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By ESPN Staff
Jan 17, 2006

Gunners set for record gate receipts - MD

LONDON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - Arsenal managing director Keith Edelman says the club will enjoy the world's biggest gate receipts when their new Emirates Stadium opens next season.

Edelman told reporters that premium season ticket and executive box sales had gone well for the 60,0000-seater ground which Arsenal will swap for the 38,000-capacity Highbury.

Arsenal, who announced net debts of £153m last September for the year ending May 2005, are spending a total of £390m on a stadium project which Edelman said would leave the club in better financial shape.

'When we move to the new stadium we will be much better off than we were at Highbury,' he said. '(Even after servicing the debt), immediately we will be earning more money than we would at Highbury.'

Part of the equation will be the cost of watching games at the Emirates Stadium, which will be equipped with electronic boards and over 500 High Definition TV screens.

'Our gate income will probably be the highest gate income in the world because we've got 60,000 fans and we've got higher-priced tickets and more premium tickets than any other club in the UK,' Edelman said.

'Sales of boxes have finished and sales of (the 6,700) Club Level seats are progressing very rapidly -- we're down to a few hundred and we'd expect to sell out before the season starts.'

Looking to ahead to the conversion of their current home into flats, christened Highbury Square, Edelman added: 'When we finalise the proceeds of the Highbury development clearly...our debt will fall in 2009/10 to an even lower level.'

Edelman expects the new ground to accommodate 45,000 Arsenal season ticket holders, about 12,000 Arsenal club members buying individual match tickets and 3,000 away fans.

However, he said the investment in bricks and mortar would not hinder Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger's activities on the transfer market.

'We've kept the finances of stadium and team separate,' Edelman said. 'You only have to look at our accounts, we have ample funds for transfer activities and to fund the new stadium.

'The stadium will not impact on our football team development.

'We recognise as a board that people are not coming to look at a great stadium, they're coming to look at the team and team development is paramount.'

Highbury is being left behind after 93 years as Arsenal's home.

Fans will be invited to an auction in late July of some 5,000 items of Highbury memorabilia -- including seats, signage and sections of the pitch -- as the old ground is dismantled.

Wood panelling from the boardroom and the offices at Highbury will be moved to new premises next to the Emirates Stadium, while the bust of Herbert Chapman, the club's inspirational manager from the mid-1920s to mid-1930s, will have a prominent position at the entrance.

Edelman said he would be buying his seat at Highbury and installing it in his home, from where he could follow the team's fortunes on television.