Monday, April 23, 2007

Arsenal's state of the art Stadium

When Arsenal opened the doors to its Emirates (sponsor) Stadium in July 2006 it was rightly hailed as a standard-bearer for football stadia across the globe. However, in one area it is firmly putting its foot forward into a new age of technology and the Barclays (sponsor) Premiership club's managing director, Keith Edelman, believes that all new major developments will follow in its footsteps. The 60,000-capacity, £390 million Emirates Stadium is the first high-definition (HD) streaming stadium in the world and Edelman stated that the fan experience was a key factor in choosing the new technology.
"One of the things we said when we built the stadium was that we wanted it to be a great experience and we wanted to make sure it utilised the leading edge of technology at every front," he said. Sony Professional Solutions, with system integrator Venue Solutions, worked closely with Arsenal to create a digital content package to keep fans entertained. In addition, stadium facilities such as the press room and cinema and conference rooms were equipped with Sony technology. A total of 450 LCD screens in the general concourse, club areas and executive boxes are able to present tailored content to fans. This encourages fans to spend longer at the stadium to watch the match and other entertainment on Arsenal TV, the club's very own channel.
Edelman said: "We decided that high-definition was going to be the way of the future. We also wanted to go right from the front-end to the back-end, which is the delivery of the product on the screens. Why did we choose HD and digital signage? Well, it keeps fans in the stadium for longer and we think it's a very important part of the fans' experience at the match. We open 90 minutes before kick-off and have had people asking us to open earlier. They want to have a beer and watch the previews and interviews on Arsenal TV." There are also plans to utilise Sony's portable gaming console, the PSP, inside the stadium. Supporters could receive exclusive video content from Arsenal TV before games and even the likes of statistics and highlights during games themselves.
Meanwhile the stadium has helped to give Arsenal a "good set of figures" for the club's half-year financial results, according to Edelman. Arsenal's parent holding company this week announced its results for the six months up to 30 November 2006. Although they showed an overall loss of £6.2 million, pre-tax profits before net finance charges are up year on year from £14.3 million to £19.6 million. Group turnover increased from £57 million to £100.8 million, with the north London club attributing the rise partly to increased gate revenue. Arsenal incurred one-off 'exceptional costs' of £21.4 million relating to the refinance of all of the group's stadium-related debt.

Abramovich content with Chelsea's finances

Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich is pleased with the club's financial progress and has not lost his enthusiasm for the Barclays (sponsor) Premiership champion, according to chairman Bruce Buck. Abramovich, often seen in the stands at Chelsea matches, has missed games in the past month and there have been reports of a strained relationship with boss Jose Mourinho. However, the Russian billionaire's absence has been due to his annual holiday in the Caribbean and his role as a governor of Chukotka, a province on the far eastern tip of Siberia.
"I can assure you that his enthusiasm has not waned one iota," said Buck. "When he has been absent from matches, wherever he is, he tries to catch them on television and he is in constant touch with us. As far as we are concerned, it has been business as usual," Buck said. Chelsea's financial results for the year up to June 2006 revealed a loss of £80.2 million, compared to a loss of £140.4 million the previous year. Turnover increased from £146.6 million (2004-05) to £150 million (2005-06). Merchandising increased from £7.7 million to £11.1 million, and football activities increased from £122.7 million to £130.4 million.
"From 2005 when we developed a five-year plan, Roman Abramovich was part of that process," Buck told the club's website, . "He was supportive of that plan then and he is supportive of it now. He believes and understands that the five-year plan is aggressive. Although we, the management, believe we can meet it, it is not 100% certain. He understands the vagaries of business. He is very supportive of what we are doing and pleased with our progress."

Arsenal furthers its Asian presence

Arsenal has agreed a technical and marketing partnership with Vietnamese League club Hoang Anh Gia Lai (HAGL), marking the first time a top football club has ventured into the South-East Asian country. The partnership will lead to the establishment and operation of an Arsenal elite football academy in Vietnam, technical support for the HAGL football team and commercial, marketing and business support for the Vietnamese club. The Barclays (sponsor) Premiership club will also use the partnership as an opportunity to further develop club-related marketing and merchandising initiatives along with soccer school activities in Vietnam.
Keith Edelman, Arsenal's managing director, said in a statement: "It is the first venture of its kind by any major football club into Vietnam, a territory which is renowned for its love of football and we are delighted to have found a partner who shares the same goals as us - to develop the local game at all levels and help provide the foundations for the club to have a genuine presence in the region."
Work will immediately begin on the development of an Arsenal Academy in the Central Highlands province of Gia Lai with the aim to develop the standard of the game in the region. The Academy will run on a similar basis to the ones that currently operate in Thailand and the Ivory Coast. Mr. Duc, chairman of HAGL added: "We are delighted that such a prestigious and historic club as Arsenal is undertaking this joint venture with HAGL FC. Our club is looking forward to working with Arsenal to develop football in Vietnam and establish links which could in time open the door for Vietnamese players to play in England. Vietnamese football will greatly benefit from the experience and expertise of Arsenal and in turn Arsenal's presence will expand in Asia through this partnership."

Supporters Trust wants stake in Arsenal

The Arsenal Supporters Trust (AST) is keen to secure at least a 10% holding of the Barclays (sponsor) Premiership club's shares to prevent any future complete takeover. American billionaire Stan Kroenke last week acquired a 9.99% stake from ITV for around £65 million. The AST is keen to meet with Kroenke's representatives, wary of what has happened at clubs such as Manchester United, Liverpool and Aston Villa. A spokesman for the group said: "We cannot stop someone buying the majority of shares, but we can prevent the worst, where an intruder buys all the shares and turns the club into a private money-making machine."
Majority shareholder Danny Fiszman sold off around 1% of his holding last month, with the Kroenke Sports Enterprise reported to be the likely buyer. Arsenal, which is currently listed on the Alternative Plus Market Exchange, was recently positioned as the fourth most valuable football team in the world, according to Forbes. The annual list ranks Manchester United top with a valuation of £740 million, above Real Madrid (£528 million) with Arsenal leapfrogging AC Milan into third spot with a value of £466 million.
Kroenke owns Major League Soccer (MLS) franchise Colorado Rapids, National Basketball Association (NBA) team the Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche of the National Hockey League (NHL) and lacrosse outfit Colorado Mammoth. He also has an investment interest in National Football League (NFL) outfit St Louis Rams. Several of those teams play at the Pepsi (sponsor) Center, a multi-purpose venue in Denver that Kroenke's company - Kroenke Sports Enterprise - also owns in full.

Hammers Fight On

West Ham United continued their plight to avoid relegation from the Premiership with a vital 1-0 victory over Everton. The Hammers got the all important goal on twelve minutes, as a clever back heel from Yossi Benayoun to Bobby Zamora, found the back of the net, after his curling shot bent around Tim Howard, into the top left hand corner. Unfortunately, Lucas Neill was unable to repeat Zamora’s magic, as his long range dipping shot, flew wide of the upright in the twenty sixth minute. Out of the traps for the second half, the Hammers started brightly, as Zamora failed to capitalise on Nigel Reo-Coker’s fine run, by blazing his effort over. Everton finally created an opportunity, but Mikel Arteta failed to convert, by steering the ball wide of Robert Green’s left hand post, in the sixty ninth minute. The frustration showed on Benayoun’s face, as he fired wide of the target from inside the penalty box, after fine work by Carlos Tevez on the right flank, as he opened up the Toffees defence but to no avail on seventy three minutes. Arteta let West Ham off the hook, in the eighty first minute, as he shot over from inside the penalty box, wasting Manuel Fernandes’s low cross, leaving the Claret and Blue army to rejoice a much needed win, as they live to fight another day.

Overseas Golfers set to challenge Wentworth

Adam Scott, who moved up to World Number Three after his recent victory in the Shell Houston Open, has confirmed his participation in the 2007 BMW PGA Championship over the West Course at Wentworth Club from May 24-27.The 26 year old from Adelaide will join a world class field chasing the €725,000 winner’s cheque from a record prize fund of €4,350,000. Scott has played in the BMW PGA Championship – widely recognised as one of golf’s most prestigious events - on five previous occasions.One of the world’s most prodigious ball strikers, Scott has accumulated titles all around the globe in the six years since he gained his European Tour card on only his eighth start as an Affiliate Member of the Tour.He has gone on to win five times on The European Tour International Schedule and six times on the US PGA Tour, the most recent coming in Texas last weekend when he finished three shots clear of fellow Australian Stuart Appleby and American Bubba Watson in the Shell Houston Open.Scott broke off his preparations for this week’s Masters Tournament at Augusta National to say: “Wentworth has always been a challenge to me because I love playing there. I missed the cut last year so I am looking forward to taking it on again and coming out a little better this time round.“But it is a great event and one, that ever since I have been a member of The European Tour, I would have loved to win and hopefully I can do that this year. It will be my first event in Europe in 2007 and I am very much looking forward to getting back there to play.”
Retief Goosen of South Africa, who came close to securing his third Major Championship when he tied for second place at the recent Masters Tournament, has confirmed his participation in the 2007 BMW PGA Championship over the West Course at Wentworth Club from May 24-27.The World Number Eight will join a world class field chasing the €725,000 winner’s cheque from a record prize fund of €4,350,000.Goosen has played in the BMW PGA Championship – widely recognised as one of golf’s most prestigious titles – on 14 previous occasions and has yet to miss the event since becoming a Full Member of The European Tour in 1993. His best result came in 1999 when he finished tied fourth.A truly international golfer, Goosen has accumulated titles all around the globe including the US Open in 2001 and 2004 which secured his place among the game’s elite.He has won 14 times on The European Tour International Schedule and four times on the US PGA Tour, the most recent success coming at The Commercialbank Qatar Masters in January when he produced a birdie-eagle finish to pip Australian Nick O’Hern by a shot.Goosen said: “This is a tournament that everyone on The European Tour would dearly love to win and I’m certainly no exception.“I have played in the event every year since 1993 and hopefully this time I can make a few more putts and lift the trophy. It was nice to get another win under my belt in Qatar earlier in the season and to come back from Augusta after a good weekend’s work. Hopefully that will give me the confidence to contend for the BMW PGA title at Wentworth.”
Liang Wen-chong, Chapchai Nirat and YE Yang will add considerably to the international flavour of the 2007 BMW PGA Championship when the three first-time European Tour winners line-up at Wentworth Club from May 24-27 on their first visit to England.India’s Jeev Milkha Singh, who captured four titles worldwide last year and recently became the first player from his country to compete in the Masters Tournament, has also confirmed his participation in the world class field chasing the €725,000 winner’s cheque from a record prize fund of €4,350,000.The Asian challenge is particularly strong for the 2007 BMW PGA Championship with two more Thai champions on The European Tour in Thongchai Jaidee and Thaworn Wiratchant, Singapore’s first Tour winner, Mardan Mamat, and India’s Shiv Kapur adding more spice to a mouthwatering field.In March, Liang became only the second Chinese player after Zhang Lian-wei to win on The European Tour International Schedule when he won the Clariden Leu Singapore Masters. The following week Nirat became the third Thai golfer – following the path taken by Jaidee and Wiratchant - to win on The European Tour when he completed a wire-to-wire victory in the TCL Classic in China.While Liang has visited the United Kingdom once before when representing China in the 2000 Alfred Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in Scotland, neither he nor Nirat have played in England before and both will experience the thrill of playing the famed West Course at Wentworth Club for the first time. “I have heard a few things about Wentworth and I’m expecting windy conditions against a tough field,” said Liang. “This will be my second trip to the UK having played in Scotland a few years ago but my first time to Wentworth. I am looking forward to it. I have not set any expectations on myself but I hope to do my best.”Liang has won seven titles on the China Tour, establishing himself as China’s Number One golfer after taking over the mantle from his friend and mentor Zhang, who made history as the first Chinese golfer to win on The European Tour.Nirat followed Jaidee and Wiratchant as a Thai European Tour champion and all three will be competing in the 2007 BMW PGA Championship. Nirat, whose swing and length off the tee draw comparison with John Daly, turned professional in 2005 and his commanding win in the TCL Classic was his second victory as a professional.Nirat is relishing the opportunity of playing in one of the most prestigious events in world golf.“I am excited as it will be my first visit to England and also my first full European Tour event,” said Nirat. “I expect the conditions to be tough but I am looking forward to it.”

Skelton sparks Sprott's fuse

Commonwealth Heavyweight Champion Matt Skelton has told challenger Michael Sprott that he needs to be struck by lightning if he is to knock him out on May 26th at the ExCeL London. Sprott, who puts his English title on the line, revealed earlier this week that he had been electrocuted a couple of weeks before his fight against Audley Harrison and it helped him spark-out the former Olympic Champion with one thunderous left hook. Bedford bruiser Skelton, who has bulldozed his way through 17 of his 21 opponents early, reckons he will bring his own thunder on the night to land the potential world title fight for the winner. "I've never been dropped as a professional boxer and the only way that Sprott is going to knock me out is if by some fluke of nature he is hit by lightning before our fight!" said Skelton. "And the chances of being struck by lightning is a long one as it's one in three million. Actually, Sprott is more likely to be hit by lightning than winning the National Lottery which is one in 14 million but if he does knock me out then he has hit the jackpot because he will get the big world title opportunity," "I've got to admit that I was surprised as anybody by the way he knocked Harrison out cold. I have to hand it to him it was a fantastic punch and he wrecked my chances of fighting Harrison with it," Skelton caused a sensation when he stopped Sprott in the final round of their grueling clash three years ago in Reading to win the British and Commonwealth titles in only his 13th fight with no previous boxing experience. The re-match is going to be a tense affair with everything on the line but Skelton is confident of victory. He added, "Sprott's the man I've go to beat to move on and finally get my dream world title fight. It's going to be a hard, tough, fight because I believe Sprott is a different man to the one I beat three years ago. He's been to Germany and had some good wins and he returned to knockout Harrison and his career has been rejuvenated since. I haven't taken anything for granted against him and I'm training with the mind frame that this is a challenge for the world title. Come May 26th there won't be lightning - just thunder!"

Witter-Harris heads to UK

Hennessy Sports are pleased to announce that Junior Witter will make the second defence of his WBC light welterweight title against former world champion Vivian Harris in the UK this summer.
The right to stage the Championship was due to have been decided by a purse bid at 6pm GMT today, but Witter’s promoter Mick Hennessy was able to agree terms with his counterpart Gary Shaw beforehand.
Former undefeated British, Commonwealth and European champion Witter won the title by dominating former world champion DeMarcus Corley at the Alexandra Palace last September and made his first defence at the same venue in January, stopping Mexico’s Arturo Morua in nine rounds.
Harris has outstanding world championship credentials of his own. He defeated now WBA champion Soulemane M’Baye to lift the same crown in 2003, then twice successfully defended against the highly rated Oktay Urkal, stopping his man second time round.
He suffered a shock defeat to Carlos Maussa next time out, but has since returned to outstanding form, stopping Stevie Johnston in seven before outpointing the highly regarded Juan Lazcano in an eliminator for Witter’s title.
“I can see this being a cracking fight,” said Witter on hearing the news. “Harris is a top level operator and he always comes to win. I hear the Americans are tipping him to do big things in the division. He will be coming over to knock me out, but that will just bring out the best in me.
“It’s been great winning and defending my title in Britain and it means a lot to be able to continue that process.”
Details of the date and venue will be announced in due course by Hennessy Sports.
“This is a tough first mandatory,” said Mick Hennessy. “But that’s how it should be; this is the WBC title. Harris has regained the top form that was making people talk very highly of him a couple of years ago when he beat Oktay Urkal in his backyard and then Soulemane M’Baye. Both of these fighters go for the knockout, so I believe this is going to be an explosive fight.”