Can a football stadium kickstart a local economy?

Gareth Bacon - conservativeHow can a football stadium act as a catalyst for regeneration in an area? How do football clubs perform off the pitch in terms of improving the lives of their local community? Can stadium-led regeneration create jobs for local people and support local businesses?

Here at the London Assembly the regeneration committee is reviewing how the building of football stadiums can create a new dynamism within a local area. Little research has been done on this theme to date, so we aim to gather together best practice, along with lessons learnt from previous schemes, to produce a blueprint for successful stadium-led regeneration.

We want to look beyond the immaculate pitches and explore exactly how a new or refurbished stadium can change the lives of local residents and business owners. A football stadium can bring real life and vibrancy to an area, not only on match days when the area is full of supporters, but every day in terms of improvements to public space, increased employment opportunities for local people, better transport infrastructure, community services and more housing.

On the flipside, we know these schemes can also cause problems for local people – noise levels, litter, antisocial behaviour, traffic, overcrowding and the impact on businesses all need to be considered carefully.

Our regeneration committee has visited a number of stadiums and heard some really innovative examples of success in this field, in terms of infrastructure, community outreach and support.

Manchester City FC’s regeneration of east Manchester sets an unparalleled example, with almost £200m spent on new infrastructure in the last 18 months alone. The impact on the local area is extremely positive, with plans underway to build a new training ground and academy complex opposite the Etihad ground.

Football clubs should have strong community links to improve the lives and futures of those nearby and there must be mechanisms through which local voices can be heard. Brentford FC’s Community Sports Trust is recognised as a model of good practice. Its social inclusion team delivers a range of projects for disengaged young people in Ealing, Hounslow and Richmond, such as Street Sports and the Premier League’s nationally-run Kicks project.

In terms of non-league grounds, Champion Hill in East Dulwich serves a number of clubs – Dulwich Hamlet FC, Fisher FC and Millwall Lionesses LFC, and the ground is seen as a great community asset in the borough of Southwark. Supporters’ trusts, like Dulwich Hamlet Supporters Trust, are independent and democratic organisations that aim to secure a sustainable future for their club by giving supporters a collective voice. Small football clubs face a number of issues, despite increasing crowds, but ensuring a secure home ground is absolutely vital.

Stadium-led regeneration is a complex but enthralling issue. As the sums of money being poured into clubs become ever more mind-boggling, we are keen to ensure that they knit into the local community supporting their growth and aspirations, as well as the ambitions of club owners. We want to hear even more examples of how it has worked and not worked so well. What was especially innovative about a given scheme? What promises were made and what was delivered? What lessons can be passed on to other schemes? What advice would you give to other football clubs, developers and local councils embarking on ambitious schemes for their areas? We want to know exactly how partnerships work and try to measure the impact of stadium regeneration.

We want to hear directly from the local people who live or work near stadiums. We have set up a short survey to capture your views, so please tell us what it is like. What impact has a new or refurbished stadium had, or will have in the area? Has your home gone up in value? Are the transport links better? Has business improved? The survey is now live and all the responses we receive will feed into this investigation. We will then produce a report making recommendations to the mayor of London and other bodies responsible for this important form of regeneration.


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Steven Boxall
Steven Boxall
9 years ago

I know we can’t draw direct lessons from the USA and apply them unthinkingly to the UK, but there are lots of examples of this sort of ‘regeneration’ in the USA which promise a lot whilst recieving huge public subsidies yet which fail to deliver on the promises, with any benefits going mostly to those who already have the most. I do hope we in the UK are not being conned into repeating the same mistakes.

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