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Ian Cheeseman: Forever Blue

I can’t deny that I’m excited about the new Co-op Live Arena that is being built right next to Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium.

We were lucky enough to navigate the online queue when Peter Kay tickets went on sale, so we’ll be there at the first event. I was also in the Nynex Arena, as it was called back then, when Torvill & Dean opened the original Manchester Arena.

However, I also have big concerns about the impact of the brand new indoor stadium. Where are people going to park and how can public transport cope with the thousands that are now going to be travelling to and from the area that was formerly a coal mine in Bradford, East Manchester? The original Manchester Arena was built over Victoria Railway Station so therefore has brilliant transport links in all directions. I always travel there on public transport and even right after a sellout concert, it’s relatively straight forward to get home efficiently afterwards.

As a match going City fan, I’m well aware of the gridlock that can happen after a City game, the expensive parking options that generally have to be booked in advance. I’m also aware that in recent weeks the street parking in the area has been more heavily restricted. My family are having to get there earlier and earlier, have to pay more and more and they have to walk further and further, in all weathers, to and from the stadium.

I know that the Metrolink services have been amended to add extra services to and from the stadium, but because it’s privately run and there are not endless supplies of trams, it’s still nowhere near as efficient as the service I see in Germany and other European Cities, after big games. There are currently experiments with special buses, which seem quite expensive and I’m not sure they’ll have a significant impact on the problem.

Once the Co-op Live Arena is fully operational there will be many occasions when there’s a big event at the Arena on the same day, even the same time, as City are playing in a sellout stadium. For Example, if City win through their Champions League quarter final with Real Madrid the second leg of their semi-final, no matter the opposition or whether it’s played on the Tuesday or Wednesday, will clash with a Take That concert at the Arena. Parking, transport to and from the venues and driving around the area won’t be, fun to put it mildly.

As if that’s the only issue that’ll make attending matches more challenging! Season tickets for next season have increased significantly. My family season cards have gone up by nearly 10% and there will be an extra Champions League home game next season. Spurs no longer have concessionary season tickets, will City follow suit?

I don’t think it would be a surprise to suggest that the top clubs seem only to care about £££s and not the loyalty of match going supporters, unless they pay top dollar and are hungry for over priced merchandise. Football is no longer the sporting escape of the lower paid, which is a shame. Football is becoming more and more corporate.

On the field everything is perfect, as we head into the home games against Arsenal and Aston Villa, an FA Cup semi-final and Champions League quarter Final, but with FFP still unresolved for City, Chelsea and Leicester City and threatening to relegate Everton and Nottingham Forest, the future for football, as it once was, feels very uncertain. Despite my concerns though, it’s still Great to be a Blue!

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