why arsenal left highbury

Why Arsenal left Highbury

It’s been more than a decade since Arsenal left their historical home, Highbury to the Emirates and many would say that It hasn’t been smooth sailing for the gunners. Many fans would even argue that they should have stayed at their hold home but there were legitimate reasons why the move to the Emirates was necessary

Arsenal left Highbury because of the following reasons

  • Revenue
  • Infrastructure
  • UEFA Stadium Regulations

We’ll get into more details on how Arsenal made the switch and what were some of the key decisions that had to be made on a board level to make this happen.


Highbury was never a ground that held its own. It went through constant redevelopment and restructuring (not surprising considering the roof was blown out during the Second World War). Before the era of all-seater stadiums in Britain, the North Bank and Clock End consisted of terracing which allowed almost double the size of the stadium’s capacity to see the game. Record Highbury attendance was around 73,295

After the introduction of all-seater stadiums, things began to change. Highbury at the time could only hold a capacity of around 38,000 supporters at a time, due to constant restructuring. This greatly limited Arsenal’s financial power in terms of revenue considering the capacity that their nearest rivals were able to amass. Old Trafford could hold 70,000 for example and Arsenal clearly felt that was something they lacked.

Arsenal had tried to compete with its rivals through higher ticket prices in terms of financial gain, but it resulted in low attendance as fans weren’t best pleased with paying high prices to watch their team play. These were one of the factors which led to Arsenal making the decision to build towards the Emirates.

Arsenal Revenue Segments
Arsenal Revenue Segments

The Snap above from this Forbes Article on Arsenal’s move to the Emirates showcased the difference. Matchday revenue from Highbury amounted to almost £45.7m for that fiscal year. In contrast, the move to the Emirates had increased the matchday revenue alone to £94.6m which is an almost 127% increase.

This showcased that as long as revenue is concerned, the club were right to abandon Highbury and move to the Emirates (despite its own limitations and issues)


Arsenal’s first and foremost priority was always to improve Highbury stadium as they considered it a historical place to play their football. But due to the stadium’s location and infrastructure, it made it extremely difficult for them to achieve those goals.

The club’s initial approach to rebuilding Highbury was met with stern rejection from the residents, as apparently nearly 25 neighboring houses would have to be demolished to expand the Arsenal stadium. Due to the stadium being surrounded by residences it made it difficult for the club to carry out its vision.

Not to mention that The East Stand, due to its historical significance became a Grade II listed building which made it even more difficult for Arsenal to go around it. It was a compact stadium with supporters almost pitch side with the lower boardings hence there were constant renovations to help Highbury meet the standards that were expected of a club like Arsenal.

There were even discussions held by the club to buy Wembley and turn It into their new home, which fortunately didn’t come to fruition. These hiccups and clear structural issues with the location of the stadium forced Arsenal to abandon the idea of renovating Highbury altogether.

UEFA Stadium Regulations

In the early 2000s, when Arsenal began playing the Champions League on a regular basis, there were concerns about Highbury meeting UEFA’s Stadium Regulations that were being imposed on the team that took part in the competition. It was due to these reasons that Arsenal played the majority of their Champions League games at Wembley during 1998-99 and the 1999-20 season.

Due to the supporters being so close to the pitch, there were already issues with the advertising boards which UEFA demanded to be put in place on the grounds of the teams participating. It was due to these reasons that Arsenal played the majority of their Champions League games at Wembley during 1998-99 and the 1999-20 season.

The concerns lingered in regards to the safety and standard cleanliness regulations as well, while the high profile games in the competition would obviously attract a lot of fans as well.

why arsenal left highbury
Highbury – Emirates

There were concerns with the changing rooms as well, with UEFA demanding that the rooms be equipped with all modern comforts which, due to the Stadium’s age, was likely a challenge for Arsenal to complete at the time.


Taking all that’s happened in terms of the finances and the infrastructure, Arsenal in our opinion were right to move. Their revenue has increased, their playing surface is immaculate and the Stadium itself is absolutely stunning.

Now all they need is some history to make the Emirates truly feel like an Arsenal stadium while making the supporters feel at home.