May 19, 2024

Football club owners are typically interested in purchasing land near stadiums.

Liverpool, for example, spent years buying houses around Anfield in order to eventually expand the stadium.

Mike Ashley is not one of them. Ashley sold a plot of land next to St James’s Park, which was critical to the ground’s expansion plans.

Of course, expansion was never on the agenda during Ashley’s tenure as owner. Ashley shelved an ambitious plan to increase the stadium’s capacity to 60,000, announced months before he bought the club.

And, in 2019, Ashley sold Strawberry Place, and a high-rise development that would have hemmed in the stadium on one side and changed the city’s skyline was controversially approved by Newcastle City Council planners, despite more than 1,700 objections, many of which came from fans who felt the plans would limit their ability to increase capacity.

However, the project never got off the ground, giving supporters hope that the club, which was taken over in late 2021, would one day buy the land back.

That day has finally arrived, thanks to years of negotiations between the club’s owners and the landowners.

Over the past year, the club’s new owners have considered “every possibility” of expanding St James’ Park, and this move gives them a realistic opportunity to increase the capacity to at least 60,000. In the short term, the club can set up a fan zone next to the Metro station, which will enhance the matchday experience.

In the long run, this transaction should transform Strawberry Place for the better.

 

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