Sports stadium developments: A catalyst for regeneration?


Sports stadium developments: A catalyst for regeneration?

Multi-million pound sports stadium developments may be warranted by the thousands of spectators who frequently fill them for events, but what impact do they have on the wider areas in which they’re situated? As Anfield’s transformation continues and plans for a new dockland Everton FC ground are on the horizon, Move Commercial considers whether stadium projects truly act as a catalyst for regeneration.

Words by Christine Toner 

Liverpool is no stranger to regeneration. From the Grosvenor-led Liverpool ONE project which transformed the city centre to the resurrection of Albert Dock, the city is certainly accustomed to rebirths. It is also, of course, a major footballing location.

Home to two Premier League teams and the birthplace of some of the biggest names in the game, football is part of the city’s identity. And now, just a short drive from the city centre, that experience of bringing areas back to life and that passion for the beautiful game have come together for one major project – the Anfield regeneration.

Since 2015 work has been underway in Anfield which will see not only the extension of Liverpool FC’s ground but also new facilities and housing in the local neighbourhood, an area that for many years has fallen into decay. The plans include a new high street, new retail and hospitality space and the development and refurbishment of a number of homes in the area.

During work on the new stand Ian Ayre, then chief executive of Liverpool Football Club, said: “Whilst the work on our new Main Stand is approaching completion, we recognise that the creation of a new high street would be transformational for the area, attracting new jobs and creating new businesses. It would make Anfield a better place to live, work and visit.”

Of course, stadium-led regeneration is not something that is unique to Liverpool. Indeed, in major cities all across the UK massive transformation projects have taken place, anchored by the development of or extension of a sports stadium.

“When the public purse is used to support such large scale schemes, we need to make sure that local people don’t miss out when it comes to jobs, skills and housing.”

Back in 2015 the London Assembly Regeneration Committee published The Regeneration Game report which looked into the impact of stadium-led regeneration on local areas. The report came as several of the capital’s teams were in negotiations for new stadiums, including Tottenham Hotspur which currently plays at Wembley while its new £750 million stadium is built.

Gareth Bacon, chairman of the committee, said: “The bright lights and multi-billion pound TV and sponsorship deals keep the world’s eyes firmly glued to the football world. But what is going on closer to home, just outside new stadium gates, in terms of the impact on the local community?

Football stadia can act as a catalyst for regeneration and improve an area, but developers and clubs need to ensure they give something back to the communities they’re affecting, especially given the vast costs involved. When the public purse is used to support such large scale schemes, we need to make sure that local people don’t miss out when it comes to jobs, skills and housing.”

But while there is work to be done to ensure local people benefit, there are plenty of examples of stadium-led regeneration success.

A report commissioned by New Economy entitled ‘Analysing the value of football to Greater Manchester’ cited the “significant urban regeneration that was a hallmark of the successful hosting of the Commonwealth Games for Manchester in 2002”. Manchester City’s involvement in the regeneration of Eastlands, the area in which the Etihad Stadium and Etihad Campus are situated, as well as the Middlebrook development where Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok stadium is located, were also highlighted examples of a successful collaboration between sport, businesses and the local council.

“As a result of regeneration, a brighter Anfield has been created for those who live, work and visit there.”

The report says football has an impact in four distinct areas: the economic costs and benefits of football to Greater Manchester, the tourism benefits that football brings, the wider benefits attributable to football, and the social and community benefits of football.

The same is hoped for Anfield.

“As a result of regeneration, a brighter Anfield has been created for those who live, work and visit there,” Councillor Ann O’Byrne, deputy mayor of Liverpool, tells Move Commercial.

“We’ve had a great reaction from residents who appreciate everything achieved to date and welcome the plans which are in place to further improve the area.”

Joe Gervin, director of Liverpool Property Solutions, says the work in Anfield has brought investors back to the area.

“Prior to the crash in 2007 Anfield was a hot investor spot,” he says. “The market was negligible for most of 2008-2015 however the green shoots have started again and once again Anfield is experiencing a swell in investor confidence and a cheap first-time buyer option also. There are some great opportunities and lovely streets to grab a bargain.”

However Gervin doesn’t believe enough is being done to ensure the whole area benefits from the new stadium.

“We still think the council has some way to go in raising the living standards of the residents in Anfield,” he says.

“More public events in areas like Stanley Park need to be organised as well as lowering crime rates. The community in Anfield is great and this should be a selling point for the owners at Everton and Liverpool to accentuate, as well as assistance from the council.”

While work continues at Anfield, football rival Everton Football Club is preparing plans for its own new £300m stadium, although this will involve the Blues moving away from the Walton area of the city to Bramley Moore Dock.

Sports stadium developments: A catalyst for regeneration?

It’s an ambitious plan and one which both the club and council say will benefit the north dockside area of Liverpool considerably.

In his recommendation of the proposal Liverpool Mayor Joe Anderson noted: “From the city’s perspective, the proposed new stadium will complement and accelerate the regeneration plans already in place for the North Liverpool area captured within the approved development framework for the Atlantic Corridor, the recently launched vision for the neighbouring Ten Streets creativity district, and proposals for significant investment in highways and infrastructure, a new cruise terminal, an Isle of Man ferry terminal and new residential and office developments proposed for Liverpool Waters all within the city’s World Heritage Site and Buffer Zone.”

While the waterfront may well benefit though, will the future be as bright for the area Everton FC will leave behind?

“The area won’t have the same footfall as it currently has from people not from the area which will have a negative impact,” says Gervin. “Everton FC and Liverpool City Council need to make sure they have social, economic and environmental concerns boxed off before any demolition works of Goodison.”