By Tony Attwood
As you have probably heard Tottenham have reached an agreement with the FA to play their Champions League home games at Wembley next season, exactly as Arsenal did in 1998 and 1999.
Having won the double in 1998, Arsenal were hopeful of doing well in the Champions League, but there was a bigger prize at stake – raising the money for the club to build the Emirates Stadium. To do this Arsenal had to prove to their bankers that they could get big crowds, and so showing that they could more or less fill Wembley for the six Champs League games they played there. And they did.
Tottenham simply need money now. They have the financial deals in place with their bankers; what they are desperate for is the cash to be able to pay the interest, and start the long grind to paying back the loans on the new ground – especially as next season the Tiny Ground will be even Tinier.
Arsenal’s time in the Champions League matches at Wembley was hardly joyful. Here are the results…
- 30 Sept 1998 Beat Panathinaikos 2-1 (Adams, Keown)
- 21 Oct 1998 Drew with Dynamo Kiev 1-1 (Bergkamp)
- 25 Nov 1998 Lost to Lens 1-0
- 22 Sept 1999 Beat AIK Solna 3-1 (Ljungberg, Henry, Suker)
- 19 Oct 1999 Lost to Barcelona 4-2 (Bergkamp, Overmars)
- 27 Oct 1999 Lost to Fiorentina 1-0
Of course we don’t know how Tottenham, who finished third in the Premier League last season, will do at Wembley. But their recent record since winning the League Cup hasn’t been very impressive. They lost a league cup final to Man U, friendlies against Celtic and Barce, an FA Cup semi to Portsmouth, and Chelsea, and then another League Cup final.
So the deal is financial – but it also secures Tottenham the option to play at Wembley in 2017/18, and not only that it seems they have got the rights to play there for both League and FA Cup matches.
This means that if the Tinies get to the semi-final and final it seems they will be playing at their home ground. Although there has been a mention of moving the semi-final if Tottenham are involved there is no way the final will be moved, thus giving Tottenham a significant benefit of playing all their home matches in the Cup and League at Wembley.
Tottenham also quote the notion that their waiting list for season tickets is over 50,000 long, and this may well be true, although there are several sources that say that their equivalent of Arsenal’s silver memberships are automatically put on the waiting list. At Arsenal the season ticket waiting list is quite separate, and a fee has to be paid to join the list.
There has been no mention of late as to what Chelsea will do if their own rebuilding programme goes ahead. They still have a long way to go vis a vis planning permission so this coming season was never an issue for them, but 2017/18 is the crunch time. Tottenham will need Wembley for the whole season, and it will be, under the present schedule, the first year of Chelsea’s three year rebuild programme.
Chelsea of course will have no financial issues, any more than State Aid Utd have financial issues over the building of the stadium. But it seems that Tottenham will face some years of restriction on finances as Arsenal did following the building of the Emirates.
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- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
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