ESSMA Stadium Industry Updates – 26 September 2023

Chelsea FC and Everton FC receive loans for their development projects, Newcastle United gets green light for fan zone; FC Lugano finds naming rights sponsor for new stadium... and much more in our latest ESSMA Stadium Industry Updates!

Everton FC receives loan from 777 to fund stadium work

US investment fund 777 Partners, the prospective new owner of Everton, has reportedly provided the Premier League club with a considerable loan to support its ongoing stadium project and other capital requirements.

Farhad Moshiri agreed to sell his majority shareholding in Everton to 777 in a deal that secured “the complete financing” for the new 53,000-capacity stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock. The sale of Moshiri’s 94.1% stake is expected to be completed by the end of this year, subject to approvals from the Premier League, Football Association, and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. The Athletic has now reported that 777 has already made a payment worth “tens of millions” to Everton amid rising costs for the stadium project. The company is not yet able to invest directly in Everton due to Premier League rules.

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Oxford stadium a step closer after council decision

Oxfordshire County Council has approved proposals for League One football club Oxford United to build a new stadium on a plot of land near Kidlington, but a number of conditions have been imposed. The council’s cabinet approved in principle the lease of land at the ‘Triangle’ to United for the stadium, which would replace Kassam Stadium as the club’s home venue. The leasehold for the council-owned land comes with a number of conditions, including that the club must be given planning permission by Cherwell District Council. United must also produce a net-zero plan that is fully costed and comes with clear timescales and outcomes from design, construction and full operation of the stadium.

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Wembley stadium director Boylan announces departure

Liam Boylan has announced that he will be stepping down as stadium director at Wembley after almost nine years at the venue. Boylan joined Wembley in January 2015 as head of events before becoming general manager in December 2016. He took up his current role of stadium director in July 2020. Boylan confirmed his departure in a post on LinkedIn, with the Football Association now seeking applications for his replacement. He will be taking up a new role elsewhere in early 2024.

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Wrexham’s stadium development to miss targeted completion

League Two football club Wrexham AFC has conceded that the new Kop stand at its STōK Cae Ras | STōK Racecourse stadium will not be open for the start of the 2024-25 season, as originally planned. The Welsh club announced that there is no date for starting on site, adding that several matters need to be resolved before this can be confirmed. With a projected build period of 12 months from commencement on site this means that the original goal of having the new Kop in place for the 2024-25 campaign will now not happen.

Wrexham said: “To enable a contract to build the Kop to be signed, the grant funding agreement from Wrexham County Borough Council needs to be finalised and the club satisfied that the conditions attached to the funding offer can be fulfilled. It is hoped that these negotiations will be completed before the end of October 2023.”

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Aston Villa unveils new matchday offering

Premier League football club Aston Villa has launched a new fan-focused experience for supporters in the former Holte Suite at Villa Park, while it has emerged that plans to create a new multi-purpose commercial destination and events space have reportedly been put on hold to focus on the expansion of the stadium’s North Stand. The new matchday offering, The Lower Grounds, will be open from three hours before kick-off and up to 90 minutes after the match has finished. Supporters will be able to take advantage of all-you-can-eat street food as well as beers, wines and soft drinks while mingling with former players and watching pre-match build-up on large screens. The package will include seats in the Trinity Road Stand or the Doug Ellis Upper, as well as a matchday programme. The experience will launch for Villa’s home match against Brighton and Hove Albion on September 30. Season ticket holders can purchase the package as a ‘bolt-on’, or the offering is available on a match-by-match basis. For the Brighton game, the single-match package will cost £120, with the season ticket bolt-on priced at £60.

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ESSMA-Partner The Arena Group expands into the Netherlands

Belgium-based event services company The Arena Group has announced plans to expand into the Netherlands through agreements with three football clubs. The Arena Group already has partnerships with seven Belgian clubs and the company has now added Eredivisie team FC Utrecht and Eerste Divisie clubs NAC Breda and FC Den Bosch to its portfolio. The company has entered into a partnership with Top Events Group to support its expansion into the Netherlands, and also reached an agreement with Compass Group focusing on FC Utrecht’s Stadion Galgenwaard. The Arena Group, which operates football stadiums on non-match days and helps clubs host corporate events, has also recruited additional staff and plans on growing its turnover to €10m  by 2025. The company’s expected turnover in 2023 is around €7m. The Arena Group’s Belgian clients include KAA Gent, Anderlecht, KRC Genk, Standard Liège and Charleroi. The company, which was formed in Ghent in 2013, organises between 350 and 400 events annually for its clients.

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FC Lugano lands naming-rights sponsor for new stadium

Swiss Super League football team FC Lugano has reached an agreement for local energy company AIL to sponsor its new stadium, which is due to open in 2026.

AIL (Aziende Industriali di Lugano) already serves as the club’s shirt sponsor and the stadium naming-rights deal will last for at least five years, from July 1, 2025. The deal, which includes the option for a further five years, has been struck following 15 months of negotiations.

The deal was signed after work on the new 10,000-seat stadium commenced on July 3. As well as the stadium, the project will include the development of a 4,000-capacity arena.

The stadium will replace the Stadio di Cornaredo, which has served as FC Lugano’s home since 1951.

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Chelsea set for $500m investment to support stadium plans

Premier League football club Chelsea has reportedly secured a $500m (£407m/€470m) investment from US-based hedge fund Ares Management to fund a potential stadium development project.

ESPN has reported that Chelsea is nearing a deal with Ares after meeting several potential investors. The funds would reportedly be put towards either a major redevelopment of Stamford Bridge or building a new stadium from scratch.

Other areas of investment targeted by Chelsea owners include a redevelopment of the club’s Cobham training ground and an expansion of the group’s multi-club plans.

In July, Chelsea’s plans to redevelop Stamford Bridge were given a boost after the club agreed a deal in principle to buy an area of land next to the stadium owned by Stoll, which provides housing for veterans.

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Newcastle United gets green light for St. James’ Park fan zone

Newcastle United has announced that a planning application for a new fan zone adjacent to its St. James’ Park stadium has been formally approved by local authorities.

‘St. James’ STACK, powered by Sela’ intends to be a food, drink and entertainment option for those attending matches and events at the English Premier League football club’s stadium, as well as a midweek leisure and social destination.

An initial planning application for the fan zone was lodged with Newcastle City Council in July, with the club releasing renderings of the scheme earlier this month. Newcastle has teamed up with STACK, which has opened up several entertainment venues in the region, and Sela, its main shirt sponsor, on the project. Sela is a Saudi-owned sports event, retail and rights company. St. James’ STACK will be built using repurposed shipping containers around a central plaza and main stage area and is expected to open in spring 2024, with an initial lifespan of three years as the club explores potential uses for the site.

The main stage, complete with a big screen, will be designed to deliver an immersive experience for live entertainment and broadcasting sporting events, while there will be six bars and 10 street food units.

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