The Newcastle United stadium move which should be the last resort as club looks at expansion

Newcastle United were giving season-tickets away three years ago.

Monday, 4th July 2022, 11:42 am

Not now. With the club under new ownership – and the city buzzing ahead of the new campaign – seats at St James’s Park are again the hottest ticket in Toon.

Tens of thousands of supporters queued online in the hope of buying one of 1,000 new season-tickets on Tuesday, and thousands more signed up for club memberships later in the week.

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St James’s Park, it seems certain, will be sold out for every Premier League game in 2022/23, and demand for tickets will be high for every other fixture at the stadium, which seats just over 52,000.

Demand, full stop, will massively exceed supply, just as it did many years ago when there was a 10,000-name waiting list for season-tickets.

And the clamour for match tickets has effectively reopened the debate over St James’s Park expansion versus relocation.

This was settled in the 1990s in favour of the former when an ambitious plan to build a new 55,000-seater stadium, which could be expanded to 70,000 seats in the future, on Leazes Park was abandoned – and the stadium was instead expanded.

St James's Park is hemmed in on one side by the listed Leazes Terrace building.

Co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi addressed the issue early this year. Speaking to The Athletic, Ghodoussi said: “Are we going to build a new stadium? No. It would be like tearing your soul out."

On the future of St James’s Park, Ghodoussi said: "We’ll definitely look at expanding it. We're working with the council to see what we can do. There are a lot of things that need to happen first, but that’s the way forward.

"If we can get it to 60 or 65,000 thousand, and we’ll look at every possibility.”

Newcastle United co-owner Mehrdad Ghodoussi wants to expand St James's Park.

The possibilities are limited as the stadium is hemmed in on one side by the listed Leazes Terrace. Also, former owner Mike Ashley sold Strawberry Place, a parcel of land on one side on which ex-chairman Freddy Shepherd had once hoped to build develop the land and build an extension taking the stadium’s capacity to 60,000.

Speaking in 2007, Shepherd said: "What we’re proposing is something not just for the club, but for the whole city and the people of Newcastle.”

However, things would be overtaken by events, as Ashley started buying up shares in the club the following month – and he was soon in full control.

Ashley finally relinquished control 14 years later, but his decision to sell that plot of land could prove costly to the club and it’s new owners.

Work is yet to start on the site – a £120million development was controversially approved by city planners in 2019 – and the hope is that it could yet be bought back by the club.

In the meantime, the stadium’s being refreshed and refurbished internally, and the coming years could see the introduction of a safe standing section following trials elsewhere.

This won’t address the demand for extra seats, and is there’s any way to increase the capacity at the stadium, then the club’s owners must explore it. Expansion, as stated by Ghodoussi, should be the preference.

But the demand for tickets will only grow if the club can push up the table, and if the capacity of St James’s Park can’t be increased, calls for a new stadium will only grow louder.