It remains one of the all-time favourite boardgames, but Martin Hickes reports on how Monopoly became a battle-ground for civic pride.
LEEDS may have "advanced to go" in the minds of many over the past 15 years to become the "powerhouse of the Yorkshire economy" – but according to a new national Monopoly board, it languishes just above Old Kent Road.
In a new version of the legendary game, published today, which ranks the top 22 most popular towns in the UK,
Leeds – the self-styled economic capital of the region – ignominiously sits in the old Whitechapel Road position, value just 600k.
In fact, all Yorkshire towns, with perhaps the surprise exception of Sheffield, occupy the cheaper sections of the board, with trendy southern satellite town St Albans stealing the coveted Mayfair position.
Game publishers MB Parker asked more than a million
people across the UK to vote for their favourite place – including their own town or city if they wished – for their forthcoming Monopoly – Here and Now UK edition.
Even beautiful York, the jewel of the county, only ranks in among the new "blues" in the old Pentonville Road position, just next to the prison. So much for Yorkshire pride.
"When voting first began,
Leeds was in danger of being missed off the board entirely but the city's marketing agency Marketing Leeds made a desperate plea for residents to do their bit to keep the city in the running for a position," says a spokeswoman from MB Parker's PR agency.
"Just before the poll was due to close, Leeds was in 19th place, set to replace Euston Road, in the blue property section, but a late flurry of votes around the country pushed it further down the pecking order.
"However, the city – which is aptly home to John Waddington, the firm which originally brought Monopoly to Britain – managed ultimately to be ranked the 21st most popular location in the UK, clinching an address on the new board and replacing Whitechapel Road."
Leeds's sparkling metropolitan reputation has become the
envy of the north in recent
years, and the results understandably sparked the city's movers and shakers on the offensive.
"Earning a place on the new Monopoly board puts Leeds amongst the 22 most popular villages, towns and cities in the UK," said a spokesman for Marketing Leeds, who was obviously determined to look on the bright side. "We conducted a City Image Survey in 2003, which found that 91 per cent of Leeds residents were happy with the quality of life in the city, and 94 per cent were proud of Leeds."
It was Sheffield which came out as the top Yorkshire city, proudly sitting in the desirable Regent Street position among the "greens". Stately cathedral town Exeter is the new Park Lane and Nottingham and Cambridge Bond Street and Oxford Street respectively. London fares poorly in the Northumberland Avenue position.
According to the game publishers, when voting for positions on the new board first started, York looked set to secure either Mayfair or Park Lane, on the prestigious blue property spaces.
However, when thousands of passionate residents across the country were mobilised into voting for their home towns, the historic walled city toppled from the top spot.
Anxious to keep the city in the top 22 locations, tourism chiefs from York Tourism Bureau urged York residents to vote in their droves for their home town to become immortalised on the new board.
Gillian Cruddas, chief executive of York Tourism Bureau, says: "For many of us, this game was our first exposure to the great landmarks of London and similarly, by securing a top spot for York, players all over the globe will become familiar with the city.
"It could reap huge benefits for the city in terms of raising our profile internationally."
Games giant MB Parker canvassed the nation to find 22 new locations to make up The Monopoly – Here and Now UK Edition earlier this year. More than one million people took part in an online vote, and some cities were more proactive than most. St Albans Mayor Coun Kate Morris even held an on-air live radio battle with the Mayor of Cambridge to help people decide where they should be voting.
Dundee is the only Scottish city to be represented on the board, defeating Glasgow, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, which all failed to make the grade.
Wales secured a place on the board with Cardiff, but the people of Northern Ireland voted to be represented on the All-Ireland board so will not appear on the UK edition.
For more than 70 years, the original Monopoly board has included only the most costly and luxurious locations in London, however this year the board is filled with the UK's most treasured and popular locations – regardless of their financial value or notoriety and while some in Leeds may be forgiven for nursing bruised egos, things could have been worse, with Liverpool only just scraping into the rankings and forced to occupy Old Kent Road.