trafford.

It is both naive and ill-informed to perpetuate the notion that City should not court markets in the USA, the Middle East, Africa and the Far East. It doesn’t mean the club has compromised its links with Manchester and its local environment – nothing could be further from the truth.

The award winning City in the Community (CITC) arm – in the safe hands of ex-keeper Alex Williams MBE – continues to forge ever stronger bonds throughout the city and surrounding areas, putting so many positives back into Mancunian society.

Who in their right mind, would dare to suggest that Sheikh Mansour’s extensive and continued investment in Manchester can be anything but beneficial for all parties – the club, the local economy, business and commerce interests and employment prospects.

The development of the Etihad is a vital building block in City’s blueprint for sustainability and profitability and the real beauty is that it will be financed outside of the suffocating constraints of Michel Platini’s FFP regulations.

 

By David Walker www.readbutneverred.com @djwskyblu

READ BUT NEVER RED HAS  BEEN NOMINATED IN THE FOOTBALL BLOGGING AWARDS 2013 

If you would like to vote via twitter please tweet the following message:

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18 Comments

  1. October 11, 2013  1:03 pm by Alan Baxter Reply

    We all miss Maine Road, but remember the curtain raiser for the Etihad (The City of Manchester Stadium as was) V Barcelona. Walking down to my seat on the first tier a glorious sunny day in absolutely pristine surroundings. I'll never forget it. I think with the proposed extension we could have the Jewel in the Premiership's crown of club grounds. OK it will hold less than that cess pit down the road (for now) but on the plus side it won't look like a three year old has run amok with a meccano set. I understand that there is a proposal been considered by the Premier league that will preclude clubs from positioning away fans "in the Gods" and await the outcome with interest. EUFA should also take note as all those going to Munich will discover.

    • October 11, 2013  3:50 pm by David Walker Reply

      Nicely put Mr B. Yes, we - the MCFC fans scaled the heights at the Allianz Arena in September 2011- even if the team didn't. That said, I recall City should have had two stonewall penalties on Micah and Silva before Bayern scored. Great stadium though. I wonder if we could have the Etihad awash in sky blue illuminations through the night, in the way Bayern glow red in the night sky when they play. Nice thought, but that's probably all it will ever be. Thansk for your support as ever.

    • October 13, 2013  11:28 am by Stan Reply

      Scaling the dizzy heights was also required at Camp Nou, although bearing in mind most of the Euro rules are implemented on behalf of these clubs, i wont be holding my breath anything will be done.

      Having said that it is unreal the times we are living in. To see City not only challenge but to lead on so many fronts and with the backing of the fans, i doubt any other blues in history have been so fortunate.

      David Conn must be fuming :)

  2. October 11, 2013  2:04 pm by carol main Reply

    how beautiful does our fortress look Davy? I loved Maine Rd but this is something else

    • October 11, 2013  3:56 pm by David Walker Reply

      Sure is Blondie - who could ever, EVER, have foreseen this prior to Sheikh Mansour? We are still work in progress but what a masterpiece we are creating.

  3. October 11, 2013  3:23 pm by ant walton Reply

    I for one would jump at the chance for a season ticket in the new stands. Tickets have become harder and harder to come by over the recent seasons. Altho the success wasnt there, Maine Road was always full and rocking, but i could always get a ticket. nowadays its pot luck. Some of our 'fans ' think if youve not got a season ticket your a gloryhunter. im 35 years in without a season ticket. Not much 'glory ' in those years !!!
    As for Newcastle, the last time i went the fella sitting next to me was a pidgeon !!!!
    As always a great read and ive voted via twitter. keep it up young sir. Trust our MP and our Read but Never Red

    • October 11, 2013  4:02 pm by David Walker Reply

      Many thanks AW. Maine Road was a place of pilgrimage for decades but we had to move with the times - complete no brainer. Funnily enough I like St James' and if they'd ever gone all the way around with their redevelopment that stadium would be truly superb. I suppose memories are helped because we have done so well up there in recent years - just need to do it at least twice again this year, perhaps three, if we draw them in the FA Cup. Thanks for your vote in the Football Blogging Awards. I had no idea they even existed until a week or so ago BUT if there's a chance to win recognition for RBNR I'll gladly take it - if only to prove to my lady wife that it isn't a complete waste of time! Thanks again fella.

  4. October 11, 2013  6:41 pm by roy sykes Reply

    the financial pinch tweaked my buttocks just as Sergio bagged the glory in May 2012. At £299 I might see him do it all again. MCFC under this new guise are really pushing all the right buttons , a wonderful era for everyone in blue.

  5. October 11, 2013  6:56 pm by David Walker Reply

    Putting your backside - tweaked, pinched, slapped or whatever(!) - aside, it represents a great opportunity for true City fans to get back to being able to afford to see their team in what, I believe, promises to be THE golden era for MCFC. The three-tiered stands - or stand - depending if City go for dual development, will be ready for 2015. By this time I have little or no doubt we will have another Premier League honour to our name, and we will be established as a perennial top 8 Champions League contender. We have so much for which to be grateful. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  6. October 11, 2013  7:17 pm by DOUGLAS HENSHAW Reply

    I miss the atmosphere we had at Maine Road but I do love our new stadium. Moving the away fans is a great idea dont like them behind the goal it does help away teams Bayern for example they were louder then we were.The low priced tickets is a great idea football in general has got to expensive for a lot of folk. God luck Dave in the FBA awards you have my vote Dave when will you know ?

    • October 11, 2013  8:46 pm by DAVID WALKER Reply

      In total agreement Doug on the issue of away fans and affordable tickets. Thanks for your support in the Football Blogging Awards - the deadline for votes is October 27th and it all happens in late November. I believe Mike Summerbee is attending the Awards Ceremony in Manchester - I have no idea if I wll be doing likewise. It's gratifying that people like yourself have thought enough of RBNR to nominate or vote for me, but I honestly have no idea of the competition or the volumes of votes cast.

  7. October 11, 2013  9:25 pm by Mole Rocks Reply

    These are very exciting times and as someone who gets to spend their working day driving around Manchester and City outposts, it's great watching the transformation.

    Due to money pressures I gave up my season ticket in 2006, so I shall be primed on Wednesday to get on the list.

    City are a community club, but have the wisdom to seek out new markets essential for continued commercial success.

    I remember going to Maine Road for the first time in 1989 and visiting the porta-cabin that was the club shop! How we have progressed!

    • October 12, 2013  1:06 am by David Walker Reply

      Carl your passion for #MCFC burns bright & it'd be great if fans like yourself can return the 'day of the match' experience ASAP at an affordable price. You're a staunch advocate of RBNR & I thank you for it.

  8. October 12, 2013  3:23 am by Phill Reply

    A wasted opportunity - City should have took the bull by the horns and said ''we are building a German style safe standing area'' and had the backing of all the other clubs who have said they want them too and forced the governments hand to end this nonsensical regulation that allows standing in lower league games as well as rugby games (both codes) and standing up in all seated stadiums when hosting rock concerts!
    The cost of converting to standing areas would be mightly cheaper and more cost effective than building two third tiers.

    • October 12, 2013  7:23 am by David Walker Reply

      An interesting and valid point Phil. Obviously the Hillsborough Tragedy cast such an appalling shadow over the domestic game that people are understandably reluctant to do anything that might raise even the slightest risk of such a thing ever happening again. However, as you state, standing is permitted at events with large crowds and could surely be accommodated in the right environment and appropriate circumstances. One imagines that if City had wished to do so, they could go for the three-tiers but also factor in standing areas at ground level behind each goal. Dortmund is a great example of a successful standing area - and hugely impressive.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  9. October 13, 2013  11:08 pm by Kammy Reply

    Another dawn is rising in the world of MCFC. Expansion is needed, tickets for home league games are hard to come by and will be even harder as domestic success comes knocking on the door. The pricing is very accomadating and as for the away fans, shove them where they can keep their gobs shut!

    • October 13, 2013  11:53 pm by David Walker Reply

      I often wonder why your career in the Diplomatic Corps was cut short Kammy? ;-)

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