Criticism of Empty Seats Misguided as Man City Move Closer to Stadium Expansion

Rob PollardFeatured ColumnistFebruary 6, 2014

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  A general view outside the stadium ahead of the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

According to a report Thursday by Adam Jupp of the Manchester Evening News, Manchester City’s proposed stadium-expansion plans, which will see the capacity at the Etihad increase by over 14,000 to 62,170, are set to go ahead.

The club, who are looking to increase matchday revenue to continue their shift towards self-sufficiency and compliance with Financial Fair Play (FFP), hope the additional revenue will boost their income and improve the game experience for their fans.

Plans have been submitted to Manchester council’s planning committee, and a report has now been published which recommends they are approved.

The report states:

The continued social, economic and physical growth and regeneration of East Manchester, and the Etihad Campus, is a key objective of the Manchester Core Strategy.

The expansion of the stadium will provide enhanced facilities which will help to create a stadium of national and international profile and improve the visitor experience. The appearance of the south and north stands and create a more prominent landmark feature at the centre of the Etihad Campus and East Manchester.

The proposal will create job opportunities, some of which will be available for local residents and business, during the construction and operation of the expanded stadium. In addition, there is an opportunity to provide improved access to the facilities at the stadium for local residents as part of improvements to wellbeing and health.

Job creation is an important aspect for the club. The owners, aware that their huge wealth could create discontent if they aren’t seen to be community conscious, have consistently looked to help the local area wherever possible.

MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 03:  Kids pose by giant MCFC intials ahead of  the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester City and Chelsea at Etihad Stadium on February 3, 2014 in Manchester, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

The building of the new Etihad Campus is set to help the regeneration of what was once a failing area of Manchester, and the club's commitment to women's football is also a positive, grassroots enterprise, aimed at promoting the ladies game. 

The stadium expansion will also see a number of affordable season-ticket options for fans, starting at £299—the most competitive in the Premier League. The proposals should be celebrated by all those concerned.

The news comes less than 24 hours after an article written by David Lynch for the Manchester Evening News—suggesting City don't have the fanbase to justify an expansion—caused outrage amongst fans on Twitter.

Lynch produced photographs of the stands taken from Monday night’s defeat to Chelsea, circling seats that were empty in an attempt to inflame the debate and perpetrate the myth that City struggle to sell tickets. The match between two sides competing for the title had, of course, been sold out for weeks.

Lynch managed to find around 20 seats that went unused and then hilariously warned that "swathes of empty seats” make ideas to increase the Etihad capacity "look like utter folly." What Lynch’s article failed to address was that people very often work across the country, and the idea that they can get to every night match is delusional.

Not to mention the traffic congestion around the ground and on the Mancunian Way on the evening of the game which almost caused a delay to the kick-off time—meaning some fans gave in to frustration and made their way home.

It was an article that can be filed in the clickbait category and should have been dismissed with a shrug of the shoulders. But due to the ferocity and long-running nature of this particular debate, that was never going to happen.

It’s lines of argument such as those in the Lynch piece that reduce the debate to tribal nonsense and divert attention away from the real debate, which is that fans are continually inconvenienced by extortionate ticket prices for away matches and by interference from television companies which sees matchdays and kick-off times consistently altered without any regard for their needs.

Admittedly, City have struggled to sell out cup games this season. But in a time of austerity that has seen working families struggling to make ends meat, fans attempting to criticise other fans for not purchasing extra tickets is counter-productive at best.

As Lynch himself acknowledged, City’s average Premier League attendance this season is an impressive 47,107—the fourth highest in the country. The expansion will be good for the club, the fans and the surrounding area, and any attempts to mock the proposals are misguided and bitter.


Rob Pollard is Bleacher Report's lead Manchester City correspondent and will be following the club from a Manchester base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @TypicalCity.