Critical safety systems: those rather annoying hiccups that get in the way.

By Tony Attwood

From my perspective the move from Highbury to the new stadium went rather well.  It was only after we’d got there that I realised just how much impact it was having on the club in terms of its ability to compete in the transfer market.  And since we’d already had the phrase about Chelsea parking its tanks on our pitch and firing £50 notes at our players, it soon became clear we were going to struggle.

Over the years I had hopes about FFP in various guises helping us out, but apart from a slight flutter which saw Manchester City given a rap over the knuckles by Uefa, nothing much happened.  The big money clubs marched on and all we could do was marvel at Mr Wenger’s ability to keep us in the top four without a fraction of the budget others had.

So naturally, having lived through the pain, it is natural I suppose, to keep an eye on new stadia.

Most new stadia, as our earlier articles showed in some detail, cause clubs pain – quite often relegation.  Some even go into administration.  Others – such as Manchester City and West Ham United, get stadia paid for by at least in part by the taxpayers, and WHU certainly seemed to get one hell of a deal which it appears that I, and other mugs like me who believe it is right and proper that we pay our share of taxation, ended up paying for.  I had rather hoped my money was going to support the homeless, pay for the NHS and other old fashioned notions.  Turns out some of it went towards giving WHU a stadium.

So now we have Tottenham’s ground to watch and ponder.   Last April the Guardian ran the story “Tottenham facing up to reality check as stadium costs escalate” under which headline they said, “Mauricio Pochettino will still have to sell players in order to buy them next season despite an increased ground capacity” which actually turned out to be rather a good prediction by David Hytner.

As he said, “The theory has been that the stadium’s increased revenues will help the club to attract and keep the A-list players.   The view has sat uncomfortably with the cost of construction. It seems a long time ago that £400m was the ballpark figure. Then, it became £750m and £850m, and now, nobody would be surprised if it reached a billion. Tottenham have taken out £400m in bank loans, which are repayable over a five-year period.”  I think many Arsenal fans had to learn to live with all that entails.

So now we have the announcement of a delay.  Let’s be fair – it might be just a matter of a few weeks – but it is interesting, in that with the Arsenal Stadium, we did at least open on time.  It might have wrecked our chances of competing with the multi-billionaires but it’s a nice place to watch footie.  Not perfect – the coffee remains fairly awful and the roof leaked for years, but it was done when it was supposed to be.

But Tottenham have said they had found issues with critical safety systems of which the Guardian says “The sudden change of schedule is an embarrassment for Spurs,” but I doubt that.  They’ve got Wembley and the FA desperately need every penny they can get, so I doubt it’s much of an upset.

But what are critical safety systems or safety critical systems?  It seems both phrases can be used and typically the media drainpipes (or outlets as they are sometime erroneously known) are a bit weak of defining the phrase.  However it seems to mean systems whose failure is deemed “unacceptable.”   They can be business systems (the failure of which means a huge financial loss – like finding all the details of the credit cards used to buy season tickets have been stolen) or safety critical systems, the failure of which means injury or death, significant property damage, or damage to the environment.

So when a critical system fails, it is ALWAYS a disaster.  A roller coaster falls off the tracks, a plane falls out of the sky, supporters die when a terrace collapses.

Which is why no one dares move when a critical system alert comes on, because not only will the result in a real-life situation be utterly disastrous, but also the publicity will be devastating.  As a result, what most companies manage to do is to keep very quiet about a critical system failure during testing, and simply get on with putting things right.

Thus it is possible that there was a failure of a critical system at Arsenal’s stadium, but it was far enough ahead of the scheduled opening date, for work to be undertaken, new testing carried out, and everything to be sorted.

Tottenham’s problem is the timetable which was imposed upon them by the decision to rebuild the existing stadium.  This decision meant that there was great pressure to move away from their ground for just one season.   Had they told their supporters that they would be moving into New WHL in January 2019 there would have been no problem – they’d have found the critical problem, sorted it, and carried on.  But of course delaying the move to Jan 2019 would have cost more.

Chelsea announced that the rebuild of Stamford Bridge (now seemingly cancelled) was going to take three years.  That period, I imagine, would have included a six month period for coping with system critical failures.

Still, Tottenham did rather well last season at Wembley…

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Manchester City 19 16 2 1 61 14 47 50
2 Arsenal 19 15 2 2 54 20 34 47
3 Manchester United 19 15 2 2 38 9 29 47
4 Liverpool 19 12 7 0 45 10 35 43
5 Tottenham Hotspur 19 13 4 2 40 16 24 43
6 Chelsea 19 11 4 4 30 16 14 37

… so in that regard I don’t suppose they’ll mind too much.  And it is being said that they had already paid a deposit to Wembley to keep the option of going back there open.

So maybe its all right anyway.




16 Replies to “Critical safety systems: those rather annoying hiccups that get in the way.”

  1. I suppose they have also found a way round the rule only alllowing one home ground to be used in a season!

  2. Imagine the media outcry if this had happened with the Arsenal stadium. Press hysteria about yet another disaster and cock-up, plus lots of jokes and “Arsenal fans furious” headlines.

    No doubt Spurs will be congratulated for being responsible and putting safety first

  3. Tony,

    Good to see UA back on its favourite subject. 😉

    A fair article on the whole but a couple of points:

    – You say that Arsenal delivered the stadium on time, exactly when they said they would. Well, no, actually. Some fair time after demolition and site preparation at Ashburton Grove had begun, Arsenal called a halt to all works because they suddenly realised that they could not be certain of funding the construction to completion. As a consequence, the Emirates was opened a year after it was originally scheduled to do so. You might argue that that is not the same thing. Fair enough. But then, Spurs’ project, built on the site of the old stadium, is not the same as Arsenal’s was. So perhaps neither project should be used to compare to the other with regard to their respective delays.

    – The overall project cost is probably nudging £900m. But that includes planning costs, land acquisition and the various other developments that comprise the Northumberland Development Project in addition to the stadium – more than £150m of which were already paid for prior to the commencement of works, with the club carrying no debt.


    There is no hard and fast rule forbidding clubs from using more than one stadium as their home during a season. The rule is designed primarily to prevent clubs cherry picking games to play at a bigger stadium. When there is a legitimate reason for the request to use more than one stadium during a season then, so long as the other clubs give their consent, the PL will usually grant it.

  4. While Kudos are given to Tottenham Hotspur hierarchy for making safety comes first above all other things at the Spurs’ new White Hart Lane Stadium, Arsenal who don’t have such concern to bother them MUST sort out the critical system playing failure in the Gunners PL playing team and overcome it to stop profigancy in front of goal by the Gunners that saw Arsenal lost 0-2 to Man City in the PL big game at the Ems last Sunday.

    Therefore, if Arsenal are to avoid a serious catch up games against their 5 big Title rival clubs in the PL early in the season this season but minimise it to the barest minimum of just 3 points to catch them up eventually. Then, the Gunners had to beat Chelsea at the Bridge on Saturday and they MUST beat them. A draw by Arsenal in this match will not be enough but a win will rekindle the belief of the Gooners in Emery and the Gunners to win the Pl Title this season for Arsenal in as in many seasons.

  5. Don’t pick on any rules that Spuds break. They’ll classify that as being anti semitic.

  6. JimB
    The rules are worded in such a way as to ensure that a club plays all its games, including CC , CL, PL, FA cup at the same Stadium indeed clubs have to submit all the required pre season documentation based on the given that they will have only one home. That ironically was not the case prior to Arsenal moving their CL games to Wembley
    There were precedents in allowing clubs to play a few games away from home but nothing on the scale Spurs seem to be wanting.
    DL has been keeping details of costing very close to his chest. it is known the £400 million facility won’t be enough to pay the final sum, DL has told the THST that the costs as I understand based on increased worker hours alone has risen by some £3 million a week.
    There are rumblings from Spurs supporters about how badly their club handled this in that rather conviently the announcement re the delay was deliberately timed to be one day after the cut off date for season ticket refunds
    The FA have bent over backwards to help Spurs, some would say they have gone way too far. Has any PL club ever been allowed to play one let alone 3 games away from their own and nominated stadium?
    Like it or not Spurs are putting the integrity of this years PL. into question and now that the clubs have a say in how things are handled going forward( Man City will have to agree to something either the fixture being flipped, unlikely ,or being played on a later date , possible but unlikely) then the whole dynamic changes

  7. @JimB -Is that period of time when Spurs declared ‘the Northumberland project’ to be ‘uneconomic’ and wished to move to the Olympic Stadium just a figment of my imagination? They were either right (and therefore should have abandoned it) or wrong and it was a con trick on their local authority and on the Premier League. By creating their own delays they have put their ability to meet the exacting loan repayment agreements in jeopardy.

  8. Indersight.

    I think it will become pretty obvious as time goes on that Spurs embarking on this project will come with enormous consequences.
    Although I don’t agree with a lot of things Tony concludes building a new stadium brings with it huge financial and indeed other issues.
    Man City and possibly WHU, are different in that they get their homes subsidised but the evidence is there that those that have to fund their grounds suffer at some point.
    Spurs couldn’t have chosen a worse time to build. From spiralling costs of raw materials to shortage of labour all underpinned the reason as to why Mace wouldn’t get drawn into agreeing a fixed price contract .
    The similarities between this project and indeed the rebuilt of thenEast Stand at Stamford Bridge in the early 70s is spookingly similar
    The estimated cost of the Chelsea rebuild grew from around a million to around two million , vast sums then,
    Chelsea couldn’t get any developer to agree a fixed price also Chelsea had just started to deliver not just on the pitch,,but here there is a difference to Spurs by way of trophies but to keep the bailiffs from closing the club down that hugely promising and indeed young Chelsea team had to be sold off.
    Will that same fate be what happens to Spurs?
    The Spurs supporters will say no because Levy has told them it won’t but I personally think the first signs are there as to what will happen in the future regarding players for when it’s leaked 3 high profile players are available then something is happening

  9. Mikk3T,

    The wording of the rules specifically allows for a club to use more than one stadium for home games during a season if there are legitimate reasons.


    Not sure that I get what point you’re trying to make. How has the delay in getting through the planning phase jeopardised Spurs’ ability to repay the loans? Sure, building costs have risen in the interim. But nothing like as much or as quickly as the club’s revenues.

    Mike T,

    The principle reason why your early 70’s Chelsea analogy doesn’t work is that football clubs’ income back in those days was minuscule. Now it is huge. Certainly, Spurs are taking on a huge amount of debt – considerably more than they originally planned to take on, even. And there’s no doubt that there will be challenging times ahead (as Chelsea will also find if and when they eventually get around to building their new stadium). But this is still a very good time to borrow (for capital projects) and revenues will comfortably service and repay the debt. So, unlike early 70’s Chelsea, the challenge for Spurs will likely be to continue to challenge for the top four rather than to avoid relegation and bankruptcy.

    Which 3 high profile players do you think are “available” for sale, by the way?

  10. Jim B

    As I said the rules are worded in such a way .

    Rule K3 Each club shall either own its stadium & training facility or have a legally enforceable agreement with its owner for its use by the club expiring not earlier than the end of the current season.
    Rule K5 Each club shall register its stadium and must play all matches in the completions listed .

    As normal there is a get out , and I guess it’s what you elude to

    K5 contd. No club shall remove to another stadium either on a permanent or temporary basis without first obtaining written consent of the board in accordance with rule K6

    Rule K6. In considering whether to give consent the board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case ( including, but not limited to factors set out in this rule and shall not consent unles reasonably satisfied that:
    6.1. would be consistent with the objects of the League as set out in the Memorandum;
    K.6.2. would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its Stadium;
    K.6.3. would not to any material extent adversely affect such Club’s Officials, Players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
    K.6.4. would not have a material adverse effect on Visiting Clubs;

    Last season Spurs has a ground share agreement in place. This season it’s a whole different kettle of fish because Spurs have to be moving games under K5 but for me there are issues around k6.3 & k6.4.

    I think you know all too well which players were named in reports as being available and yes those were only reports but as they say no smoke

  11. MikeT,

    Regardless of how you might interpret the rules, it seems clear that the Premier League and itts clubs do t share your opinion. Which is why Spurs have permission to use Wembley.

    Re available players…….Alderweireld, Rose and Dembele, do you mean?

    None of them were available because Spurs need to sell, as was your implication.

  12. Jim B

    My understanding is that the clubs haven’t been asked or indeed voted on the matter to date the descions have been made exclusively by the PL Board.Spurs have painted the PL into a corner in that when they gave permission for the Fulham game to be played at Wembley in effect that gave an opening for further games at Wembley.
    The PL despite its clear intent to support investment into the PL didn’t think this whole matter through and now questions rightly are being asked about the impartiality of the PL and indeed the integrity of the competition itself.

    It’s questionable that the rule I quoted was ever envisaged to deal with the situation Spurs are in but more to cover issues that occur as a season progresses. Irrespective there is another section in the PL rules that state the PL will follow the rules not just to the letter but also the spirt of them.DL will have assured thevPL that the rebuild will have been completed on time.

    Let’s not kid ourselves this is now impacting wider than just as a Spurs issue. For instance what about Liverpool Supporters who maybe staying over and had planned for travel to WHL? or what about the Liverpool teams arrangements?As for Man City where are they due to play?

    As for the players being available your right I have not seen any documented statement that they are available due to finances but it’s pretty certain that Spurs didn’t sign any players for a reason and the mantra being peddled that it’s impossible to get better starting players is just pure drivel.

    Here’s some questions for you .

    Over the months it has been maintained on here by Spurs supporting posters, that Spurs would be playing all its 2018/19 games at the new stadium indeed that was what DL was telling them. So from a Spurs support perspective do you think DL has handled this inevitable delay? Also how many games do you think it’s acceptable to play before the league should say enough you play the whole season away from WHL?

  13. Jim B

    Please check yourself before you wreck yourself:

    You’ll find that demolition contract was a seperate contract to the construction contract. ”Tis usually the case.

    The late appointment of the construction contracter in the project process up in n17 as opposed to the recommended model in the link above (recommended by the CIOB no less! I think they know what they are on about…) guaranteed a cost overrun in n17 a n easy prediction to make and one that I made on these pages long before the Manchester Grunt hack had a sniff. I think it may even have your good self whom I informed of the pending overrun resulting from, let’s be generous here: incompetent project management.

    They say that trust is a valuable commodity and you can see from the video above that the contractor and engineer were happy to work for Arsenal Football Club for an entire year without a fee! Which is amazing on such a large project (They got paid for their work eventually!).

    I wouldn’t ask Levy to build me a shed.


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