THE HALF DECENT FOOTBALL MAGAZINE

16 February ~ The two Manchester clubs seem destined to compete for the Premier and Europa Leagues, but Manchester businessman Shaun O'Brien is trying to introduce a new dimension to the rivalry. Since 1987, O'Brien has run a vehicle recovery business on a site in east Manchester. What makes his site significant is that it is one of the last four areas Manchester City need to purchase to make progress on their ambitious plans to establish a training and academy complex on an area of 80 acres, with a £100 million investment. O'Brien, a Manchester United season ticket holder, is offering to sell off his site to other United fans for £250 per square foot.

His justification for the plan is to stop City furthering "their goals of football domination". He says United fans should buy the land as “payback” for the 6-1 defeat earlier this season.

Although Manchester City have not commented, the city council have pointed out that O'Brien's valuation is equivalent to the most expensive land prices in London. With a compulsory purchase order likely to be approved later in the year, his plan appears doomed to failure.

It is difficult to find a positive aspect to O'Brien's plan, but he has at least acknowledged that Manchester City have put a strong emphasis on the effect their new complex will have on the local surroundings. Investing in a regeneration of the area around their stadium, which is made up of some of the poorest wards in the UK, can only improve its appearance.

The Ethiad stadium is built on the site of a former gas works and coking plant. Scratch the post-industrial scar tissue of temporary landscaping and plywood screen-fencing that covers the development site and the remains of a former dye works make this less brown field and more rainbow development land.

City plan to collaborate with the city council on the project. They will devote around six acres of the site to sixth form college and community use. It helps that City find themselves at the centre of a long-term regeneration plan that is, in part, a legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games. The club have also stressed the economic benefits the development will bring. Building the site will provide 130 construction job, and the complex will provide 100 jobs in the long term.

The presence of a football club is significant for local economies. The list of local business creditors when clubs go into administration is poignant evidence of this. But the picture is not as clear as might be imagined.

Research in Liverpool has shown that, although a significant number of jobs depend on football, only one third of football-related expenditure stays in the local economy. Businesses in the immediate locality of Anfield derive around five per cent of their income from football, but step a little further afield and the impact is very small. The uncertainty about the redevelopment of Anfield has also blighted the surrounding area for several years.

Yet it is from Liverpool that a different approach to redevelopment raises a more interesting challenge to City's initiative than that posed by O'Brien. If the City plan is driven by some kind of enlightened self-interest, the fan groups' initiative, by supporters of Liverpool and Everton, to create a "Football Quarter", based around Liverpool's Stanley Park highlights a different approach.

This community-led proposal envisages both Liverpool clubs developing stadiums in an area surrounded by the infrastructure needed to support fans at the game – bars, food outlets, a hotel and improved transport links. The prospectus highlights the opportunities for local businesses, the potential employment opportunities and the chance for the football clubs to improve income from non-football related activity.

The only thing missing from the scheme right now is money. Whichever way you come at it, both initiatives seem to have more going for them than the shambles emerging around the legacy of London 2012. Brian Simpson

Comments (13)
Comment by Swamp Thing 2012-02-16 11:56:30

The idiot O'Brien — who has a shall we say 'colourful' personal business history — has been trying to hold the club and council to ransom and is attempting to screw additional money from the most gullible of Trafford supporters.
This is no David and Goliath struggle. It is a tawdry and dubious attempt to cash in personally, which has already been reported to the FSA (as an unregistered 'investment' scheme) and the Law Society (for the role of his solicitor in said scheme).
Why this shady individual is being given the oxygen of publicity in WSC is beyond me.

Comment by Tony C 2012-02-16 12:53:51

Indeed.

The title of Brian Simpson's piece is unusually misleading under the circumstances.

Comment by jameswba 2012-02-16 14:47:05

'City plan to collaborate with the city council on the project. They will devote around six acres of the site to sixth form college and community use. It helps that City find themselves at the centre of a long-term regeneration plan that is, in part, a legacy of the 2002 Commonwealth Games....'

'Blue Moves : Manchester City's Spanking New Stadium and How You Paid For It', an essay in Football Confidential 2 published by the BBC, provides a thought-provoking counter-weight to this. Specifically, it mentions the closure of community swimming facilities in Miles Platting and Gorton ahead of the games. David Bernstein (City chairman at the time) claimed to be 'unaware' of these closures but they were apparently necessary in helping to fund all those glossy new facilities City were later to get from the council, effectively for nothing, in a 'win-win' deal.

Towards the end of the essay, the writer speculates on the difference a fraction of the 493 million pounds spent on the CotM stadium and Sport City might have made to the lives of the local people in this 'worn-down area' with its 'always basic provision'.

That was written 10 years ago. Please put me right if I'm being too cynical, but the idea of Man City as some sort of caring, sharing community concern is even harder to swallow today than it was then.

Comment by Huh 2012-02-17 12:00:31

The swimming pools you or your so called report refers to were closed that’s correct. In the case of Gorton Tub, which wasn’t a pool more of water play area which was full of technical difficulties and it was also haemorrhaging money to the tune of £70k per year in other words a massive failure. So yet again just another stupid Manchester City Council idea. In the case of Miles Platting it closes because they just opened a huge Olympic pool in the City centre for the commonwealth games what should they do open more and close not at a large cost?

Why the hell would David Bernstein be aware of those closes? What does it have to do with him? He was City Chairman not Manchester’s Lord Mayor! Council pools are closing all over the country now is this also something to do with Bernstein? Hey maybe it’s something to do with my milkman he looks a bit shifty well that’s as close a guess as Bernstein is! Do you think he masterminded the whole commonwealth games as some sort of evil plan to bring prosperity Beswick! The money spent on CoMS and Beswick area in general for the games has totally transformed the whole area and supplied many jobs in what was one of Manchester’s most run down, high unemployment areas. Maybe they shouldn’t have spent that money and not closed down that pool and people could still be living in a dump with lower chances of local work. I mean think of those poor people that face the 5 min further walk to the spanking new world class facilities’ at the new Olympic pool!

James I’d be very surprised if the wba part of your name is for West Brom as you are sound a bit like one of those new bitter, twisted and jealous fans from Old Trafford, as near enough everything you have wrote is wrong and aimed at having a dig at City!

Comment by Huh 2012-02-17 12:04:16

Sorry James I didn't cut and paste the full story heres the first paragraph.

Jameswba it looks like you have a bee in your bonnet where City are concerned why is that? The cost of CoMS to Manchester Council was actually £45m, the total cost of the stadium was £142m, £77m of was paid by Sport England (nothing to do with MCC or City) and £20m by City not to mention the prime real estate in central Manchester that was their old ground as well as around £2m per year lease money which has just risen and when the lease is up will be around £500m. The insane figure of £493m is just plucked out of the air as it shows you didn‘t do much research! The games entire cost to Manchester was £300m.

Comment by jameswba 2012-02-17 14:55:52

Well done Huh, you've got me bang to rights. The jameswba username is a cunning disguise, designed to hide my allegiance to the Red Devils and the fact that I'm in the pay of Shaun O'Brien, with the specific task of spreading disinformation on WSC and similar forums.

Now that I'm out in the open about that, perhaps you could acknowledge that your reading of my post missed the fairly clear implication that my little bit of dissent against Mr Simpson's article was based on one just source ; a source that has always struck me as a decent piece of investigative journalism, yes, but nowhere am I claiming to have done in-depth research of my own. I'll also admit here that my default mode is a little cynical these days where top clubs are concerned. I tend to think of their talk of 'community regeneration projects' and the like as the sort self-interested PR bullshit it very often is.

Your figures might be more accurate than those I have, though judging by some of the wilder speculations in your post, I'm forced to treat them with caution. But is it not at least true that the CotM was effectively handed to City on very favourable terms? The council needed a long-term user after the games were over and City were able to take it on on their conditions because, at the time, they felt they didn't actually need a capacity above Maine Road's 34,000. Clubs like Leicester, Southampton etc had to take out loans, bonds and the rest for similar-sized facilities.

As for 'why should David Bernstein know about swimming-pools closing down?', well, that's a fair enough point in itself. Yet, again, football chairman claiming convenient ignorance of what's going on in their club's community is another reason I get cynical when they then come out with the PR crap about their 'deep roots in the local area, bla bla bla'.

Comment by Coral 2012-02-17 15:04:39

"I'll also admit here that my default mode is a little cynical these days where top clubs are concerned. I tend to think of their talk of 'community regeneration projects' and the like as the sort self-interested PR bullshit it very often is"

Did you not see Crouch, when at Spurs, getting his hair cut by that old man who had his shop damaged in the riots?

Comment by jameswba 2012-02-17 15:16:31

Yes Coral, I did. Guess he's now frequenting the community barber's shops around the Potteries(?)

Comment by Coral 2012-02-17 16:48:25

If there is a camera crew there

Comment by Huh 2012-02-17 20:28:19

You threw mud and it landed on yourself James. You may not be the one of the fans I have mentioned but what you have said fit’s the profile 100%. You missed the mark by miles in a rant that could only be described as a dig at City, the people who love to do this are mostly those that follow Utd be it in the media or their many (not all) plastic fans. I was unaware that other teams fans were also so much full of bitterness that they would make things up like you seem to be doing or at the very best ill researched. Why? It would seem just to try to discredit City for some reason.

Mr Simpson’s article is full of errors that some have already pointed out. I not saying you did any ‘in-depth research’, I’m saying you didn’t do any as it’s that wide of the mark it’s clear you took information from one of these earlier mentioned bitter jealous fans! You also seem to be getting confused with ‘top clubs’ City have rich owners but I don’t think you could put them with the clubs you are thinking of. The money used for the Commonwealth games has massively transformed a badly downtrodden area just google the before and after pics to see just how much. Not that that had anything to do with City. The new training faculties does though.

You said, ‘is it not at least true that the CotM was effectively handed to City on very favourable terms?’

I’d say what favourable terms are those? That if City didn’t take it MCC would be paying up keep of the North West’s biggest ever white elephant costing a possible £10m-£20m a year in tax payers money? What would you have done said no we’ll keep it to gather dust? Or maybe demolish it? Again MCC spent a total of £45m they have already had £18m back and in the next ten years will have had a further £30m as well as City old ground! What more should they have been given? Do you think Spurs, West Ham or who ever gets the Olympic Stadium will have to pay the £486m it has cost to date or do you think the local gov will want to lease it to take the burden of running costs off themselves while taking a guaranteed fee? Get real!

‘at the time, they (I take it you mean City) felt they didn't actually need a capacity above Maine Road's 34,000.’
More nonsense I’m afraid. It was Franny Lee who originally wanted the Stadium move as he KNEW City needed a larger capacity (might have hade something to do with Maine Rd being full in what ever division they were in! A fact that is proven when City moved into CoMS they had an average crowd of well over 46k in their stadium in 2003 (the first year) so I’m afraid yet again it looks like your falling for ‘City don’t fill there stadium’ nonsense of that bunch from Salford.

Why would Bernstein know about a miss run water play pool in Gorton closing in an area miles away from the club he is chairman of and 250 miles away from his home? Why shouldn’t he know about say libraries or Fire station closures? I tell you why because it has 100% nothing to do with him! He has no reason at all to have been ‘claiming convenient ignorance of what's going on in their club's community’ he doesn’t need to claim any thing pretty much the same as the Chairman of Boddingtons Brewery your making no sense. Maybe you should comment on things that you actually have the faintest idea about because this seriously isn’t one of them. Are you cynical? Maybe. Wrong? Definitely.

P.S Miles platting pool is still open today!!!

Comment by laticsbrian 2012-02-17 20:57:56

On reflection, I can see that giving O'Brien quite so much prominence in the article was perhaps ill judged, but I think it would be difficult to suggest that the piece is supportive of his stance. I accept it could have been more directly critical. But that is a matter of opinion, I am not convinced that the piece is "full of errors". My intention was not to provide O'Brien with "the oxygen of publicity" but to use him as a way into a piece on football and regeneration, and to raise the broader question of the economic impact of football clubs on local communities - a subject on which there has been little written and little research.

Comment by Huh 2012-02-17 22:05:12

Sorry Brian but I’m sure you may think of the title as a error, then there’s the error of saying O’Brien’s a season ticket holder at Utd maybe he is with SKY but not Utd! You say his land is on a ‘former gas works and coking plant’ when it is on the old Clayton Aniline company plant site which was a chemical works which you then go on to call a ‘dye works’ which is more accurate. He is only trying to sell 5000 sq feet of his land not all of it at a bargain £250 a go to his good Utd (idiotic) pals this would net the greedy little fellow £1,250,000! Much, much more than it’s worth. I believe City offered way over the odds apparently at £1m but he think the land is in central London Apparently. City have also said it will bring 160 construction jobs not 130 as you say lol. Picky? Yes definitely but errors never the less. Even though the article seems fine I was a little harsh but the above is true but petty. The title on the other hand is very misleading this guy’s a pathetic low life just trying to rob anyone he doesn‘t seem to care if it‘s Utd fans or City.

Comment by laticsbrian 2012-02-18 14:08:51

I think, Huh, we probably agree more than we disagree. But on the detail, In the article I make the point that City's stadium is built on the site of a gas works and coking plant- there used to be a great view of the coking ovens from the top deck of the 53 bus. The former Clayton Analine site was across the road from the current stadium, and the company was one of the country's largest dyestuffs manufacturers. The question of how much O'Brien stands to make is interesting. One report, in the Independent, suggests he is trying to sell the whole of his 18,000sq ft site, but most say he is selling just 5,000 yielding him £1.5 m. Two reports suggest that the ofer he has received - widely reported as £1m- is made up of two components: around £250k has been offered for the land, with a further £750k as compensation for having to move. The potential he stands to make is substantial, if he can find the mugs to buy off him.

The point I really wanted to emphasise is that clubs like City, Liverpool, Everton, all located in deprived areas generate substantial amounts of money, but very little of it stays in the local economies.

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