TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR’s new home is phenomenal, a space-age structure planted on the High Road, dwarfing the local neighbourhood. It’s vast, corporate and awe-inspiring, a blue-grey monolith that could transform Tottenham into a club where winning regularly accompanies their historic culture of playing with style. They have the stadium, in José Mourinho they have a manager who is accustomed to picking up trophies, now they have to fulfil their objectives of sustainable success.
Until Spurs moved into their new home, their local rivals Arsenal had the most impressive stadium in Britain. Tottenham’s new build is not only larger in capacity, it also takes pragmatism and aesthetics a step further – a stadium for the 21st century that aims to deliver comfort and an enhanced customer experience.
The “market” area where the Spurs crowd is fed and watered, is not just a set of concession areas crudely bolted into concrete, it is great to look at and has used technology to spectacular effect. The beer refuelling area has received considerable publicity as plastic “glasses” are filled from below and sealed by magnetism, enabling the club to sell thousands of pints of beer, the elixir of the football fan, in a matter of minutes.
With a capacity of 62,303 and costing close to £ 1 billion, this is the largest club stadium in London – and certainly the most spectacular.
The crowd walks over a floor that represents a major achievement in upcycling, the use of the rubble and aggregate from the demolished White Hart Lane ground. A move to a new site was overdue for Spurs as the much-loved WHL, where the club won two UEFA Cups and created the fabled “Glory, Glory Nights” in the early 1960s, was looking tired and cramped. It also had a low capacity compared to the Premier’s top clubs.
Inside the ground, the assymetric bowl offers a grand view, but not as good as the view the iconic cockerel, the symbol of the club for decades, enjoys on his sky-high perch. Tottenham appear to have leveraged the simplicity of their badge to become a useful and easily identifiable marketing tool.
Everything is, of course, gleaming and sparkling at the moment, but you cannot fail to be impressed by the playing surface and the technology that surrounds it. There are two Tottenham pitches, a conventional one for football, and an artificial pitch for the National Football League. The grass surface is retractable and moves into a purpose-built garage located under the stadium car park. It can remain underground for up to five days thanks to a “life support system” that includes LED growing lights.
The architects, Populous, have also been involved with the Emirates, the Etihad and Wembley.
Some two metres beneath the grass pitch is the artificial surface. This enables the stadium to become a genuinely multi-use location and also drives Spurs’ attempt to make north London a home for the NFL. Enticing the NFL to Tottenham may not be to everyone’s taste, but it does underline the need for arenas to be more than a matchday venue for football. It also increases the revenue potential of the club significantly.
Tottenham may have reached the final of the UEFA Champions League in 2019, but this achievement really provided a finale to the Mauricio Pochettino era at the club. Spurs have provided a lot of England players in recent years and have been applauded for their football and their business model, but they have just fallen short of true success. Among the top 20 clubs in world football Spurs have been waiting longer than most for a league title and even a mere glimpse of silverware.
Their last league championship was in 1961, a period that was arguably the greatest in the club’s history, and their last trophy of any sort was the Football League Cup in 2008. Aside from West Ham, who have never won a title, only Schalke 04 have waited longer (1958) among the top 20. For a club of Tottenham’s size and influence, such a barren spell is quite bizarre given they have frequently been quite progressive during the past 50-plus years.
Can a new stadium be the catalyst for the success they crave? From a financial perspective, crowds of 60,000 can raise matchday income to unprecedented levels and the opportunities that emerge from a new, purpose-built 24 x 7 facility can increase commercial revenues.
Buro Happold, one of the engineers on the Tottenham project, named the stadium as the best ground in their Venue Performance Ratings. These rankings are driven by the stadium experience, the revenue potential and the overall impact of the venue. A big factor in Tottenham’s number one position was the somewhat experimental ideas that have been built into the stadium, such as the so-called Tunnel Club, the Sky Lounge, a micro brewery, safe standing capability and 360-degree concourses.
The Covid 19 pandemic has threatened to derail Spurs and analysts have forecasted losses in the region of £ 200 million due to the crisis. To ease matters, the club managed to secure a £ 175 million loan from the Bank of England, which has to be repaid by April 2021. This has enabled them to relieve working capital requirements until life returns to normal.
Not everyone is happy about Spurs’ new stadium, notably some of the neighbours, many of whom feel they are being marginalised and pushed out to the edge of the area. Some see it as an attempt to upscale the borough – a Trojan horse for gentrification. The contrast between the futuristic ground and the immediate neighbourhood is dramatic. Tottenham is in the London Borough of Haringey which has one of the highest poverty rates in the capital. Haringey is also among the top 10 most dangerous boroughs in London. The local council has a plan to improve things, but this included the demolition of social housing and the construction of a walkway for fans between White Hart Lane overground rail station and the stadium. The club has recently had approval to 330 homes close to the ground, including a 29-storey tower block.
Looking beyond local politics, it is hard not to be impressed by Tottenham’s stadium. The challenge now is to transform the club’s fortunes on the pitch and make Spurs into a Champions League organisation. The club desperately needs success to ensure the stadium doesn’t become a millstone instead of a platform to cement a place among European football’s elite, with or without José Mourinho.