Tottenham to Wembley: Possibilities and Potential Pitfalls

Tottenham Hotspur have played their last game at White Hart Lane. The ground, home to the club since 1899, is set for immediate demolition to make way for an impressive new stadium.

But their new home – at least temporarily – will be Wembley Stadium.

The club began construction on a new $950 million dollar stadium two years ago in the shadow of their current home, closing one stand for this season in order to make room for the construction. The new stadium (shown above) is set for a capacity of 61,000 – far more than the Lane’s 36,000 – and features facilities to accommodate NFL football. The NFL reportedly contributed $12.8 million toward construction – the league has a 10-year agreement to play a minimum of two games per year at the stadium.

In order to complete the project, however, Spurs have to relocate all home Premier, cup and Champions League games for the 2017-2018 season. The team recently announced a deal with the English FA, after 18 months of negotiations, to play those games at Wembley Stadium.

Wembley is not new to Tottenham, but in recent history, it has not been kind. The club played four Champions and Europa League games at the national stadium this season due to UEFA rules. They lost three of them. They also lost the FA Cup semi-final to Chelsea there last month. In fact, the club has played nine games there since it was refurbished in 2007, and they’ve only won two. Some have argued that the much larger pitch and slower surface both work against Spurs playing style.

Spurs troubles at Wembley are in stark contrast with their stellar record at White Hart Lane this season, where they were undefeated in 19 games. The club may not be able to replicate that kind of home record no matter where they play, but in the new stadium it will be a significant challenge.

The move may have implications on the pitch, but it will also impact the club off the field as well. The increased capacity of Wembley will definitely facilitate ticket sales. Tottenham was 6th in the Premier League in matchday revenue in 2015-2016. In Wembley, with a 90,000 seat capacity, the potential for increasing game day revenue is massive.

For example, in the Champions League games Tottenham played at Wembley this season, they had over 85,000 fans for the two games before they were eliminated, and 62,000 showed up for a mostly meaningless final group stage game in December against CSKA Moscow. They then set a Europa league attendance record of 80,465 for their home game against Gent in February. Spurs have proven they can draw, so it will be interesting to see how many tickets they can sell over a full season’s fixtures.

Tottenham Chairman Daniel Levy also announced that the team also has secured an option to play a second season at Wembley if the new stadium is not finished on schedule. The 2018-19 season will start somewhat later than usual because of the World Cup in Russia, and it is not unprecedented for the FA to schedule early away fixtures to accommodate off-season renovations, as it did for Liverpool this year. Levy and the club are hopeful that the move to Wembley will only be for one season, but it all depends on project completion.

A second season at Wembley for Tottenham could potentially impact the other major developing London stadium situation – Chelsea FC’s $650 million dollar plan to “redevelop” Stamford Bridge – demolishing the current stadium and replacing it with a new stadium on the current site.

Plans are for Chelsea to play at an alternative London stadium for up to three seasons during construction. Owner Roman Abramovich originally hoped to demolish, temporarily move and begin construction for 2018-2019, but ESPN recently reported the project may not develop until 2019-2020, or even the summer of 2020, so it may not be an issue.

Tottenham’s impending move to Wembley Stadium has the potential to generate revenue, but the move has potential pitfalls as well. The club will hope to build on this year’s strong Premier League performance and carry the momentum into their new stadium, but they need to have success at Wembley next season to do that. If this season is any indication, that will be a tough task.

Tottenham’s motto is Audere Est Facere, or “To Dare is to Do.” Spurs are daring to play a full season at Wembley. The question is – how will they do?

RELATED STORIES: Tottenham Begins Two-Year Transition to a New Stadium

This article first appeared in the weekly Soccer Stadium Digest newsletter. Are you a subscriber? Sign up here for your free subscription!

, , ,

August Publications