**** off to Stratford, North London is Ours

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Victory Through Harmony

Continuing our series on stadia, this article looks at Tottenham’s rebuilding plans and Arsenal’s options for enlargement

By Tony Attwood

When Tottenham got permission for the rebuilding of WHL I was slightly dubious about the project.  I’m certainly not an expert on buildings, planning permission, planning rules and the like, so I just looked upon this as an interested outsider, and I am very willing to be corrected on any of the assumptions I am making here.  But here’s my take.

I felt from the off that there were three problems with the rebuilding of the old ground.

First, rebuilding must surely involve the closure or restriction in the use of part of the ground (we all remember the closure of the North Bank while that part of Highbury was rebuilt), and thus a temporary reduction in crowd size, exactly at the moment when Tottenham are breaking into Europe.  That didn’t look like the best option to me.  Especially as at the end of it they would effectively be moving from a 25,000 capacity stadium to a 55,000 capacity ground.

Second, I felt dubious about the hotel or hotels on the complex.   Obviously I am wholly biased as a lifelong Arsenal fan, but it does genuinely strike me that Tottenham High Road (where the ground is situated, despite its popular WHL name) is not the sort of place one might want to spend a night.   Staying in one of the small hotels opposite Finsbury Park is one thing – I’ve done it, it is ok.  But in the High Road????

Finally, given the work Arsenal had to do on the area around the stadium, as part of the development of the Emirates, and the discussions that arose on public transport issues, I just wondered how much Tottenham would have to do.  It didn’t look that easy.

So, although I did indeed write a piece suggesting that the bid for Stratford would be a way of saying to the local authority “back off from one or two of your requirements or else we will go elsewhere”, I do have to admit that Tottenham might mean it when they speak of moving east.

What made it all look very serious was the final admission that Tottenham would pull the Olympic Stadium down and build a new one.   Expensive though that might seem (and outrageous in the sense that us UK citizens are spending half a billion pounds building the wretched place) it could be a better deal for them because the new stadium comes with public transport issues solved, and would be ready to move into – exactly as the Ems was.  They won’t have to pay Transport for London a penny, and won’t lose out by having a smaller stadium for a while.

All such plans to build stadia are based on projections: how many people are you likely to get into the stadium and how much will they pay.  When Arsenal thought of a much bigger ground they spent two years playing games at Wembley in the Champs League, just to see if they could fill it.  They could.  Tottenham are not planning that – it is a bit of a guess.  Maybe it is a good guess.  Who knows?

Arsenal also moved on the back of a long run of years in the Champs League.  Even if progress was often erratic, we were there, year after year.  Again Tottenham don’t have that.   And there’s the curious matter of the actual membership and waiting list at Tottenham.   It appears that if a Tottenham fan gets on to  the equivalent of Arsenal’s “Silver membership” he/she  automatically goes onto the season ticket waiting list.  At Arsenal these two are different.  We’ve debated this before – but it looks from the outside as if Tottenham are counting all their “Silvers” as “Golds in waiting”, and that might not be a clever calculation.

They also speak of a “growing global brand” but is it?  We’ll see.

What they do have, if they go to the Olympic, is the ability to put on a lot of events at the stadium – something Arsenal is restricted from doing.  If they can find a way to turn the place into a regular rock n roll venue then that could be a decent money-spinner too.

Against this is what happens to WHL if the club move.  They can build houses, certainly, but I am again not at all sure about the location.  Would flats down that end of Seven Sisters be worth as much as thus just a few yards across the road from a couple of tube stations and the overground railway?  Once more I think the area counts against them.

Either way it looks like Tottenham might get a ground of around the size of Arsenal’s.   But should Arsenal get bigger?

Walter’s figures show that many of the larger grounds are not fully occupied for each match.  Of course we are always going to sell out Arsenal v Man U, but Arsenal v Wigan (no offence) might not sell 80,000 so easily.  We sell out at the moment, but if you keep an eye on the way sales go, there are a number of games each year that only sell out towards the end of the selling period.   Think about the games such as the opening rounds of the Champions League – these too can be slow burners.

There’s a further problem with another 20,000 people – 40% or so of the profit the club makes from each game is generated by the Diamond Club, Club Level and the Boxes.   The extra 20,000 seats would be lower cost seats, and so would not add anything like another 30% to the profit of each game.

But, there would be a positive.   Although Arsenal does still have its 10 year waiting list for season tickets, there is a real perception that the audience is getting older – and that the number of younger supporters coming to each game is small.   Building some cheap sections of the ground specifically to encourage younger supporters to come along, knowing that some of them will graduate into season ticket holders later, could be a good move.  Maybe on that basis it could happen.

Tottenham’s fate will be decided by the people who have a say in what happens to the Olympic Stadium after the games, what the planning permission small print says about the WHL development, and just how many people really do want to watch Tottenham play – which itself depends on the success of the club.

And it is this final point that seems to me to be the key.   As I suggested above in passing, Arsenal moved soon after the Unbeaten Season, and prior to that a couple of doubles and years in the Champs League.   We have not had a similar success in terms of trophies since leaving, but the support has stayed strong.   Tottenham will at best be moving with success that starts now (if they win the League or Champs League this year).  If not, with success starting next year, or the year after.  They might believe they can do it, but I am not quite sure that the banks will accept such belief.  (After all, Arsenal had to prove they could fill the Ems before their interest rates came down).

I think that’s the problem.  It’s the heritage.   The heritage of a couple of league wins (the last one 50 years ago) and a double, plus a number of cup wins since.  It might be enough to fill a 60,000 seater stadium, but if it isn’t…

(PS: in case you are wondering, the title of this piece comes from a popular chant, sung at matches between Arsenal and Tottenham.  A pleasant little ditty, I think you’ll agree).

Index to the full series of articles on stadia issues

Untold Arsenal

Making the Arsenal – how Arsenal nearly ended up at Craven Cottage

27 Replies to “**** off to Stratford, North London is Ours”

  1. Good post Tony. It does seem strange that the tinies never tried using Wembley for their home CL matches to gauge their fan base.

    I cannot decide if it would be better for them to move East or get into serious debt by rebuilding the Stain.

  2. Let them knock the Olympic stadium down AFTER they have repaid the money that all Londoners have paid for the bloody thing in the first place. Can’t see it, can you? They can’t even fill the small stadium they have now, except for the big games.

  3. One season every 100 years in the champs league wont fill a 60,000 seater stadium who are they kidding.
    There is only one team in North London and EVERYONE knows it 🙂

  4. Perhaps the Tottenham deal will be them paying a rent that will go towards paying some of the original build costs but will never cover the total amount!

    Heard a politician saying that if Tottenham do the deal he will sue stating they cannot use the word Tottenham as it is an infringement of intellectual rights them being stationed in Stratford!

  5. Keith. Quite agree. The Stratford Spuds. Lovely ring to it and even better for my late gran who was a spudette all her life. Her surname? Stratford. She’ll be playing her harp with gay abandon!

  6. There’s always the chance that all this Spuds stadium business is just for attracting a buyer. It’s all well and good wanting a stadium and even getting the planning permission, but how do you pay for it? Liverpool, Everton, Chelsea and Spurs have all been talking about new stadiums for years but nothing’s happened, and finance is harder to find than ever.

  7. Excellent article. Everyone knows the Tottys hundred year waiting list is bollocks, they are never going to sell out 55,000 at home to Blackburn or Wigan. The interest rate to finance a new stadium will be stratospherical (?), their only option is to grovel for a free ground at taxpayers expense and Cameron or Johnson or whoever better make sure they dont fucking give it to them.

  8. It may be of interest when I recall that in the 1947/8 season
    (when Arsenal won the title) the Highbury capacity was 63,000.
    When I wanted a couple of seats (as a visitor to the UK) it took two “sob story” letters to the Tom Whittaker regime to get them!
    Then the capacity dropped to 38,000, presumably on safety grounds, until we moved to the Emirates and a relied-on 60,000 capacity.
    It is interesting (and significant) to note the trend of a more mature patron and any encouragement to the younger fan to attend, regularly, is of paramount importance.
    The need, as well, for Arsenal’s annual entry in the CL cannot be overstated as attendances relate to general overall success as a Club and a business.

  9. just to let you know, east london does NOT want the scum. if the stadium should go to a football club, then it should be leyton orient. that is all.

  10. I think it will all depend on whether Spurs can be a serious contender to the title, if not win it. They need to be consistently near the top ranks.

  11. I cannot remember where I saw it, but some time last year there was an article written about the support a team has. Chelsea, despite their success, have only increased their average attendance by 500 or something. For the past fifty years or so (Charlton at one time MAY have given us a run for our money) we have always been the biggest club in London and the Board were very comfortable in the knowledge we could fill a larger ground and have a waiting list. Tottenham have never been a well supported club (and I come from Bruce Grove so I have an idea about this) and the figures they bandy around are just projections with little substance.

    I hope they go Stratford and disappear up their own arses!

  12. Nicky – the 38,000 limit came in when the stadium became all-seater, following government regulation in the UK. All EPL stadia are all-seater, and the stadia (like Highbury) that were adapted from grounds that had big standing areas suffered dramatically.

    And a special hello to the Leyton Orient fan. Really good to hear from you, and I agree with you 1000000%. I’ve only been to Orient a handful of times (and I’m sure you will say that is my loss) including the opening game of their season in the 1st division), and always enjoyed it.

  13. The point about Spurs needing to attract attention to themselves in order to secure a buyer is very true. Everything they do (including the Beckham nonsense) is about window dressing and getting someone else to come along and take on the huge financial gamble of moving.
    It’s also the case, of course, that a move to Stratford will be less expensive for them, less disruptive to fixtures while building work happens and probably more lucrative when it comes to stadium naming rights.
    Don’t forget, also, that Arsenal (as well as being an established Champions League competitor) had a young squad and an established conveyor belt of even younger talent, which could preclude them from having to spend big in the transfer market.
    If Spurs do go to Stratford they won’t be playing there for, I guess, three or even four years. During that time half their first team squad will need to be replaced. Do they really have ten guaranteed stars coming through their (non-existent) reserve team?

  14. To the Leyton Orient Fan
    You have raised a memory of mine.
    In 1942, I moved down to London from the North. I wanted to play some football and signed up to play for Clapton (then) Orient reserves. In my first game I scored twice in the first 10 mins only to be told at halftime that I wasn’t centre-forward material! I had to cry off my next game because I couldn’t get every Saturday pm off and was never selected again. A Mr Wilson was manager then and the ground was at Brisbane Road.

  15. Oh what to do with WHL when they move to Stratford? Hmmm let’s see: How about public toilets for the shoppers at the Wrongendofsevensisters Road? I don’t pay U.K. taxes anymore but I’d be willing to make a private contribution to the development. Also, I am confident that I will be able to raise quite a substantial amount of money from Gooners all over the world. My fee? Ah shuks…it would be a labour of love on my part. But I might have a clause inserted into any contract that I get the first piss…and that the Untold faithful also get to piss for free anytime they happen to be in the area…

  16. WHL as Tony states is in a very (ahem) undesirable end of Town but the main Problem I reckon is the transport links like there aren’t any! It is a big problem at the moment with 35,000 so with an extra 20k there will be serious development requirements from the Met before the licence is granted and they can use the new stadium! This is a very big risk and a very big cost, add in the huge amount of ‘planning gain’ their Borough will require (for ‘regeneration’) and remember that this is a much tougher time to raise development capital then back in the early noughties when we started and I think you can see that redeveloping WHL is probably a non-starter.

    At Stratford it is all ready and waiting, no problems, foundations laid, all in place. plus of course the naming rights for the ex-Olympic site are likely to be much much more than at New WHL.

    So they are off to Stratford and nearly 100 years of their piss takes and self justification are immediately defunct, pointless, self-harming, finished ha ha ha

    Of course they can enjoy moving onto a smaller club’s ‘home patch’ where they will be more successful, have more fans, more money and more class than their new neighbours who will become embittered and obsessive at the unwanted presence of these mightier usurpers…

    Just like when we moved up here from Woolwich, oh it’s too priceless, no wonder they protest ha ha ha!

  17. Questionthis may have been covered so apologies.

    if spurs get stratford would they be buying the land or just renting the site and if so does anyone have any idea of the figures,how this would affect match day revenue.

  18. if spurs get stratford would they be buying the land or just renting the site and if so does anyone have any idea of the figures,how this would affect match day revenue.

  19. I can’t work out what Tottenham are up to. They have already spent a lot of money buying up property to the north of the existing ground and have levelled it in readiness for construction.

    The new ground will overlap the existing ground. The plan is to build 3/4 of the new ground and then during the close season, knock down 1/4 of the existing ground and complete the new ground. They may have one season where 1/4 of the ground is unusable.

    But, as Tony has said, why hotels? As part of my job I have to visit the area during the day which is unpleasant enough. There is no way that I would want to be in the area at night. Maybe they want their fans to stay overnight so they can stagger their journeys home due to the piss poor transport facilities.

    Although, the way ‘arry is spending the club’s money in his usual confusion of mass transfers it’s unlikely they will have any money for either site in 2 years.

  20. @ Andy Kelly:
    “Although, the way ‘arry is spending the club’s money in his usual confusion of mass transfers it’s unlikely they will have any money for either site in 2 years”.

    We can only hope my son…we can only hope (0;

  21. Well, there’s a lot of comments here you might expect from diehard Gooners, but the reality is slightly different:

    1. Spurs sell out every game. I’ve not seen a crowd below 35,000 in 3 years for a serious game.
    2. They are a bit like Man City as a club with regard to fans – Man City went from 35,000 to 47,000 without a problem despite winning nowt as they say up there and they actually want to expand more. I’d be surprised if Spurs couldn’t fill it.
    3. They will increase their revenues enormously through an equivalent to Club/Diamond/boxes. Just as many Spurs fans in the City as Arsenal fans.
    4. The important thing for Spurs fans is that their team is on the up.
    5. It’s entirely possible that they might play at Wembley for a season if they did up WHL. The FA would love them for it and, as long as they filled the bottom tier and Club Wembley, so would Mr Levy’s bank manager. No doubt a few fans would rant, but I suspect they’d all go.
    6. If there were hotels built by WHL, I’m sure they’d use reputable chains who’d get the security right. You’d think they’d taken soundings with a few chains to find out if there were serious issues about locating hotels there?

    I wouldn’t be surprised if there were an element of trying to attract a buyer in all this. But at the end of the day, much though it might pain Arsenal fans to admit it, Spurs were the best supported team in the country in the 1950s, so I suspect it’s a tad insulting to imply that their fan base is a bit anaemic.

    Let ’em build it. If they can’t fill it their finances will go down the drain anyway.

    And if Arsenal are such cowards that they can’t face other clubs doing what they did themselves, don’t delude yourselves that the club is worthy of winning anything……….

  22. Spuds did test the water at Wembley. A couple of seasons past they ran a pre-season tournament similar to the Emirates cup and attracted (then) European Champions Barcelona. The really interesting thing was that despite serious discounting for Spud fans they could only attract about 40,000 for the key day in which Spuds were playing Barcelona. Not encouraging for them.
    Another factor against their Stratford bid is their insistence of no running track and that fans will be very close to the pitch. Both unlikely to be accepted.
    Seems to me that they are trying to set things up to sell the club.

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