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Friday, July 24, 1998 Published at 17:57 GMT 18:57 UK


Sport: Football

Arsenal get Wembley go-ahead

Arsenal last played at Wembley when they won the FA Cup

Arsenal have been given the go-ahead to play their Champions League ties at Wembley.

The Football Association added its blessing to those from the stadium owners and Uefa for the London side to move its European matches from Highbury.

The switch will allow Arsenal, playing in their first Champions League after winning the Premiership and FA Cup Double last season, to admit about 70,000 fans.

That is nearly twice the number possible at Highbury.

But the Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said the move is a gamble.

He said: "We may be less comfortable at Wembley, but it is a big occasion to play there and we will have more support.

"It is a gamble but it shows as well that in the long-term you cannot imagine the club staying at Highbury forever."

He added: "So what other choice is there than to move from Highbury? Sometimes you're in a situation where you either improve or die."

Move is 'one-off'

The FA warned that the go-ahead had only been given on a one-off basis that would not necessarily be repeated in the future.

It said: "The stadium is traditionally used only for major flagship events such as internationals, finals and play-offs.

"This is what makes Wembley a special place for the whole of English football. The FA is committed is preserving this.

"Bearing in mind Arsenal's exceptional circumstances, the demands of Uefa and the fact that the matches are in Europe's premier club competition, the FA feels able to consent - on this occasion."

The club said in a statement: "If the matches were to be played at Highbury, more than 6,000 season ticketholders, junior Gunners and concessionary groups would have been relocated to other parts of the ground.

"Many thousands of Arsenal supporters would have been excluded from the games completely."



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