After our tour of the stadium we were shown into an exhibition of the next phase of development of Manchester City Football Club, and very impressive the plans are, doubly so as they are not pie in the sky plans but WILL happen as the financing is already in place and coming from an unimpeachable source. No dealings with dodgy banks for Manchester City these days!
The stadium was built here for the Commonwealth Games of 2002 in what was then one of the most depressed parts of the city. It was built on land formally used by Manchester’s great engineering industry which, by the 1980s, had all but withered and died leaving the area in ruins and the people living in this part of the city with high unemployment and very little chance of bettering themselves. The stadium could have been built on a greenfield site in the affluent suburbs on the edge of the city but it was decided to build it here hoping it would stimulate economic activity and growth and bring work to the area. It has done that with apartments lining the Ashton Canal and Ashton Old Road with views of the stadium. New businesses like ASDA moved in and the area began coming back to life slowly.
The area was given a huge boost when Sheik Mansour bought Manchester City. When he bought it, it was a team in the shadow of its illustrious neighbour across the city, Manchester United. The best it could hope for was mid-table respectability and didn’t have the money to challenge the big clubs like United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool. Along came Sheik Mansour who bought the team and promised the world. Well at least the European Cup! And he has been as good as his word. HUGE amounts of money were thrown at the team tempting the best players on the planet to come to Manchester with eye-watering weekly wages. Some people say you can’t solve a problem by throwing money at it and you can’t buy success. Oh yes you can! Throw enough money at something and most problems evaporate. Manchester City is now seen as one of the most successful and feared clubs in the world and the silver trophies are beginning to flow into the club’s museum.
Last year the club was able to upgrade the stadium and wonderful it looks. The next stage is to develop a state of the art centre of football excellence which will develop the talent for the next generation of footballers to play at the club and others. It is based on the idea developed by Barcelona FC who have a similar organisation. Except Manchester City’s will be the best and £200,000,000 of Sheik Mansour’s billions have been put aside to build it.
In the picture below you can see Manchester City’s stadium in the top left hand corner. A broad walkway leads diagonally to a bridge that carries the route across the junction of Ashton New Road and Alan Turing Way on a spectacular new bridge. Once over the bridge you will be in the School of Football Excellence. It will contain two further stadiums, one for the Manchester City reserve team to play in and of such a high standard that many other teams would like to have it as their main stadium. The second stadium will be for training but can be hired out to other teams for games and event. Around these stadiums will be, I think, 25 further football pitches that can be hired for use by people in the city.
In the bottom left hand corner are a set of buildings that will include a school for the 16-18 year olds of the area and sporting and fitness facilities, including a swimming pool, for the local people. Manchester City have a plan to involve every school in the city in their development, finding talent that could be developed at an early age. This is on top of their centres in New York, Los Angeles, Abu Dhabi and New Delhi.
All of the £200,000,000 will be spent with companies within 15 miles of the stadium so the money will support local business and create jobs locally. On the day before we went, Manchester City had just taken on 10 people just to look after all the trees and plants that will be used on their development. All the people were taken on locally. The trees are local as well, already growing and waiting to be transferred to the complex when it is finished. And the wonderful thing about it is it WILL be built.
Our guide hinted that this was not the end of the development. Manchester City would like to increase the capacity of the main stadium to get more fans in.