Manchester City Football Club is set to become the home of the Champions League after the club unveiled plans to develop the Etihad Stadium into a Champions league style theatre of football. City officials announced the ambitious project after several months of analysis on how to expand the current stadium. It is thought that The Abu Dahbi owners of the club will plough £45 million into the development to create the Champions League stadium.
The new look stadium, nicknamed ‘the Cauldron’ by City officials, will adopt a Champions League style roof (as pictured) and the capacity will increase from 48,000 to 70,000. Though construction schedules are yet to be finalised it is understood the project should be completed in time for the beginning of the 2014-15 season. If rumours are to be believed, the Champions League final will take place at the ‘Cauldron’ in May 2015. Discussions between City and FIFA are believed to be underway. Both City and FIFA have declined to comment on the matter.
Plans were released in September to develop the land around the Etihad Stadium into a world class training facility for City’s first team and youth academy, named the Etihad Campus. Once analysis of the stadium was completed, several proposals were put forward for the development of the stadium. The “Cauldron” proposal was chosen and the club underwent a period of public consultation before announcing the project. Of the 5000 participants there was 86% approval. Patrick Vieira, City’s Football Development Executive, stated ‘the new stadium will be the final piece in the jigsaw for the club to be considered a truly world class club.’
Although the plans to transform the Etihad Stadium are another positive step from the Manchester City owners, they have already drawn criticism and ridicule from some quarters. The stadium development is generally perceived as arrogant. City are currently participating in their debut season in the Champions League and in stark contrast to their domestic form they performed modestly, at best. Moreover, there is no guarantee that City will even qualify for the competition next season, let alone in 3 years time when the “Cauldron” will be completed. BBC pundit Alan Hansen labelled the plans as “ludicrous”, while Sky Sports commentator Alan Smith claimed City “are completely detached from reality”. Even Tottenham Hotspur manager, Harry Redknapp, got in act going as far to state that City are “ruining football.”
In spite of this, City’s Football Administration Officer, Brian Marwood, insisted the development “isn’t just about Manchester City Football Club. It’s about Manchester as a city and the local community. The stadium will attract people from all over the globe to visit this great city. The stadium will be completely unique and will provide a huge boost to the local tourism industry.” It is thought that the development will create up to 500 jobs over a 3 year period in the Greater Manchester region whilst construction is undertaken. Once the development is completed, it is expected the local economy will grow due to the increased number of people visiting the stadium and local area.
The plans have also received full support from Manchester City Council and the New East Manchester development agency. Sir Richard Leese, leader of Manchester City Council, said “This latest announcement again demonstrates Manchester City’s commitment to the community and developing one of the most deprived areas of the country. The club have a proud history of being heavily involved in the community and this looks set to continue.”
Opinion continues to be divided on Manchester City’s impact on football and this latest announcement has only added fuel to the fire. One thing is for sure, however, Manchester City have arrived and will not be going away anytime soon.