LONDON An anaemic economy, nostalgic fans and onerous planning laws are all proving tough obstacles for soccer clubs hoping to increase income with new state-of-the-art stadiums.
A trio of London-based Premier League clubs formed more than 100 years ago - Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea and Queens Park Rangers - are among those with plans for new homes.
With UEFA, European soccer's governing body, introducing financial regulations that will stop clubs from spending more money than they earn from June 2012, the battle to turbo-charge revenues and stay competitive has made larger stadiums a priority.
"We need to be generating increased income and building a stadium is a key way in which the revenue of the club can be developed and significantly boosted," Donna Cullen, an executive director at Tottenham Hotspur, told Reuters.
Tottenham's north London rivals Arsenal took advantage of the economic boom during the early part of the last decade and millions of pounds earned from continuous participation in the Champions League to build a modern stadium that now provides a template for others.
More importantly, Arsenal's move to the Emirates Stadium in 2006 illustrated how much the bottom line can be enhanced by increasing the number of spectators on match days.
After relocating from Highbury, their home from 1913 which had a capacity of around 38,000 to the 60,000-seater Emirates, their season-total match day revenues more than doubled to over 90.0 million pounds.
The Arsenal Group turnover also increased from 137 million pounds to 201 million pounds.
Arsenal spent around 390 million pounds on their project, partly funding it through the issuance of two bonds worth 260 million pounds and by also converting Highbury's four stands, two of which were listed buildings, into residential accommodation in a desirable property location.
However, since the onset of the global financial crisis, credit has become harder to attain and clubs have been forced to become more lateral in their planning.
"Sponsorship is now a key feature at any new stadium and particularly the naming rights to the ground," said Cullen at White Hart Lane, where Spurs have played since 1899.
Getting local government to support public infrastructure work, Cullen added, is also vital to a successful project.
A number of London clubs below the cash-rich Premier League, are also keen to uproot.
West Ham United, Leyton Orient and Crystal Palace believe new stadiums will give them an edge and propel them upwards.
Four-times league winners Chelsea, able to host 42,500 fans at their Stamford Bridge ground, told supporters in September that an additional 35 million pounds in income could be generated every year if the club were to make a similar capacity increase to Arsenal's Emirates.
For Chelsea, a team elevated to the European elite by the wealth of Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, the Financial Fair Play rules pose a particular problem because the club will no longer be able to rely on their owner's cheque book to keep the team in contention for titles. They will have to earn their way.
But each club has its own reasons behind building a new stadium.
With a capacity of 18,500, Queens Park Rangers' west London home Loftus Road is the smallest ground in the Premier League this season and new owner Tony Fernandes wants to double the attendance at home games with a new stadium.
Tottenham, whose record crowd of 75,038 was set in 1938 but who now have a capacity of 36,500 at White Hart Lane, have a waiting list of 35,000 fans ready to become season-ticket holders.
"We simply can't fulfill demand for fans that want to see us," Cullen explained. "We need to offer tickets to people other than just our current ticket holders to build the next generation of fans."
Liverpool and Everton in the north west of England are also actively looking to build new stadiums but funding issues and intense local feeling have hindered development and they remain at their grounds of Anfield and Goodison Park for the forseeable future at least.
However, it is the wishes of the fans that often curtail the grand plans of club owners.
In October, the Chelsea Pitch Owners, a group of fans who bought the rights to the freehold on Chelsea's stadium during the austere pre-Abramovich era, voted down the attempt by their Russian owner to buy it back as part of the process in moving from Stamford Bride, their home since they were formed in 1905.
The "Say No CPO" campaigners, who spearheaded the fans' drive to block the CPO vote, demand the club stays "within three miles of Stamford Bridge."
Moving away from the club's current ground represents a treacherous move as far as fans are concerned. Arsenal were fortunate they could buy and develop a semi-industrial wasteland a goalkick away from Highbury.
Spurs' s new stadium project with a planned capacity of 56,000 is virtually on the same site as White Hart Lane.
However, it is not just locality that matters to supporters. West Ham United fans are mounting a campaign to block a move to the Olympic Stadium, less than three miles from their 35,000-capacity Upton Park ground.
Even though the club will essentially inherit the 80,000-seat Olympic Stadium for free after next year's Games, West Ham supporters are reluctant to relocate as there will be an athletics track around the pitch.
The fans, accustomed to sitting a few metres from the pitch, view athletics tracks at football grounds as a European tradition and fear it could ruin the historically raucous atmosphere at English matches.
But Andy Simons, a director of KSS Group, architects of the new Spurs stadium, said one of the biggest headaches for clubs looking to build stadiums in crowded London was England's cumbersome planning laws.
"It's very tricky in the UK," Simons explained. "We are extremely precious about our heritage and swathes of London are conservation areas.
"Within these areas, we have individual buildings with particular listed status and if you're near a conservation area and particularly near a listed building, planning gets extremely difficult."
In addition to the huge cost of building a new stadium - Tottenham expect to spend between 350 and 400 million pounds - a whole neighbourhood will often need regenerating as greater numbers of fans puts transport infrastructure under pressure.
Simons said clubs also need to develop a revenue stream that will operate seven days a week rather than simply on match days to make the project viable.
"Hotel, conferencing and banqueting capability become major requirements," he said.
"Because stadia can be disruptive to local residents and traffic on a match day, although relatively briefly, opposition is usually quite strong."
(Editing by Mike Collett and Alison Wildey)