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New Tottenham Stadium is Set for its Premier League Opener

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After delays and cost overruns, Spurs’ shiny new stadium finally gets its EPL grand opening. What can we expect from the big celebration and beyond?

New Tottenham Stadium - Premier League
Behold the grand splendor of the new Tottenham Stadium.
Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

The footballing world is loaded with famous, yea legendary arenas: FC Barcelona’s Camp Nou, Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu, AC Milan’s San Siro, Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena, Mexico City’s Estadio Azteca, Rio de Janeiro’s Estadio do Maracana, Argentina’s Estadio Antonio Vespucio Liberti. I could go on; my apologies if I’ve left out your personal favorite.

England and the Premier League have no shortage of hallowed sites themselves, naturally. But the most recent big stadium addition was London Stadium, and its Premier League debut was a bit anticlimactic since it became home to West Ham in 2016 well after the city’s glorious 2012 Summer Olympics (in which it was christened Olympic Stadium). Coincidentally, that followed Tottenham’s failed bid to move there.

Aside from England’s famed Wembley Stadium (which re-opened anew in 2007), the country’s most well-known houses of Premier League teams have been around anywhere from an extremely long time (just look at how many of them opened before 1925!) to quite a while:

[Source: Wikipedia.org]

And lest we forget...

White Hart Lane - 2nd September 1933
White Hart Lane (1899) had a few years on it too (photo from 1933)
Photo by H. F. Davis/Topical Press Agency/Getty Images

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Keeping up with the Joneses

The other “Big Six” teams all enjoy plenty of perks surrounding their stadiums. The Etihad and Emirates Stadiums are two of the newer stadiums, built in this century. The Etihad and Emirates are both large-capacity, multi-use stadiums chock full of modern amenities. Meanwhile, while Liverpool, Manchester United, and Chelsea have held onto their old stadiums, Anfield and Old Trafford have upgraded significantly in recent years, and plans are in the works for Stamford Bridge in the near future. In embarking on the new stadium, Tottenham has certainly displayed the ambition to cement itself as a top Premier League team along with the other five.

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The Lure of the Stadium’s Advanced Features

Modern cosmopolitan masses have slowly but surely become accustomed to everything needing to be experiential and multi-use. Sorry, it’s not enough to go out for pizza and a wicker jug of Chianti at the local Italian joint that’s been around since the 1960s. Nope, it has to be a fancy fusion dish at the new, hip, freshly-sourced, organic, artisanal restaurant with a half-dozen IPAs on tap and a game room in the back.

Likewise, the old-fashioned, outdated stadium model does not suffice any more. It’s not like the good old days, simpler times of a bygone era when people just went to the stadium to watch the game every weekend during the season, and that was it.

As an American (and North American), I hearken back to 1989 and the opening of the Toronto Blue Jays’ SkyDome (currently known as Rogers Centre), as well as Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones’ even more ambitious 2009 debut of Cowboys Stadium (now AT&T Stadium), for the idea that a stadium and “the stadium experience” has to be practically anything and everything, or in other words, MORE MORE MORE.

Some of the SkyDome’s big selling points were an enormous video board, office buildings, and a plethora of club seats and luxury suites, but what captured the public’s imagination was the near-shopping center feel of the massive arena with the inclusion of a retractable roof, a Hard Rock Café, the Renaissance Toronto Hotel, and a sweeping collection of fine art. Cowboys Stadium debuted with a retractable roof, glass doors, the world’s largest video screen (at the time), and air conditioning. Open year-round, SkyDome and Cowboys Stadium have been utilized as venues for NBA, college football, college basketball, soccer, wrestling, music concerts, and other events. [Source: Wikipedia.org]

What do we get from Spurs’ new arena? Well, just look at the Tottenham’s official New Stadium website. It sure looks and sounds pretty gosh darn glorious!

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SEATING CAPACITY

“New Stadium” will be able to hold 62,062 spectators, a big increase from White Hart Lane (36,284), second only to Old Trafford (75,643) among current Premier League arenas. The 62k encompasses 65 suites of millionaire loges having VIP access (parking, VIP entrance, and passages).

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HIGH TECH

The two largest LED screens, at 325 square meters each, are billed as the largest of any stadium in Western Europe. Another six screens add a further 1000 square meters of coverage.

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MULTI-SPORT/MULTI-USE

The stadium boasts the first-ever fully retractable pitch in the UK, wherein a grass pitch (used for Spurs matches) sits atop synthetic turf which could be put into play for NFL or other contests / concerts / events.

Two NFL games will take place at the stadium this coming autumn, but rumors that the Oakland Raiders would play all “home” games in London have been denied... for now.

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EATERIES AND DRINKERIES

An in-house bakery and a micro-brewery will be among the 60+ food and dining options available to all visitors, while more exclusive Michelin star caliber restaurants and more informal brasserie dining will be an option for On Four/H Club members. Ask KenM if you’re interested in more details.

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OTHER AMENITIES

The Tottenham Experience, which the club bills as “the largest retail space of any football club in Europe,” includes a club museum, a visitors center, a movie theater, club store, and cafe. There will be a “Sky Walk,” allowing visitors the opportunity to enjoy city views from a glass walkway 40 meters above the pitch.

The Northumberland Development Project, with the new stadium at the center, also features 585 new houses, a hotel, a health center, an extreme sports venue, a Sainsbury’s supermarket, a college, public spaces, and the Lilywhite House (Spurs’ headquarters offices).

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By the way, what’s the stadium’s “official name”?

In reading up on the new stadium, one will encounter a variety of names for the thing. The BBC regularly uses “Tottenham Stadium” sometimes with “New” in front of it. Other news outlets include “Hotspur” in the name, and some writers even call it the “New White Hart Lane” because that’s where it is — on White Hart Lane in London, the site of the old “White Hart Lane” stadium. The Spurs’ own web-site calls it simply “The Stadium” or “New Stadium” (usually not even capitalized). Well that’s a lot of help! So what should we call it?

Well, the clue is in Spurs’ reticence (and lack of capitalization). For now, all tags are mere descriptions. The club is negotiating for a sponsorship deal that will give the stadium its actual name going forward. That deal should be announced sometime before the start of next season (like the stadium was supposed to be ready by last September), and then we will know what to call the thing. Expect something as edifying as “Emirates” (a Mideast airline) or “Etihad” (another Mideast airline). Will Spurs play at “Gulf Air” stadium next year? Stay tuned.

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A Sad Goodbye to White Hart Lane (and Wembley)

Spurs’ fans enjoyed a long love affair with White Hart Lane from its opening in 1899 through its tearful closure at the end of the 2016-17 season. The Tottenham ownership had grand ambitions for a bigger and better stadium, which led to the squad calling Wembley its temporary home in 2017-18 while the new stadium was being built on the very site where White Hart Lane had just been demolished. The planned debut had been for the start of our current 2018-19 season, but construction and inspection delays have led to Spurs unexpectedly playing most of this campaign again in Wembley.

Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational footballing stadium!

Accompanying the delays, however, have been reported cost over-runs. That has resulted not only a financial dent, but also a stadium-sized lost opportunity cost.

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Wasting the Golden Years of Spurs’ Stars?

There are many terms that could appropriately describe the stadium situation, but for now let’s just say that it has been a problem, at the very least. Surely not coincidentally, at the same time the planned opening was delayed amid reports of financial trouble, in 2018 Spurs ingloriously became the first team in the Premier League era ever not to add even a single player to its roster in a summer transfer window. Even more ominously, Tottenham also failed to welcome anybody in the January 2019 winter window. While Spurs were sitting out, the other “Big Six” teams welcomed a bevy of impact players either to upgrade their starting line-ups or provide needed depth:

  • Arsenal: midfielder Lucas Torreira ($34.2m), goalkeeper Berndt Leno ($28.5m), defender Sokratis ($28.2m), midfielder Matteo Guendouzi ($9.1m), midfielder Denis Suarez ($2.9m, loan), and defender Stephan Lichtsteiner (free transfer)
  • Chelsea: keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga ($91.2m), midfielder Jorghiho ($65.0m), Gonzalo Higuaín ($10.3m, loan), and Mateo Kovacic (loan, part of Thibaut Courtois outgoing deal) [additionally $73.0m for Christian Pulisic in what will be a delayed move following the season]
  • Liverpool: keeper Alisson Becker ($71.3m), midfielder Fabinho ($51.3m), and midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri ($16.8m) [additionally Naby Keita in a delayed move from a deal made prior to the season for $68.4m]
  • Manchester City: midfielder Riyad Mahrez ($77.3m)
  • Manchester United: midfielder Fred ($67.3m), defender Diogo Dalot ($25.1m)
  • Tottenham: Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nil. Zero.

[Data source: www.transfermarkt.com]

Well, instead of new players, Tottenham got a new stadium. None of the other teams got one of those!

What that meant for the 2018-19 season, though, was yet another lost opportunity to grab a trophy, and in the minds of many supporters, yet another campaign where the otherworldly talents of Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Son Heung-min, Christian Eriksen, et al. were wasted. Another golden chance to challenge for the Premier League crown, the Champions League title, the FA Cup and Carabao Cup trophies, gone up in smoke.

Spurs again enjoyed a starting line-up filled with top-notch skill players, but simply lacked the necessary depth to fill in when injuries/suspensions/international absences inevitably hit. I think that we can safely say that the falloff at the key striker position from Harry Kane to Fernando Llorente is far, far greater than that from Sergio Aguero to Gabriel Jesus, Romelu Lukaku to Anthony Martial, or Roberto Firmino to Daniel Sturridge.

And that is not all. Elsewhere in the midfield, look at the depth when comparing Tottenham to Liverpool or Manchester City in particular (indeed, the teams that actually happen to be battling it out for the title). One of the best players in the league, Kevin De Bruyne, has hardly played this season due to injury, but City barely lost a beat with Bernardo Silva and Ilkay Gundogan filling in more than ably. Liverpool has suffered plenty of lost time from the likes of Adam Lallana, Jordan Henderson, Naby Keita, and Alexander Oxlade-Chamberlain, but the Reds are blessed with an abundance of quality options thanks to Georginio Wijnaldum, James Milner, Fabinho, and Xherdan Shaqiri, plus of course Sadio Mane and/or Mo Salah if you consider them attacking mids rather than forwards. If any one of Alli, Son, or Eriksen — or heaven forbid, more than one — are out, Lucas Moura and/or Erik Lamela are nice to have available, but fall far short of optimal.

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Will They Stay or Will They Go?

Whether the stadium situation is quickly forgotten as merely a minor mess or rued forever as a fiasco will depend on what happens in the near future.

It is not just a question of whether Spurs will add key players to improve the XI and add vital depth. There is also the matter of whether the current stars will stay, or if they will leave for greener pastures, pun intended. The Tottenham brass have not only been unwilling to add in players on the scope and scale of key EPL competitors such as Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United, but also have not opened up the checkbook on a comparable level with regard to wages.

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A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS MODEL FINANCIALLY, BUT NOT IN HARDWARE

Spurs’ bean counters have been miserly in recent seasons, particularly compared to Chelsea, Liverpool, Manchester City, and Manchester United. While the team has not won any titles or cups, Tottenham has still proven very effective, regularly finishing in the top four domestically and frequently making it to the knockout stages of Champions League, something that several of the other Big Six clubs cannot boast (although their trophy cases may actually feature something shiny).

Using hauls from selling stars such as Gareth Bale ($115.1m in 2013) and Kyle Walker ($60.1m in 2017), Tottenham has brought in most of its current regulars — Danny Rose ($1.1m in 2007), Jan Vertonghen ($14.3m in 2012), Hugo Lloris ($14.4m in 2012), Erik Lamela ($34.2m in 2013), Eric Dier ($5.7m in 2014), Ben Davies ($14.4m in 2014), Christian Eriksen ($15.4m in 2014), Kieran Trippier ($5.6m in 2015), Dele Alli ($7.6m in 2015), Toby Alderweireld ($18.2m in 2015), Son Heung-min ($34.2m in 2015), and Moussa Sissoko ($39.9m in 2016), Davinson Sanchez ($45.6m in 2017), and Lucas Moura ($32.4m in 2018) — for a fraction of what the other top EPL teams have spent on their stars.

Additionally, Tottenham has enjoyed a marvelous Academy system which has turned out not only crown jewel Harry Kane, but also promising diamonds in the rough such as Kyle Walker-Peters, Harry Winks, and Oliver Skipp, with an eye to further development by Mauricio Pochettino & Co. Taking the business model as a whole, by keeping costs down, things have turned out brilliantly with respect to ROI. But is that enough to compete with the true heavyweights on the pitch? Or does spending need to be increased? Can the new stadium kick things up a notch in that respect?

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WILL TOP STARS COME TO TOTTENHAM?

Bale has reportedly been unhappy at Real Madrid, spawning rumors running rampant regarding a return to the Premiership, with Manchester United and Tottenham two of the league’s teams oft-mentioned on the short list of possible destinations. However, based on Spurs’ historical business model, it would be difficult to imagine the North London outfit ponying up for either the massive transfer bounty or the expected weekly wage demands. Is it only wishful thinking that Spurs could buy back their former talisman? What truly elite stars would come if the current business model — and lack of on-pitch success — remains?

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WHAT WILL POCH, KANE, ERIKSEN, ET AL DO?

Pochettino seemingly gets linked with every major managerial opening in global football, although of course Zinedine Zidane taking the Real Madrid spot and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer doing likewise at Manchester United have dampened speculation of Poch’s departure for the time being. Kane often becomes subject to rumored moves to top clubs elsewhere, such as — again — Real Madrid. Eriksen’s contract situation remains up in the air, lending chatter that he may depart. Vertonghen is getting up in years, while Alderweireld and Rose have been mentioned with other destinations. Alli and Son surely would have no shortage of suitors should the opportunity present itself.

If Tottenham finishes this season strong and competes for trophies next season, perhaps the manager and top players will remain. Maybe Spurs will become a major destination for foreign stars as well. If things decline — or even stay the same — there instead may be an exodus. And it may only take one of the big names to make the first move — Pochettino, Kane, Alli, Son or Eriksen — for there to be a domino effect.

New stadium offers brilliant ambition with genuine hope for a move into the upper echelons, but the early troubles portend unfulfilled promise and merely more of the same. If the new site is a smashing success, quickly bringing a major influx of cash, Tottenham may indeed be able to soar to wondrous new heights in the global footballing landscape. If, however, the stadium proves to be a dud, bringing continued financial strain, then the Londoners will remain second-class citizens behind the true heavyweights of the EPL.

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Expected Success on the Pitch (or Lack Thereof)?

Many remember Tottenham enjoying an enormous home advantage in the beloved, cozy confines of White Hart Lane. But just how accurate is that memory? The prime example conjured up is the transition from White Hart Lane’s final season to the first campaign at Wembley, when indeed Spurs suffered a major falloff in home performance compared to results on the road. And the numbers certainly have been about the same the second time around at Wembley, seemingly further cementing that story.

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Home and Away Performance, Wembley vs. White Hart Lane’s Last Season

SEASON STADIUM HOME GP HOME PTS HOME PPG HOME RANK AWAY GP AWAY PTS AWAY PPG AWAY RANK
SEASON STADIUM HOME GP HOME PTS HOME PPG HOME RANK AWAY GP AWAY PTS AWAY PPG AWAY RANK
2018-19* Wembley 14 28 2.00 #6 17 33 1.94 #3
2017-18 Wembley 19 43 2.26 #5 19 34 1.79 #2
2016-17 White Hart Lane 19 53 2.79 #1 19 33 1.74 #5

However, let’s not look merely at the final season before the move. What do the numbers show when we instead take an expanded view, including the last five seasons at White Hart Lane?

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Home & Away Performance, Wembley vs. White Hart Lane, Last 5 Seasons

SEASON STADIUM HOME GP HOME PTS HOME PPG HOME RANK AWAY GP AWAY PTS AWAY PPG AWAY RANK
SEASON STADIUM HOME GP HOME PTS HOME PPG HOME RANK AWAY GP AWAY PTS AWAY PPG AWAY RANK
2018-19* Wembley 14 28 2.00 #6 17 33 1.94 #3
2017-18 Wembley 19 43 2.26 #5 19 34 1.79 #2
2016-17 White Hart Lane 19 53 2.79 #1 19 33 1.74 #5
2015-16 White Hart Lane 19 36 1.89 #5 19 34 1.79 #2
2014-15 White Hart Lane 19 33 1.74 #8 19 31 1.63 #4
2013-14 White Hart Lane 19 36 1.89 #7 19 33 1.74 #6
2012-13 White Hart Lane 19 38 2.00 #6 19 34 1.79 #4

*2018-19 through 31 games

[Data source: www.soccerstats.com]

Clearly, it looks as if 2016-17 at White Hart Lane was an otherworldly outlier, not the norm. In four of the last five seasons at White Hart Lane, Tottenham ranked better on the road than at home. In the past two seasons, Wembley has merely continued that general trend, rather than breaking with tradition.

So if Spurs perform similarly at New Stadium — that is, if they perform better on the road than at home in terms of league rank — they will merely be doing what they normally do, no matter the locale, rather than performing shabbily at home and failing to live up to expectations. Performing poorly at home relative to the road should be the expectation, not anything to decry. If they do fare extremely well at home and make that the new normal, it will be nothing to take lightly, and indeed a celebration will be in order!

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THE UPCOMING SCHEDULE

Tottenham’s remaining EPL season is extremely home-tilted, with five games at the new stadium and only two away. On top of that, by far the toughest game comes away.

HOME: Crystal Palace, Huddersfield, Brighton, West Ham, Everton

AWAY: Manchester City, Bournemouth

Given the schedule, Spurs have a wonderful opportunity just waiting to be grabbed. Will they take it, or will it slip through their fingers? And then there’s the all-important Champions League match on April 9th hosting Man City.

On one hand, hope springs eternal, as it should. On the other, it’s difficult not to be more pessimistic when looking to the legacy of SkyDome and Cowboys Stadium. The Toronto Blue Jays enjoyed tremendous success following the opening of SkyDome, winning two World Series crowns in 1992 and 1993. Since then, fellow American League East teams New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox have asserted their dominance, with a combined tally of nine titles.

In the NFL, Dallas has made four playoff appearances since the new stadium opened in 2009, but has won only three wildcard games in that span, failing to recapture the glory of its Super Bowl-winning teams of the 1990s. Casual fans will associate NFL dominance with the New England Patriots, but even more painfully for the Cowboys, two other teams from their NFC East division — New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles — have won Super Bowls since Jerry Jones’ fancy dome was unveiled.

If you were to be (or already are) in London, would you be sure to take in a Spurs’ match at brand new Tottenham Stadium? Do you think playing in their new stadium will help or hurt Spurs in the league (from April 3) and in Champions League (April 9)? What do you expect to be the impact over the next couple/few seasons and beyond? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!

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