Spurs And The Olympic Stadium: Stratford Hotspur Or A New Beginning?

By on Jan 14, 2011 in English League Football, Latest | 9 comments

Supporters of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club are well-versed in the history of where their club comes from. The stories of grammar boys meeting under gaslight on a street corner are well woven into the fabric that makes up the history of the club, but the question that their supporters are now asking is not where they have come from, but where they will go going to in the near future. For a long time, it felt as if their move in the Olympic Stadium, five miles from White Hart Lane to Stratford, was either an attempt to lever concessions from the bodies involved in their already-public redevelopment plans to rebuild their existing ground or as a back-up plan for if they ran into difficulties over what was presumed to be their Plan A. Over the last few weeks, though, it has started to become increasingly clear that the owners of the club are serious about this move, and it is threatening to divide the club’s support in a season that, on the pitch at least, could yet end up being their most successful in decades.

From the perspective of the club itself, a move to the Olympic Stadium makes pure, economic sense. The redevelopment of the White Hart Lane site will be expensive, in no small measure on account of the work required to be done the area immediately around the proposed new site. They argue that the total cost of the redevelopment of the site (which would see the Olympic Stadium torn down and replaced with a new ground for the club, with Spurs also paying for the redevelopment of the Crystal Palace Athletics Stadium to provide a sheath of ensuring an Olympic legacy after the 2012 games) would be around £200m less than the work required at White Hart Lane (although some argue that this is a fallacy, and that when the costs of the Crystal Palace redevelopment and a future lease on the Olympic Stadium would render any cost savings less lucrative than the nascent PR campaign is whispering about) and that such a move would only see the club displaced by five miles from its current home. The club is understood to believe that, with a higher proportion of the club’s support now living in the Home Counties than before, the better transport links (White Hart Lane is notoriously difficult to reach) will influence them to fall in behind their plan.

The Olympic Stadium, however, is not all about Spurs. The club have made powerful friends in AEG, the entertainment giants who believe that they can make it profitable for the club, but the Olympic Stadium is in Stratford, and Stratford is in the London Borough Newham, and the local council supports the rival bid of West Ham United. West Ham intend to leave the athletics track in place and, on account of this, they also have the support of the influential UK Athletics, the predictably-named governing body for athletics in Britain. West Ham United’s Boleyn Ground (which is actually in East Ham rather than West Ham) is closer to the Olympic Stadium site and, in the overall scheme of the city, is quite clearly in East London in the same way that Stratford is but White Hart Lane quite clearly and evidently isn’t.

Quite apart from this, very few people seem to be discussing what the effect might be upon Leyton Orient, the nearest Football League club to Stratford, if a Premier League club is parachuted in on their doorstep. It could, in the medium to long-term, be ruinous for a club that has, in being sandwiched between Spurs and West Ham in the crowded football landscape of London, struggled for attendances for years, even with them being at a distance of something approaching arm’s length. Orient’s owner, Barry Hearn, has been making noises about moving the club to Essex for some considerable time, and this could be an ideal opportunity to see this idea through to fruition. Of course, if Leyton Orient were to move, it could have an effect on the poor non-league club in whichever town or district he decides to pitch up. It seems likely that whatever domino effect will end up rippling through football’s food chain, affecting more and more vulnerable clubs as it goes. Much of this, however, seems to be disregarded in the bum rush for a cheap-ish new ground for a relative giant of the Premier League in London.

Moreover, should the decision over the outcome of the Olympic Stadium be anything to do with football in the first place? One of the key ingredients of London’s successful bid for the 2012 games was the importance of legacy to the bid. The original plan was for part of the legacy was to be for the Olympic Stadium to be scaled back after the games, leaving a 25,000-seater permanent home for British athletics. There is something faintly unseemly about the way that this legacy is being cast aside in the rush for a new Premier League ground. Spurs’ Crystal Palace plan feels like a sop to tick a box in order to get what they want, while even with West Ham’s  plan to keep the athletics track seems unlikely to end in anything other than London’s Olympic legacy very much playing second fiddle to Premier League football. Financial considerations to one side, doesn’t British athletics deserve the home that it was promised when the Olyimpics were brought to London?

Of all of the plans on the table, the Spurs one looks like being the most divisive. Five miles may not sound like a great distance to many people, but in tribal London these considerations matter and many Spurs supporters are bitterly against the proposed move. There has been much talk amongst those against the move of, “Spurs conceding North London to Arsenal” and, considering the manner in which Arsenal ended up in North London in the first place, such a volte face might well be too much for many Spurs supporters to bear. The local MP, David Lammy, certainly think so, and has stated that:

Tottenham Hotspur was set up by a bunch of young people at All Hallows church in Tottenham 120 years ago. In the event that the current owners of Spurs take the club to Stratford, a new club will emerge. This is no different from the situation that emerged with MK Dons and AFC Wimbledon. Locally I will work with any new team, with the local authority, to ensure we retain the name Tottenham. They will have to take on a different name if they are to leave. I will protect the interests of Tottenham people in ensuring we don’t have a club on the other side of London called Tottenham Hotspur that does not reflect at all the interests of the local community as it stands today.

This may be overstating the matter somewhat at present, but perhaps the question that faces Spurs supporters will turn out to be what price they are prepared put on the very identity of their club and the community that they are part of. Tottenham is one of North London’s less well-to-do areas, and the departure of the football club would rip the soul from the area that they have called home for one hundred and twenty-eight years. Many feel that Tottenham Hotspur in Stratford wouldn’t be Tottenham Hotspur any more, and the growing disquiet (which has even led to talk of a breakaway club should the Stratford move come to fruition) has found a voice through the supporters’ group We Are N17, which states that:

We would prefer to remain at White Hart Lane in Tottenham, as it stands today, rather than move to Stratford and chasing the revenue from a larger stadium. Such a move would, for us, destroy Tottenham and all it has stood for the day we leave our home.

West Ham’s bid for the Olympic Stadium remains the favourite to win the race, but the question for Tottenham supporters that are wavering at present may well turn out to be one of whether they have the stomach for a fight against the owners of the club. Spurs’ architectural advisor, David Keirle, recently stated that, “I was heavily involved in the Man City project. Nobody wanted to leave Maine Road. A few years down the line, nobody would ever go back”, but moving within a city like Manchester isn’t the same as moving across London. There is an element truth to the old adage about London being a collection of villages rather than a city, and this is especially true in its outermost districts. Opinion seems to be very much split amongst supporters of the club at present, but perhaps the true split will only be seen should Spurs get the nod above West Ham United. Daniel Levy has worked wonders in turning the fortunes of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club around after a mostly dismal 1990s. He may find, however, that, his biggest challenge will be to keep their fanbase unified should his plan together.

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    9 Comments

  1. A very good point on the knock-on effect of Leyton Orient moving to Essex if Stratford Hotspur happens. Basildon would seem an obvious move; it’s practically an East End overspill town as it is (West Ham merchandise is ubiquitous in Basildon Market – interestingly, Spurs merchandise is also very popular, moreso than Arsenal), it doesn’t even have a particularly successful non-league team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it is now the largest town in England without a Football League ground now that MK Cons have come to be. Furthermore, the swimming pool on the edge of the town centre is being superceded by a new ‘sporting village’ nearby, and as it lies in a park, it could easily be a viable site for a new ground.

    David Howell

    January 15, 2011

  2. Harlow is the place that Hearn has been rumoured to have been linked with.

    admin

    January 15, 2011

  3. £200m of extra debt could kill us. Imagine if in 3 years time we have lost harry to England, a resurgent Chelsea or Liverpool are fighting us for a CL spot, Bale and Modric have decided to give Barca a go and haven’t been properly replaced – with a huge amount of debt and no CL we could do a Leeds. Arsenal built their stadium, kept CL and spent little money, a nice trick but one I am not sure we could pull off. If we can continue to grow in 10 years time we won’t miss the Lane. We are SPURS wherever our ground is.

    Doonsbury

    January 15, 2011

  4. Harlow makes sense too, but Basildon’s a larger town, and I would expect development sites to be more readily available (the swimming pool site seems almost too obvious).

    I absolutely agree that football shouldn’t have anything to do with this decision in the first place. Once again, this is directly traceable to the Wembley debacle; had Wembley utilised the proven, successful format of the Stade de France for athletics use, the Games could have been held in West London with Wembley as the Olympic Stadium, without sacrificing its football layout. Instead, a useless ‘solution’ was implemented, and a white elephant is being built in Stratford, with an unseemly rush to make it viable.

    For all the talk of modular construction, surely the best move would have been for the Stratford stadium to have movable seating like the Stade de France, allowing it to be easily used as both an athletics stadium and a football stadium.

    David Howell

    January 15, 2011

  5. I guess that is why at the moment there isnt much talk of Woolwich Arsenal eh?

    “..and, considering the manner in which Arsenal ended up in North London in the first place…”

    What manner would that be? After nearly 100 years (just double the amount of time you lot last won the league incidently) you chaps are still bitter about the move? Considering Haringey wasnt “North London” till ’65 and you were Middlesex, you havent been in N London for that long anyway so moving to E15 shouldnt be too stressful.

    Just remember even in East London our shadow will still forever loom over your club. Stay lucky chaps

    Big Jack Of N5

    January 15, 2011

  6. I still fail to see how West Ham are going to fill a 60,000 seater stadium. 50,000 would be more realistic. Other posters have mentioned movable seating, but maybe having a removable pitch like Schalke do, one for athletics, one for football would be better. I have no idea how expensive this would be, but from the mock ups of the stadium there seems to be plenty of room for this idea to work practically.

    But the original article is right, this is an athletics stadium, and should remain so. If football is going to feature, they should let Leyton Orient share it with UK athletics, 25,000 would be great for them even if they did have to put up with a running track.

    Having been to the Withdean, I can’t say the running track really affected my view that much, its the cramped facilities and terrible transport links that are the problem. I certainly had a better view than from the top tier of Wembley, which makes the teams look like ants.

    Talking of Wembley, if Spurs are so keen to move to a bigger stadium and don’t mind if its not in N17, then why not Wembley? It’s built, so they’d only pay for the lease, and Spurs would certainly generate more money than the monster truck rallies and NFL games it mostly hosts at the moment. They also wouldn’t be stepping on any other big clubs toes by moving there.

    There is one other option, dare I mention it….Groundsharing? Couldn’t both Spurs & West Ham use/rebuild the stadium? They could spread the cost, and its been shown to work in Munich with Bayern and 1860.

    Chris P

    January 15, 2011

  7. Chris, what on earth would Orient do with a 25,000-capacity stadium? Ever been to Darlington? Maybe if they drew one of the top four Premier League clubs in the Cup they’d have a chance of filling it once every ten years or so.

    wchr

    January 16, 2011

  8. wchr, I never said they’d fill it. I imagine Queens Park never fill Hampden, but it suits them fine. It was because the club have expressed an interest in moving in, are the local team, and as a purpose built athletics stadium most of the running costs would be covered by UK Athletics that I suggested them as the most appropriate fit.

    Chris P

    January 16, 2011

  9. Hi, I am an old Edmontonian, Grove st,
    and I am a spurs supporter and season tick:
    holder. We should not move to stratford,
    as we are TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR, & should
    stay and redevelope White Hart Lane.
    Although I now live in Berkshire, I have
    it in my blood for Tottenham. I went to
    the Lane with my father & my heart is there. Many thanks Jeff

    jeff gardner

    January 21, 2011

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