The use of sports stadiums in regeneration is a recent phenomenon in the UK, with the breadth of literature in this field relatively limited. However, it is an area of growing interest with numerous sports stadium regeneration projects being proposed. Mark Panton, a PhD student with the Birkbeck Sport Business Centre, has been working on a research project looking at how stakeholders influence stadium-led regeneration. In particular, Mark researched the ways in which different individuals and groups were able to influence developments in East Manchester and Tottenham through a series of interviews and participant observations at meetings. This article summarises that work for the benefit of professionals within the field.
At the start of this research, in 2011, Manchester City Football Club, having moved into the Commonwealth Stadium in East Manchester eight years previously, was about to embark on a further significant development on an area of land immediately across the road from their stadium. The proposals involved a large training complex, the Etihad Campus, with a number of facilities open to the community; a walkway connecting the Campus with the main stadium; a proposed sport-science unit; and a new sixth-form college.
During the same period, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club had set out its own plans to build a new stadium within what was to become known as the Northumberland Development Project (NDP). Aside from the new stadium, this project also involved associated developments that proposed a public square, new retail facilities, new homes on the site of the existing football ground, establishment of a university technical college and an increased role for the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. As part of the NDP, Haringey Council also proposed to build a walkway to connect the new stadium with a re-developed train station on the other side of the High Road, which would involve the demolition of many homes and retail businesses.
The existing literature on community involvement in regeneration suggests it is not easy to balance wider community or stakeholder participation with successful developments. Many local people in Tottenham, whose own homes and business premises were sign-posted for demolition, were shocked at the lack of genuine consultation and influence of their views on regeneration proposals. Stakeholders in Tottenham managed to gain some influence with delays and legal challenges causing some problems for the focal organisations over the period of this research, but there were limits to their impact on the stadium-led regeneration. The power of the council and the football club was sufficient to resist major changes to the most significant of the stadium-led regeneration plans.
In East Manchester, despite some individual concerns about the extent of the power of the football club, the overall context appeared less threatening to most local people. Many community groups had existed for much of the previous fifteen years due to the period of stadium-led regeneration in the area and this fact was relevant for their continued salience with the local council and Manchester City FC. This was evidenced by the bi-monthly residents and local community groups meetings held at the Etihad Stadium and chaired by a representative of Manchester City FC. Due to the time-scale of the developments, stakeholders were also able to see social and economic benefits resulting from the stadium-led regeneration.
From the results of this research, it is argued that it is vital to have in place genuine consultation processes that allow stakeholders to participate in the decision-making process with their views being used to influence stadium-led regeneration. This is important for local people and the focal organisations if the developments are to be successful.