When it comes to football, few things come cheaply. This is something you can easily see at both club and fan level. Not only are teams spending more and more on wages and transfer fees but football has required fans to dig deeper into their wallets too. Whether it is ticket prices or the cost of the latest replica shirt, being a supporter can often be an expensive pursuit.
It should come as no surprise then that football stadiums also require a huge degree of financial investment and the decision to move is never one taken without years of prior planning. While there is always a gigantic expense involved, the costs between stadia can vary massively so there is no fixed answer to ‘how much does a stadium cost to build?’. How much a club (or government) eventually spends depends on numerous factors such as the stadium location, capacity and complexity of the design.
How Much Did Stadiums Used To Cost?
To highlight the difference between then and now, we will start by looking at a couple of examples of stadiums built long ago.
Old Trafford – Manchester United
- Year Complete – 1909
- Initial Cost – £90,000
- Cost Adjusted For Inflation – £11.5m
- Original Capacity – 80,000
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £1,000
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – 90x more expensive
Despite having to reduce its capacity to 74,140 (the stadium has been redeveloped many times over the years but capacities were higher before all-seater stadia), Old Trafford remains the third largest stadium in the UK. As mentioned, there have been many refurbishments to it over the decades, with the current site barely recognisable to the one that first appeared over 100 years ago. There has been some full-on reconstruction during this time too as a German bombing raid during WWII destroyed a large part of the ground, particular the South Stand.
Old Trafford is a fine example to highlight when looking at stadium costs because £11.5m in today’s money would never come close to affording even the most basic 80,000 capacity stadium – or much smaller one for that matter. While it does therefore seem incredibly cheap by modern standards, you have to bear in mind that it was actually well over budget (predicted cost £60,000) and ended up being 90 times more than the record transfer fee at the time. Using this same multiplier for a stadium built in 2018 after Philippe Coutinho had moved to Barcelona, the cost would be £9.45bn! Needless to say, no club will be spending that kind of money on a new home any time soon.
Wembley (Old) – England National Team
- Year Complete – 1923
- Initial Cost – £750,000
- Cost Adjusted For Inflation – £48,500,000
- Original Capacity – 127,000 officially but well over 200,000 attended some matches
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £5,500
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – 136x more expensive
As the new Wembley will also be the focus of our attention later in this article, it only seemed fitting to focus on its predecessor. The original Wembley, which was replaced in 2007, started off with an official capacity of 127,000 (standing) but this was later reduced to 100,000 to make it safer and then again to 82,000 when converted to an all-seater arena.
Despite being built just 14 years later than Old Trafford, there is a huge difference in the construction cost, with Wembley being over eight times more expensive to build. Of course, the ground itself was significantly larger but nevertheless this is a steep incline, far greater than simple inflation would account for. The equivalent cost today though is still an absolute fraction of what the new Wembley cost, again highlighting how older stadiums were hugely cheaper to build than they are now.
Modern Stadia Builds in England
It is now time to take a look at the more modern stadia that have been built in England to give us an accurate idea of how much stadiums, both big and small, will set a club or owner back.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium
- Division At The Time – Premier League
- Year Complete – 2019
- Initial Cost – Approximately £1bn
- Original Capacity – 62,062
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £105m
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – 9.5x more expensive
Tottenham’s brand new state-of-the-art stadium serves as a reminder of the risks involved in a new build as well as the potential reward. Like many other big projects, this award winning stadium ran heavily over budget. It was initially expected to cost in the region of £400m but through a variety of problems and currency devaluations, it ended up costing more than twice the initial estimates.
For any other big club weighing up a new stadium, this is something they simply have to be mindful of as there are so many things that can go wrong during such a lengthy build. In Tottenham’s case, construction took a full three years, considerably longer than initially expected.
Even with the delays and extra costs though, Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy can still be happy with what he signed-off on. The north Londoners now have one of the best footballing stadiums in the world and one that the fans quickly grew extremely fond of. It enables Spurs to enjoy much more match-day revenue as their former White Hart Lane ground only had a capacity of 36,284. Not only this but there are additional revenue streams now available which simply would not have been possible before. The retractable pitch, for instance, has already allowed Tottenham to host several NFL matches and this partnership with the American game may prove to be a highly profitable one in the long term.
Wembley Stadium – England National Team
- Year Complete – 2007
- Initial Cost – £789m
- Cost Adjusted For Inflation – £1.2bn
- Original Capacity – 90,000
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £30.8m
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – 25.5x more expensive
Although Tottenham’s new stadium cost an absolute fortune, it is still cheaper than the cost of the new Wembley when adjusted for inflation. For their money though, the FA did get an impressive build with no seat having an obstructed view. You also have the iconic arch (which is of structural importance) and a partially retractable roof to give spectators protection from the elements.
Used for a wide variety of sporting events and concerts throughout the year, the cost of Wembley has certainly not gone to waste. It is yet another example though of a (primarily) football stadium being over budget and overdue. It was initially set for completion in 2016 at a price £331m less than the actual end figure. Due to the spiralling costs, something that saw construction firm Multiplex take a £183m loss on the project, Wembley became the most expensive stadium on the planet. It has since been overtaken but it remains the most expensive football (soccer) arena when adjusted for inflation.
Brentford Community Stadium – Brentford
- Division At The Time – Championship
- Year Complete – 2020
- Initial Cost – £71m
- Original Capacity – 17,250
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £105m
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – Stadium worth 67% of record transfer
Sticking in London for now but this time we are looking at a much more inexpensive build. Although Brentford had aimed to build a slightly bigger stadium, they eventually settled on a 17,250 seater arena which broke ground on 25th March 2017. Construction started the following year and everything was ready for the start of the 2020/21 Championship season. In this particular case, the build largely went according to plan although there were some completely unavoidable delays caused by the global health crisis.
There was never any risk of the Bees being without a stadium as their former home of Griffin Park could only be shut once the new home received the green light. Other clubs do not have this luxury when moving, such as Tottenham, as in their case the new stadium was partially built on the same site as the old stadium. As such, they were forced to play home matches at Wembley for some time. Although much cheaper than the two aforementioned stadiums, Brentford’s new stadium came complete with an exceedingly modern look and this even includes designer, rather futuristic floodlights!
Globe Arena / Mazuma Stadium – Morecambe
- Division At The Time – League Two
- Year Complete – 2010
- Initial Cost – £12m
- Original Capacity – 6,476 (2,173 of those seated)
- Most Expensive British Transfer Fee At The Time – £80m
- Cost Of Stadium v Cost Of Record Transfer Fee – Stadium worth 15% of record transfer
We have had a new Premier League stadium, a new Championship stadium but how about going even further down the English footballing ladder? For this we bring you the home of Morecambe FC, known currently as the Mazuma Stadium for sponsorship reasons. There was quite a quick turnaround for this one with the very first work of clearing the site of trees beginning in May 2009. Just over a year later and, despite some delays, its opening match came on 10th August 2010, a League Cup clash with Coventry. It was initially hoped that the ground could be used for some pre-season friendlies but the final touches had not been added by that point.
Although in the grand scheme of things, a delay of a few weeks is very minor, it does go to show that any stadium build, big or small can run behind plan. It is also interesting to get an idea of how much a ‘small’ stadium costs to build. All in all the build set Morecambe back £12m, nothing by Premier League standards but a fair whack at League Two. To get a sense of perspective, Morecambe’s record sale at the time was up to £225,000k when Carl Baker moved to Stockport in 2008.
Bramley Moore Dock Stadium – Everton
It is worth keeping your eye on how Everton’s new home will take shape over the coming years. Preliminary work began in 2021 with the aim that the new stadium would be ready for the 2024-2025 Premier League season. With a proposed capacity exceeding 52,000, it would hold more than 12,000 more fans than Everton’s current home of Goodison Park. It has been estimated that the total build, which is starting from absolute scratch, will cost in the region of £500m, about half the money Tottenham spent on their roughly 20% larger ground. Whether this number proves to be an accurate estimate remains to be seen but going by past examples, we would not be at all surprised if it ends up costing more.
Modern Builds Overseas
As with in England, stadiums abroad can sometimes cost a phenomenal amount or they can seem relatively good value for money. Here is an example of both.
Krestovsky Stadium – World Cup
- Year Complete – 2017
- Initial Cost – £500m
- Original Capacity – 56,196
Russian Premier League outfit Zenit St Petersburg are now based at the Krestovsky Stadium, also known as the Gazprom Arena, but this was not their creation. Instead, this was one of the stadiums built for the 2018 FIFA World Cup held in Russia. Work started on this stadium in 2008 so it took an incredibly long time before it was finished. In fact, it ended up being around eight years behind schedule. The costs involved were staggering too with the project going 540% overbudget, in part due to rampant corruption.
Nouveau Stade de Bordeaux / Matmut Atlantique – Bordeaux
- Division At The Time – Ligue 1
- Year Complete – 2015
- Initial Cost – €184m
- Original Capacity – 42,115
From the outside, the Stade de Bordeaux certainly doesn’t resemble your average football ground. The innovative design came courtesy of a Swiss architect firm, Herzog & de Meuron who also designed Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena. Bordeaux’s mayor described the stadium as a piece of art when it opened in May 2015 and it is hard to disagree with him. Although it took longer to build than most pieces of art, 26 months from start to finish is certainly not bad going. For a stadium of such size, an overall cost of €184m certainly seems very good too, even when adjusted for inflation.
Qatar World Cup
It was not just the alleged bribes that made Qatar’s successful World Cup bid so controversial, another point of contention was this was a country that had no suitable stadiums. To solve this rather huge issue, in their initial bid, Qatar planned to build nine brand new stadiums and renovate an existing three. They had to abandon such extreme plans though and in the end the Middle Eastern country instead opted for eight World Cup stadia. Seven of these are fresh builds while the Khalifa International Stadium underwent massive renovation work to make it ready to host an international tournament.
How much does seven new stadiums and a redevelopment of another one cost we hear you ask? Estimates vary but according to the Guardian, the real figure is likely to be between $8bn and $10bn and this is despite paying some construction workers as little as £40 a week.
A cost of $1bn (approx. £750,000) per stadium is quite reasonable though given that they come equipped with things such as air-cooling technology. Bear in mind though that Qatar lacked much of the other essential infrastructure such as roads and hotels. Factor in these costs and the total bill is believed by some to be approximately £200bn.
Why Do Costs Vary So Much?
There are many factors that affect just how much a stadium will cost to build but often the biggest influence is where it is being constructed. The land itself forms a very high portion of the total cost and with house prices soaring, and a lot of governmental pressure to build more houses, land is more costly than ever. Building anywhere in London is likely to be an expensive business and the same applies for much of the south of the country.
In general the north of England is far cheaper and in addition to the cost of the land, the same is also likely to apply to labour and other costs. Of course, this is not to say that efficiency and planning are unimportant but ultimately it is always going to be more expensive to build stadia where land and the cost of living are generally higher.