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Is it time for a new Elland Road stadium?
The San Francisco 49ers are currently the favourites to win this season's Super Bowl and Leeds United fans will be hoping that the success enjoyed on the pitch in the States can be replicated in Yorkshire – starting with a new look Elland Road – now that they are both owned by the same group – 49ers Enterprises.
A new look Elland Road for Leeds fans
The group initially invested in Leeds several years ago but they completed a full takeover this summer and are looking to get the club back into the Premier League at the first time of asking. There are already tentative plans to increase the capacity of Elland Road to 55,000 but beyond that, the group are looking to bring Leeds to the future in terms of technology both on and off the pitch.
The Daily Mail recently sent a reporter to the 49ers home ground, Levi's Stadium, to get a feel for the scope of the technology used by the NFL giants. What they found was a franchise operating in the future, beyond anything seen in English football and it got us thinking about what the future could hold for Leeds United and Elland Road.
A data-driven approach to matchday
Based on the report by the Mail, the matchday efficiency at Levi's Stadium is unparalleled. Behind closed doors, while the action unravels on the pitch, groups of people gather around several different screens which all show data from different parts of the stadium from the car park to sales kiosks.
Through a few swipes of a screen, new parking lanes can open up if traffic is particularly congested before the game or after the final whistle. Across the room on another screen, there are people monitoring alcohol supply. If a particular tap is running low, for example, then extras can be dispatched immediately.
The whole purpose of this is to make the matchday experience for fans as smooth and as enjoyable as possible before taking their seats inside the stadium. Stuck in a long queue? No problem at Levi's Stadium, they'll spot a spike on one of their data screens and dispatch a member of staff to help manage the queue.
The logic to all of this is if fans feel like pre-match festivities are smooth and enjoyable at the stadium then they will arrive earlier than usual and as a result, spend more money on food, drink and memorabilia.
What do 49ers Enterprises have planned for Elland Road?
There is no reason why these data rooms at Levi's Stadium can't be replicated at Elland Road but what have 49er Enterprises actually committed to? They hope to renovate the West Stand at Elland Road before moving on to the North Stand. Combined, this could result in nearly 20,000 more seats at Elland Road, something the club could fill with ease provided they are back in the Premier League.
Rumour has it that the owners want to help with accessibility to Elland Road. Leeds is the largest city in Europe without a transit system and the stadium is on the “wrong side” of a ring road which makes it difficult to get to on foot. 49ers Enterprises would prefer a transport hub at the stadium which feeds into the city centre but this will of course need to be something that needs to be worked on alongside the city council.
Peter Lowry, a director on the board at the club, is reportedly “obsessed” with the idea of a rail link and transforming the surrounding areas of Elland Road. However, there is an acceptance that 49ers Enterprises aren't prepared to make any serious moves until the club are back in the Premier League and secure.