By Tony Attwood
Very occasionally I find myself reading a report in a paper or on the internet and think, “blimey, I wrote that.”
Of course I don’t mean that literally – it is quite a long time since I’ve seen anyone take my actual words and re-print them as their own (that was with Blake’s 7 – the old BBC TV series, and a few comments about the Copyright Act as it then was, put things straight.
But sometimes it goes the other way, and I read a story about an issue we’ve covered, and I find myself thinking, why don’t these people read Untold.
And that’s how it is over newspaper tales about the never-ending saga of Tottenham’s new ground.
There are lots of items published, but hardly ever do they pick up on what seem to me to be the two key issues:
a) where is the money coming from (because that makes a hell of a difference to what happens after the building)
b) what happened about the claims to building a ground where the fans are much closer to the pitch than at the Ems, because that claim could be a root cause of the delays and the latest issue about Tottenham having to move out.
Tottenham have made much fun of the Emirates in terms of distance from the pitch – but the Ems is built according to the current requirements of the Premier League. My guess is that Tottenham tried to argue that since this was not a new stadium but a re-development that they would be able to get around the current requirements. My guess is also that this ploy failed – and that this is why the original notion of building a stadium while football at WHL carried on has been abandoned.
These issues are never debated, either by Tottenham or in the press. But you can read commentaries in all sorts of places, and mostly they start along the lines that Tottenham are still “hopeful” of opening the full stadium in August 2017.
It was really quite suddenly that out popped the story that ooops, oh dear, sorry, didn’t realise it at the time, we can’t actually stay in the stadium during the final year in which one side of the old ground is rebuilt to make it a stand of the new ground, facing the other way.
Why did that story suddenly emerge? I wonder.
The notion that as a result Tottenham would go on tour for a year, playing home games thither and yon was not really picked up much by the press at first, although it did get some coverage, but now suddenly the free London evening paper, the Evening Standard, has done a piece announcing this as news.
They are repeating the same names of stadia as have been mentioned all along – the stadium the government lovingly donated to West Ham (the Olympic Stadium), Wembley with the top tier shut and the stadium in Milton Keynes (stadiummk) where the Arsenal Ladies’ played in the FA Cup Final this summer.
The Standard does add a couple more – Portman Road (Ipswich) and The Amex (Brighton, right by where I was a student many thousands of years ago).
Now you may recall (but the Standard doesn’t) that Arsenal played in the Champions League at Wembley for two seasons, and pretty much filled the place.
Arsenal played six games at Wembley between 30 September 1998 and 27 October 1999 with crowds of 73,000 plus for each game except one where 71227 turned up for the AIK match. (The full story of that era is here on the Arsenal History Society site).
In those days 73,455 was the capacity of Wembley taking into account Champions League requirements. but now it is officially 90,000. However that’s a bit too much for Tottenham. The word is they are going to close the top bit and play in a near half empty ground with around 50,000 inside.
But there are worries about the price of Wembley, so while the home games against Arsenal, Man U, Man C, Chelsea Liverpool and West Ham would be there, others would be at smaller grounds.
Arsenal of course did the Wembley gigs in order to prove to the bankers that they could indeed fill the Emirates – those two seasons proved it, as close as one comes to proving predictions. With Tottenham it is just a means of playing while getting the ground built.
Apparently there have been protests from season ticket holders, so the Standard suggests they would be given a year out if they didn’t want to go on tour.
Each time I have written about the new ground in The High Road (they don’t and never have played in White Hart Lane, which is a little meandering road that once housed the ground of Wood Green Town FC) I’ve raised also the money. As in, “where is it coming from?”
A few Tottenham fans who have contributed here have suggested that the money is sorted – and indeed the Standard takes up that view with, “The necessary funds to finance the new stadium are said to be in place” but that doesn’t tell us if it is money borrowed from the banks or money borrowed from the benefactor in the way that Chelsea and Man C operate.
That’s really a key issue, because it relates to the repayment. If the benefactor lends the money then there is probably no schedule of repayment. The club will be put up for sale, and that sale will bring the benefactor his money back. If the banks lend the money, then Tottenham are faced with the years of privation that Arsenal have just had, paying all their new income from season tickets and sponsors into a gigantic hole labelled “stadium cost”. And that would be harder for Tottenham than for Arsenal, because they would enter the phase without Champions League football, and so without the extra income that brings.
But benefactors are all just one step away from changing their minds, so they too can be problematic.
Their other problem is the purchasing of property in order to build the stadium. They need to be granted a Compulsory Purchase Order by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, one Eric Pickles.
Now Mr Pickles likes to take his time, but even by this government’s standards 15 months seems a rather excessive amount of time to wait for a CPO. The battle is with Archway Sheet Metal, who have the land Tottenham want. Archway want £25million to move out. Tottenham won’t pay.
So a compulsory purchase order it has to be, but even if Mr Pickles says yes to Tottenham, Archway would certainly appeal and it is that one single fact that makes 2017 look unlikely.
In the end it looks like Tottenham might have been better off and following Arsenal’s lead of moving to another site and selling their own. The only problem with that is that Tottenham’s so-called White Hart Lane ground isn’t worth as much as Highbury was, so that, as a source of money, is removed.
The story meanders on.