By Tony Attwood
It is interesting that this morning the Arsenal History Society published the latest of its series of articles covering the pre-season campaigns of Arsenal year by year since Bruce Rioch – and got to 2006, with the opening of the Emirates Stadium just at the moment that Chelsea and Tottenham beefed up some of the details of their new stadia.
So it’s now nine years since the Emirates opened, and one might wonder quite why it has taken Tottenham and Chelsea so long to see the great benefits that come from a large modern stadium. But the big difference in these developments is that in both cases Tottenham and Chelsea will be rebuilding their existing grounds and that will mean moving out for a year – and that of course is a much more complex affair than starting from scratch.
Many of the details we are getting now will of course be superseded in the years to come before the stadia are re-built, but there is a possibility (no more than that) that either or both teams will play for a season at Wembley while rebuilding takes place.
I wonder what the FA’s view on that would be for the FA Cup semi-finals or final, and the League’s for the League Cup final. Would they really allow a team that plays its home games at Wembley to play an FA Cup final “at home”?
Knowing the FA probably yes, but it would be an injustice – although this is a very hypothetical issue of course.
Of course the notion of renting out Wembley is not new although I can only find one prescedent. In 1998–99 and 1999–00 seasons Arsenal played Champions League games there, in part as an experiment to see if there really was enough support to warrant the building of a 60,000 seat stadium in Islington.
What is perhaps forgotten is that although Arsenal filled the old stadium it did not thrive at Wembley, playing six, winning two, drawing one and losing three. That does not mean that Arsenal’s experience would be replicated with Chelsea and Tottenham, but it does remind us that moving grounds is not always easy. Arsenal certainly didn’t do wonderfully well in its early days at the Emirates.
It would appear that the £400m finance for Tottenham’s rebuild is coming from the banks and financial institutions, as Arsenal’s did, and so will presumably be paid back over time. On Chelsea’s finance there seems to have been little information given – it could be undertaken in loans or it could be donated by the owner – which would be allowable under current FFP rules.
One other oddity has occurred thus far, and that is that Tottenham have agreed with the North American NFL that two games a season for 10 seasons will be played at Tottenham’s ground bringing in a profit of £3m per game.
That figure of £3m comes from the profit Wembley makes in its current deal. That is coincidentally the amount that Arsenal makes in profit from staging each home match at the Emirates. So looking at the current plans that would give Tottenham the equivalent of two more games a year.
As for the capacity it is said that Tottenham’s ground is projected to be about 600 seats bigger than Arsenal which would make it about 1% bigger than the Emirates. On the other hand the latest design shows that this gain seems to have been achieved by cutting out Club Level and Boxes on at least one, and possibly two “sides” of the ground (the current illustrations are not clear).
Certainly one end of the new Tottenham ground will be one single stand with no tier breaks at all. The issue is whether the other end continues with the notion of copying the club level and boxes scenario. These specialist seats and the catering that goes with them, bring in huge amounts of money although they reduce capacity.
Undoubtedly more data will become available in due course both from Chelsea and Tottenham.