Spurs hoping their numbers come up in new stadium
With a bigger home than Arsenal, Tottenham will shoot for lasting supremacy
A Spurs fan looks at an artist’s impression of the new stadium
Of all the numbers that cling to Tottenham’s new stadium project – and there are many, some of them mind-boggling – there is one that screams for attention in north London.
It is the projected capacity of 61,559. The final figure could change. The club continue to finetune the design and they have applied for permission to go higher than 62,000. But what can be said for certain is that the ground will become the second-largest on England’s club football landscape.
It will be smaller than Old Trafford, which holds 75,643, but bigger than Emirates Stadium, which accommodates 59,867.
That, for Tottenham, is a very big deal. Talk to anybody at the club about the new stadium, which is rising fast on the site of the old 36,284-capacity White Hart Lane, and that is the detail they invariably volunteer. It will be bigger than Arsenal’s.
Tottenham have long been fixated with ruling the roost in their neighbourhood and as they approach the derby today at their temporary home of Wembley they enjoy a four-point advantage over Arsenal in the Premier League. They know that victory would not only enhance their top-four prospects but deal a serious blow to those of their rivals. There is a bigger picture.
For Tottenham, Arsenal have been the benchmark in business terms. When they left Highbury for the Emirates in 2006, trading a much-loved but hemmed-in 38,500-seat venue for a state-of-the-art bowl, they entered a new ballpark in every sense.
Year on year, and aided by the revenue streams from regular Champions League qualification, Arsenal powered clear of Tottenham on a financial level.
It has been a wonder that Tottenham have been able to lever themselves above them on the pitch – they finished clear of Arsenal in the league last season for the first time since 1995 – and compete with the rest of the so-called big six.
It has been down, in large part, to the alchemy of Mauricio Pochettino who, since his arrival as manager in the summer of 2014, has spent a net £40.25 million (€45.4 million) on permanent transfer deals.
To reinforce the point, that is £40.25 million over eight transfer windows. By way of comparison, Arsenal – under Arsène Wenger – have shown a net spend of £163 million in the same period. Pochettino has still pieced together the most exciting Spurs team in years.
Tottenham have been painfully aware of the need to construct a more robust platform upon which to challenge and they have taken their inspiration from Arsenal. To borrow the poker phrase, they have seen their oldest rival’s move and sought to raise them.
They want their new stadium to be bigger and better; they have obsessed, for example, over how to create the most immersive atmosphere. The 17,500-seat single-tier home end will be the centrepiece.
Crucially, the move will enable them to bridge the gap to Arsenal in financial terms, beginning with match-day revenues. According to Deloitte’s football money league, which was published last month and analyses the 2016-17 season, Arsenal made £100 million in gate receipts compared with £45.3 million for Spurs.
Earnings at Spurs were up by £4.5 million on the previous season, however, mainly because they hosted their Champions League games at Wembley, giving them a taste of what might be to come in a big stadium.
Arsenal sit sixth in Deloitte’s table with total income of £419 million while Tottenham are 11th with £305.6 million – the figures boosted by a huge increase of £77.8 million in broadcast revenue helped by their Champions League participation, the first under Pochettino.
Commercially, Arsenal remain ahead, earning £117.3 million to £72.1 million, but Tottenham believe this is another area where the stadium will get them closer. With such a status piece, they will become more attractive to sponsors.
There are many other potential uplifts. White Hart Lane was not fit for purpose in terms of corporate hospitality whereas the new stadium will push fine-dining.
It will become a conference and events venue – like the Emirates – and the hotel being built as part of the development will complement that. The stadium’s multifunctionality will help, too. Thanks to the retractable pitch, it will stage NFL games and, perhaps, concerts and boxing.
The bottom line for the fans is that the stadium and increased revenues will equip the club with the means to attract and keep the A-list names. The theory is that players such as Harry Kane will get the salaries to convince them Tottenham ought to be their destination club rather than a stepping stone.
Pochettino is excited. Like everybody, he knows that the clubs with the biggest stadiums and highest turnovers win almost all of the prizes. “When we finish the new stadium and settle there, it would be the time to say: ‘Now, we will win the title,’” he said in December.
Will it work like that? Is it in the nature of the chairman, Daniel Levy, to loosen the purse strings? Tottenham will have bank debts of £400 million to repay over a five-year period and they have pledged to find the rest of the required £850 million themselves.
Last May, the club announced they had spent more than £340 million on the project, which included £100 million from the banks.
It was certainly interesting to hear Wenger say last month that Arsenal still had “financial restrictions from the banks” relating to the £390 million Emirates build. One of the problems for them – and everyone else – is that they cannot compete on a financial level with the Manchester clubs.
In many respects, Tottenham are living an austerity period under Pochettino. The new stadium opens next season and if and when the shackles come off, the possibilities are tantalising.