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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
Arsenal name new ground
Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger outside the club's new ground. Credit: Emirates/Lawrence Lustig
Arsenal have signed a 100m deal with Emirates Airlines, which will see their new 60,000-seater ground at Ashburton Grove named the Emirates Stadium.

The deal also sees Emirates become the Gunners' shirt sponsor for eight years - starting in 2006-07.

The stadium, which should open in the same season, will take on its new name for the next 15 years.

"The sheer size of this deal is an amazing opportunity," said Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman.

In a statement, the club added: "The combined value of both elements of the sponsorship is by far the biggest deal ever undertaken in English football."

Gunners chairman Peter Hill-Wood said he had mixed feelings about the decision to name the stadium after a sponsor.

Hill-Wood accepted that many traditional fans would have been happier to see the new stadium named in honour of an Arsenal legend.

We are talking a huge sum of money for the sponsorship, and you have to recognise the club's massive financial investment in the stadium
Paul Matz, secretary AISA

"I would be one those supporters," he said. "I've been here a long time, a great many years and if we named the new stadium after Herbert Chapman or even Arsene Wenger it would roll off the tongue.

"But things have changed in football and this is a wonderful offer we have received - the biggest ever in English football. We must move on."

Paul Matz, secretary of the Arsenal Independent Supporters Association, agreed the deal was just too good to turn down.

"Part of being an Arsenal supporter is appreciating the culture and tradition of the club," he said.

"But we are talking a huge sum of money for the sponsorship, and you have to recognise the club's massive financial investment in the stadium.

"I want to see Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and Arsene Wenger stay at the club. They are on big wages and we all make judgements about how far we'd go to keep them - personally I think this is fair enough.

"And from surveys we've done with the fans, the majority of them were prepared to sell the ground's naming rights too."

But Mike Francis from the Arsenal fanzine The Gooner said: "It didn't really come as a surprise as we'd been kind of expecting it, but I was a bit annoyed and upset anyway.

"My initial feeling about Emirates are who the hell are they and what have they got to do with Arsenal? Maybe someone like Nike would have been better.

"I was hoping it was an easy name to drop so we wouldn't have to use it but it doesn't appear to be that way.

"It's difficult to tell what the fans will call it as it's not built yet but I have a feeling we'll end up calling it Highbury still. But I'm a bit of traditionalist really.

"The money doesn't really soften the blow. I'm afraid 100m doesn't sound a lot when you consider it includes a shirt sponsorship as well."

In February, Arsenal finally secured the 357m needed to build the new stadium.

The Gunners' new home will be built by Sir Robert McAlpine under a fixed price contract, which also includes the construction of a new waste and recycling centre.

Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, currently sponsors Chelsea's shirts but that deal expires at the end of the season.

"This represents a win-win partnership for both Emirates and Arsenal," said Emirates chairman, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al-Maktoum.

Arsenal's current club and shirt sponsorship deal with phone company 02 expires at the end of the 2005-6 season.




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