17 January ~ After months of speculation, Tottenham Hotspur have finally outlined their plans for the Olympic Stadium, should they be selected by the Olympic Park Legacy Committee as the preferred bidder on January 28. However, the potential move is being met with opposition from the club’s own supporters and local politicians. While the five-mile move to Stratford pales in comparison to the 70 miles from Wimbledon to Milton Keynes, it does represent a move from north to east London and takes Tottenham Hotspur FC out of Tottenham.
“I’m surprised such a move would even be considered,” says David Lammy, the MP for Haringey. “It's as if we're willing to tear out the page and start anew, allowing the big business of football to triumph over history and community.”
Most fans accept that Spurs’ long-term future lies way from White Hart Lane. With a capacity that is just over 36,000 – almost 20,000 lower than the average of those who reached the last 16 of this year's Champions League – each home match played at the Lane represents unfulfilled revenue potential. With a season-ticket waiting list that has recently swelled to 34,000, the stadium is simply too small to meet the demand to see Harry Redknapp’s newly successful team.
Having gained planning permission from Haringey Council and the approval of the Mayor of London for their proposal to build a new 56,000-seater stadium in Northumberland Park – adjacent to White Hart Lane – many felt that the club’s interest in the Olympic Stadium would subside. However, in recent weeks the campaign has only intensified. After being forced to make revisions to the original plans, the estimated cost of a stadium in Northumberland Park is £450 million. The project will not benefit from public funding, but there can be no suggestion that this is due to a desire of Haringey Council to see the club leave the area. As one of the poorest boroughs in London, it is simply not viable to offer money that is needed elsewhere to aid in the building of a football stadium.
Lammy fears that the loss of jobs if Spurs were to move to Stratford would have “terrible repercussions” for his constituency. He is also bemused by the impression of some fans that the council's demands are the reason for the escalating costs. He said: “There can be absolutely no suggestion that Haringey is driving the club out. The sums spoken of are in fact £17m for a Section 106 Agreement which, in comparison to projects such as the Emirates, is highly reasonable.”
West Ham’s vice chair, Karren Brady, has condemned the Spurs proposal for the stadium, describing it in her Sun column as a “smash and grab raid in our manor”. Where Spurs plan to partially demolish the stadium and rebuild it, West Ham have promised to retain the running track that circles the pitch, gaining the support of UK Athletics in the process. However, there are doubts whether they could draw sufficient crowds to fill the stadium, especially if they are relegated.
Opposition from Spurs fans has increased with the potential move seen as more than a negotiating tactic in an effort to secure funds for their preferred option. Bernie Kingsley, head of the Tottenham Supporters Trust, outlined the position of the fans when he said: “We would very much prefer Tottenham Hotspur to remain in Tottenham and press on with the Northumberland Development Project, which we have supported throughout although we accept it has to be financed without compromising the club’s long term viability.”
The desire for the club to remain in their historical heartland has lead to the formation of the group We Are N17. With an online petition that has already amassed over 4,500 signatures, the group aim to provide an outlet for a fanbase angered by the club’s failure to consult them in any meaningful way during this process. Jonathan Bradley