Untold Arsenal on Facebook here
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).
- Mykhaylo Mudryk now listed in 17 different articles as coming to Arsenal!
- Arsenal attacking problems… what attacking problems?
- Men’s football returns at last: Arsenal in action this afternoon
- Is the injury to Gabriel Jesus equivalent to the assault on Eduardo in 2008?
- Womens Champions League Arsenal Women v Juventus – the match preview