Tag Archives: Spurs and the NFL

Q&A: Your questions answered on the new Spurs stadium and the state of the club’s finances

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Charles Richards / @spurs_report

I have written extensively about the new Spurs stadium and finance issues on this blog for the past two years. I get a steady stream of questions from Spurs fans keen to know more about the stadium, and the club’s financial health. In particular, the jump in construction costs to £800m has caused a considerable amount of concern.

Borrowing the idea from more imaginative bloggers, I asked my Twitter followers to send in their questions — and boy did you. I had more than 40 questions, *most* of which were serious. I’ve grouped the questions into subjects, and tried to answer as many as I can.

NAMING RIGHTS

@KarnaRohit
Any chance we can still have it called White Hart Lane ? How much are the naming rights going for ?
@hertfordlilly
How far off are we from finalising naming rights? This year’s performance must mean we are in a stronger bargaining position?

There is zero chance the new stadium will be called White Hart Lane — well, unless you have £300m burning a hole in your back pocket and want to buy the rights for the next 10 to 15 years. Daniel Levy has made clear, from the outset of this project, that Spurs will look to sell naming rights, and nothing will make him deviate from this plan. It is an integral part of the project funding.

In terms of naming rights, we’re now into the window of when the club may announce it. Levy has previously stated that a deal is typically agreed after the midway point in construction: sponsors want to know the stadium is going to be delivered on time and as specified. In terms of an “optimum” time — you think once demolition of old White Hart Lane is complete, this would be the time to do it. That should be around September — but it is just conjecture. The announcement that Spurs were renewing the AIA partnership until the end of 2022 suggested there won’t be a joint shirt-stadium sponsorship arrangement such as Arsenal have with Emirates. It seems unlikely Spurs would agree to a short extension with AIA if a naming rights deal weren’t signed and sealed.

Whenever I tweet the words “naming rights”, a bunch of people say “it’s going to be Nike”. I’m pretty confident it won’t be — it’s a building, not a superstar striker. I wrote about naming rights a while back, and urged caution on what Spurs could expect — the talked-about £30m per year seems extremely optimistic. I hope I’m proved wrong — Spurs have picked a good time to go up a level in league performance, and the NFL tie-in may appeal to some companies.

WEMBLEY

@njs10
Are we going to make more money next season at Wembley vs last season at WHL and how does that compare to season after at new stadium?
@jakemrich3
How will Wembley affect revenue? If we get nothing from food but how much of ticket sales do we get and will it counter the rent?

It is extremely hard to forecast what impact playing at Wembley will have on Tottenham’s bottom line. First, we don’t know how many tickets/hospitality packages Spurs will sell — maybe we’ll sell out every game, but I strongly doubt it — and second, we don’t know how much Spurs are paying. I’ve seen figures of around £20m per year bandied around. But do Wembley take a slice of ticketing income? And how are concession sales split? We just don’t know.

(Update: Spurs will NOT receive proceeds for concession sales. See comment below, with link to THST minutes)

However, we do know one thing: when full, Wembley is a cash cow, there’s a reason two Champions League finals and countless other major sporting events have been hosted there. If Spurs can come close to selling it out each week, and make a good stab at the corporate hospitality market, then, even with the rental fee subtracted, Spurs should easily exceed the modest £40m or so matchday revenue from White Hart Lane.

On the subject, here’s a fun fact: Daniel Levy once tried to buy Wembley. Talk about things coming full circle.

WAGES

@WindyCOYS
Do you have a feel for (or better, actual info) whether our players are *actually* underpaid compared to similar players at wealthier clubs? And, if so, how long will we need at new WHL before we can expect to see increase in wage spending (i.e. how long did it take other clubs)?
@m13tul
Revenue 2 wages we have always been 40% to 48%. If we try and up that figure to 55% will it make enough of a impact and what is he downside

Spurs had a wage bill of £100m in 2016, and revenue stood at £209m. The average wage bill of the other top six was £211m. Quite simply, Spurs have been playing in a different league to the other five teams, and it only underlines what a remarkable job Mauricio Pochettino has done.

However, things change quickly.

In the coming years, Tottenham’s revenue is going to soar: the next accounts will show Champions League revenue and the new PL deal (income from the latter alone will jump from £95m to £148m). From next season, we’ll have the additional income from Wembley, as well as another season of Champions League football. After that we should be into our new stadium and all the additional revenue that comes with that. There will also be the uptick from the next kit deal.

By my (very rough) projection, Tottenham’s revenue should jump to around £275 million next season, and the only way afterwards is up. Of course, Spurs will have stadium financing costs to absorb, but there is significant scope to increase the wage bill as required.

Spurs aren’t standing still. In the current accounting period, 13 Spurs players have signed new contracts, while Champions League participation likely will have triggered significant bonuses.

Are Spurs players underpaid? Sure they are — every single one could dramatically increase their earnings if they moved to another top six club. Ultimately, Chelsea and Man City are billionaire playthings and will always be able to offer more than a rationally run club such as Spurs. But Spurs, with every window that goes by, will be in a better position to compete. While we’re offering Champions League football, a chance to compete for trophies and be part of a close-knit and ambitious squad, plus the best manager in the league, we’ve got points in our favour too.

I don’t think the relatively low wages is just a case of Daniel Levy driving a hard bargain, Pochettino also appears to have made a virtue out of keeping a relatively fair balance of incomes among the squad. This will remain true through the years ahead — you’ll see the likes of Dele, Eric Dier and Harry Kane regularly sign new contracts, each time bumping them higher and higher, creating new ceilings. If Kyle Walker moves to Manchester this summer, it will be spun as “Spurs can’t afford to keep Walker”; but actually the situation is far more complex. Walker allowed his head to be turned, in the heat of a title race — for Pochettino, this may be an unforgivable breach of the team ethic by a player who is ultimately relatively easily replaced.

As for wage-to-turnover ratio, actually for Spurs it has rarely been in the 40 to 48 percent bracket. Generally, in the last decade, it has been between 50 to 60 percent. It topped out at 65 percent in 2013 — spending more on wages is no guarantee of success.

Spurs are hoping to bring it to about 45 percent through the stadium construction phase — but ultimately, keeping this special squad together has far greater financial benefits than whatever savings could be made achieving that ratio.

You can read my analysis of the 2016 accounts here, and I explored the issue of balancing stadium and on-pitch success here.

OWNERSHIP

@stevecco
THFC in unprecedented position for title challenge. Balancing the books is laudable but why is the owner so reluctant to dip into own pocket

I’m guessing, the photos that spread about “Uncle” Joe Lewis’s new yacht didn’t go down too well?

As Spurs majority owner, Lewis has been consistent through his tenure: he doesn’t speak, and he doesn’t put significant money into the club. Spurs has always been an investment — ENIC stands for English National Investment Company. It’s been a hugely successful one. When ENIC first bought a 27% share in 2001, the deal valued Spurs at around £81m. The value now is comfortably above £1 billion.

Lewis’s worth is estimated at around $5.7bn, per Forbes, but, there has never been any indication that it is for spending. Nothing is going to change at this point. Personally, I’m fine with the current ownership — Lewis isn’t extracting money from the club in dividends, or borrowing against its assets personally, while Daniel Levy is an experienced and competent chairman who cares about the club. Success earned is far more satisfying than success bought — whether it’s dodgy Chinese tycoons, unpleasant Qataris or spivs pretending to be billionaires, be careful what you wish for.

DEBT

@FrankMersland
How huge is the clubs debt stipulated to be when the stadium is built? And how much to be paid in annual mortgage/interest?
@jilllewis33
Seen suggestion Arse made big thing of making funding streams public while we’ve been more secretive. Any cause for concern/funding gaps?
@Phon1k
We will be the most indebted football club in the world when the stadium opens, cant uncle joe lewis just pay it all off?

The simple — and scary — answer: we don’t yet know how big the debt will be, or how much it will cost each year. Spurs have agreed a £350m funding package with three banks, and this will be the main element of the finance. But, with costs set to top £800m, more money is going to need to be found. Naming rights and future ticket sales are the main two elements to add to the funding mix — but it’s not clear how much Spurs will actually be able to bring in and if another debt facility may be required. By my (very rudimentary) assessment, Arsenal’s finance cost peaked at £47m, and hovered around £40m for four years before being refinanced to a lower annual payment. Arsenal pay around £20m per year on their Emirates “mortgage”. Spurs will likely pay more as we are borrowing more, but it’s impossible to say how much it will be until the details are known. We’ll get our first look in the next accounts. In terms of length, think the mortgage on your house — this will be a long-term arrangement.

The transparency question is an interesting one. There’s a balance to be struck between keeping fans informed and protecting commercial information; Spurs will reliably err on the side of the latter. It’s just part of Levy’s personality, and isn’t going to change. The club has said it will announce the funding package, and I would expect it to explain the financing costs when the annual report is published. But we’re not going to get a running commentary, as the saying goes.

Will Spurs be the most indebted football club in the world? It depends how you measure it. Here’s a handy guide.

Manchester United’s net debt, at last recording, was £409.3m — Spurs may or may not end up topping this (I suspect Spurs will, not least as the club has already invested heavily in the training centre). United have that debt for the privilege of being owned by the Glazer family, while Spurs are going to have the best new stadium in the world. Technically, there’s a clear leader in the debt stakes — on paper at least, Chelsea owe Roman Abramovich £1.053bn.

And no, Uncle Joe isn’t paying off Tottenham’s debt.

NFL

@brits_endzone
Is the plan for the new stadium to be the home of the NFL London franchise (if it happens). If so do you think that’s good for spurs overall

Spurs have made clear they are building a home not just for themselves, but also for the NFL if the American league decides it wishes to put a franchise into London. The NFL has put a small amount of money in — around £10m up front plus a 20-game agreement that will be worth tens of millions — and has been actively engaged through the design and construction phase.

A year ago, I wrote that it appeared that the NFL was close to pushing the button on a London franchise, but there has been little in way of developments since then. There are major logistical hurdles: training, travel, tax, and those are just the things that begin with “T”. There’s another scenario, in which rather than having a franchise, the NFL plays a full eight-game schedule in London (or a full eight-game schedule overseas, including London, Mexico City and wherever else they take games). It works well with a 32-team league — each team plays overseas every other year, and loses a home game every four years. It gives London fans the chance to see regular NFL football, but without the risk of having to endure a terrible team such as the Jaguars on a permanent basis.

What does this mean for Spurs? The NFL deal is a winner as it guarantees that at least two of the 16 non-Spurs major event slots are used. Each one will probably be worth between £2m and £3m for Spurs, so the more they can get booked out, the better. The NFL connection may offer some marginal uplift in terms of naming rights, and modestly boost Tottenham’s profile in the USA. But if Cameron Carter-Vickers kicks on and represents Team USA regularly, that would probably be a far greater boost. If the NFL does decide it wants a franchise in London, then Spurs can help in other ways — for example in helping build a training facility, accommodating players, and so forth. Hotspur Way is becoming home-from-home for NFL players visiting the UK — they all head up there for marketing work, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has visited.

TRANSFERS

@ZevRoberts
How much money realistically do we have to spend in the coming transfer windows?

Whatever Spurs spend, it will be dwarfed by what the other members of the top six spend, and possibly a few of those below. But there is money to spend if needed — Spurs found £30m on deadline day last summer for Moussa Sissoko, for example. I’d expect Spurs to have around £30m to £40m net over the next couple of summers, plus whatever profits can be rolled in from player trading. This summer, there is £18m of Nabil Bentaleb money to spend, and likely a decent profit on Kevin Wimmer if he moves on. Plus there could well be Kyle Walker money to spend. On the one hand, we’re not going to spend as much as Manchester United or Manchester City; but on the other hand, we have far less work to do. There’s nothing that should stop Spurs competing for talented youngsters such as Ryan Sessegnon, or spending big to fill the troubled right-sided midfield position.

REVENUE

@mepfish
Current match day revenue is £40m vs Arse £100m. Post stadium build will we eliminate this differential?
@craig4589
Aside from incr revenue from ticket sales, what are the significant commercial opps the new stad brings? What extra revenue could we expect?
@lewkc1
How, specifically (like by revenue stream, can Spurs close the gap with other 5 and how does stadium help that?

The aim of the stadium isn’t to eliminate the gap in matchday revenue with Arsenal, it is to put Arsenal behind us. It’s not a design statement like Roman’s coliseum, if Chelsea’s new stadium is ever built: everything Spurs have done is about maximising revenue. Even without the NFL connection and facilities, it feels very American — designed to make you spend time there and open your wallet, whether you are in the South Stand, or in a Sky Box. Things have moved on a lot in the decade since the Emirates was built.

So aside from beers and burgers, how else can Spurs make money? There are 16 non-Spurs major events allowed each year, two of which are blocked out by the NFL. Spurs will want to fill as many of these as possible, earning between £2m to £3m a time. They may get some help from AEG to fill these slots. In addition, the club is marketing the stadium as a year-round destination, aiming to attract visitors to the Tottenham experience, restaurants and stadium tours; there will also, no doubt, be conferences hosted within the stadium. This will feel more tangible once the hotel and luxury housing is developed on the southern portion of the site — bless it, but Tottenham High Road is hardly Regents Street.

The area Spurs continue to lag most seriously is in commercial revenue. While Manchester United are a money-making machine, and Manchester City pump revenues to evade FFP, Spurs continue to fall further and further behind. The new Nike deal sums up the situation: a £30m annual fee brings parity with the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, but, seemingly out of nowhere, Chelsea tore up its Adidas deal and signed up with Nike for £60m per year. Spurs don’t seem aggressive or well-connected in this particular market, which is why I’m cautious on naming rights. For now, all Spurs can do is keep on winning and hope this brings new deals.

ACCESS

@basdaly How many Wheelchair Accessible Seats will there be in the New stadium ? Thanks

Per the planning documents, there will be 259 wheelchair spaces in the new stadium. In old White Hart Lane, there were just 51.

I’ve not yet seen confirmation of final number of wheelchair spaces as the seating configuration has been tweaked in the past two years. But, there’s no excuse for a brand new stadium in accessibility. If you look at the stadium cameras now, you can make out some of the areas for disabled fans — right in the centre, not tucked away in the corners.

The full section of the planning statement is here:

Screenshot 2017-05-22 at 9.48.24 PM

READINESS

@pasavito
What happens if new stadium isn’t ready in Aug 2018? Could we play in a stadium that is maybe 4/5′s complete? Would we be allowed to?

The stadium, quite simply, has to be ready. The aim is to be ready for July 2018 — that will enable test events to take place before the season starts, or, heaven forbid, something like Europa League qualification. If it slips into August, there are contingencies — Spurs could open the season with a block of away fixtures, similar to what Liverpool did last summer as their new stand was delayed. Essentially, this gives Spurs until mid September due to the international break. After that, if the stadium still isn’t ready, it would be a second year at Wembley. Daniel Levy has confirmed that there is a contingency arrangement in place for that scenario. Unfortunately, Premier League rules prevent a team from having two home stadiums in a season, so there’s no chance of switching after Christmas, say.

It won’t be possible to play in a partially finished stadium — Spurs will be building the sliding pitch underneath the south stand, so it simply won’t work. Perhaps there is some leeway in terms of internal fit-out, but it promises to be an enormously difficult and stressful 15 months.

In terms of markers, Levy has said that the roof should start to go on in late January/early February 2018. If this happens, things are looking good. Spurs are pretty much working around the clock — here’s hoping they don’t discover any rare newts under old White Hart Lane.

That’s all I have time for — thanks to everyone who sent questions in. If you are looking for answers to specific queries, try the iSpurs section of the club website, or the stadium minisite — there’s a lot of information online. Some I couldn’t answer! If it’s really gnawing away at you, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments — it’s always nice to talk Spurs in the long summer month between post-season and pre-season tours.

New stadium update: ‘More or less’ on time and budget, 500 White Hart Lane, the NFL gamble explained, and more

stadiumconstrsept

Given the recent flurry of news and public comments, it is high time for another update on where things stand with the Spurs stadium project.

In recent weeks, the installation of dozens of giant “rakers” have started to finally give the structure that unique stadium shape, while along the High Road the stadium is starting to rise up high above the hoardings.

In this post, I’ll talk timelines, the NFL, training centres, housing and various other things. My last stadium update, from June, is here.

Timeline and costs

The regular board-to-board meetings between the club and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust have proven useful in gaining insight into the state of the project.

Per the minutes of the last meeting, released on Friday, Daniel Levy confirmed that the project is “more or less” on time and budget.

Crews are working seven days a week, with the aim of being ready to move out in the summer and ensure that only one year away at Wembley is needed.

Cost-wise, “the financial model is in good shape”, Levy said, but he noted the impact of the weakened pound and 7-day work schedule. “All possible resources” were being put into construction to ensure deadlines were met, Levy said, a hint the project is currently at the higher end of its budget.

What does “all possible resources” mean, in practice, beyond extending the hours worked on site to the permitted maximum?

Earlier this month, industry website Building.co.uk published a story stating that Spurs had purchased the five cranes that are being used on the site, as they were unable to hire any when required. Obviously the increased cost of purchasing cranes, rather than waiting for rented cranes to come available, was something the club was prepared to bear in order to ensure deadlines were met.

Given the fact that crews are on site seven days a week, and are even working during matchdays when there are 32,000 fans in the vicinity, it is safe to assume the pace of work is at the absolute maximum, and there is little to no leeway for delay.

Less positive are “considerable” delays to the rebuilding of White Hart Lane station, as well as Haringey’s High Road West regeneration plan. I’m not immediately clear what impact this will have on the club and matchgoing fans when the new stadium opens. Presumably insufficient public transport capacity may require some alternative arrangements on matchdays to ensure safety, but I am speculating. I’d welcome any insight on this.

The NFL explained

Earlier this month, ESPN published the rarest of things: a Daniel Levy interview.

It was fascinating as finally, among other things, Levy’s rationale for building a stadium with NFL facilities was revealed.

Previously, I’ve had fun trying to divine what the rationale may be, but now we know — there is no clear commitment from the NFL, just a considered gamble from Spurs that ultimately, when the NFL is ready for a London franchise, the league will select New White Hart Lane as its home.

“If it ever got to a stage where the NFL decided it wanted to have a permanent team in London, this stadium could literally be, whatever the team was, it would be their stadium as opposed to an NFL team feeling they’re renting Tottenham’s stadium.

“We would welcome very much close cooperation with the NFL and a dedicated team. Obviously a decision is entirely theirs whether they do bring a team to the UK, and where it would be located is something that would be talked about. But yes, we would be very much welcome to that scenario.

“Clearly we wouldn’t both be putting all this into this stadium if there wasn’t the prospect of one day a team eventually coming to London. But there are certainly no guarantees that A) a team comes to London, and B) they have to use our stadium. I think we’re all putting the effort in in the hopes that they will do it.”

Of course, there may be more to the 10-year, two-game agreement that can be currently disclosed, but these comments are the clearest indication of the state of affairs so far.

As far as I have seen, there have been no new comments from senior NFL figures since my last piece on the subject of a permanent London franchise. New London mayor Sadiq Khan expressed support for the idea after a trip to the US, where his meetings included one with Shahid Khan, the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, widely seen as the most likely franchise to relocate.

However, Spurs are finding other ways to make themselves useful to the NFL.

In subsequent excerpts of the interview, Levy essentially pitched the club’s services in providing training facilities for the NFL should a team be relocated.

“The NFL, a number of times when they’ve come to the UK, has used our training facility and, when a foreign organisation goes to another territory, I think being in partnership with a local operator brings enormous benefits.

“We’re going into this, hopefully the intention is our relationship will expand over time and we’re working very closely together. But I think in terms of training facilities and things like that, we have discussed that with the NFL, but again that’s something for the NFL to decide upon.”

The training facility of a London NFL team will be one of the knottiest issues for the NFL. It’s not like in most US cities where facilities can be thrown up very quickly — in London, it takes years to acquire land and gain consent. Spurs have a huge training facility, and there may be ways of reconfiguring what is there for NFL use, or even expanding slightly such has been done with the new player accommodation. See this thread for more details:

Spurs have a chance to make themselves very useful to the NFL here, and are smart to exploit this angle. It should be noted, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell visited the facility last autumn so will know just how impressive it is.

One final thought: this was a great interview, and Daniel Levy should do more.

I’m not saying he should take to tweeting like an idiot or start Kardashianizing himself like Jose Mourinho, but rather in a targeted way, get out there a little bit.

Raising the profile of the club now may have benefits in the search for stadium sponsors. So go and have “Lunch with the FT”, talk to AdWeek, get Gary Lineker around for some multi-channel PR schmoozefest as he does so effectively with his Goal Hanger productions.

The football media narrative is stuck on Jose, Jose and more Jose, with an occasional bout of Klopp-itis or Pep-worship. Mauricio Pochettino, when he’s not going rogue and comparing academy prospects to Lionel Messi, is circumspect in his dealings with the media and his English is still limited in terms of expressing himself fully.

There’s a great story to tell about Spurs at the moment, and it’s not really being told, in my opinion.

The club is producing more homegrown talent than anyone and is the major contributor of English players to the national team. It is building a world-class stadium without any assistance from the taxpayer. In general terms, the club is punching wildly above its weight in on-field performance, as the recent Manchester United financial statement highlighted.

If ever there was a time to talk about Spurs, it’s now.

Pictures — then and now

Construction is advancing rapidly, but what is it going to look like come the final farewell to old White Hart Lane in May next year?

I first saw this picture posted by @HotspurSam, and it is well worth showing again. It’s just an impression, but you can see how progress will need to be seriously rapid over the next seven to eight months. The picture in the top-right corner is the most eye-grabbing — that’s what we should see in May.

stadiumprogression

As I’ve said previously, it is going to look absolutely bizarre.

On the subject of progress, here are a couple of photos. The first is from June 2015, and the second is the latest aerial shot from the club (with blue lines and tint, but you get the picture).

stadiumjune15stadiumsept23

Pretty cool, huh?

The other White Hart Lane development

On September 12, Spurs received approval for its 500 White Hart Lane development, subject to a Section 106 agreement.

The industrial site was bought for the relocation of Archway Sheet Metal, but they did not take up the offer and ultimately moved elsewhere. The club then marketed the site to other occupants, unsuccessfully, before deciding to turn it into housing. It is a major project, with 144 residential units and (some) retail space.

The vote by the Haringey planning sub-committee was a close one — a motion to reject the proposal was lost by five votes to six, and then the project was approved by six votes to four with one abstention. There was noisy opposition to the project, per video of the event.

This is an interesting project in so much as Spurs are doing it at all. After Archway opted against taking the site, the easiest thing to do would have been to sell it on (no doubt at a nice profit given ever-rising land values in London). But, clearly, Spurs have a taste for property development and opted for the more ambitious option.

What Spurs do with 500 White Hart Lane — develop it themselves, or sell on a consented scheme to another developer — may offer hints for what will happen to the final stage of the stadium project.

Once the stadium itself is completed in (hopefully) the summer of 2018, attention will turn to the “Southern Development Land”. This in itself is a huge development, including a 180-room hotel, 585 housing units and other facilities.

While the stadium itself will cost around £500 million, this final phase will take the bill for the project to the £675m-£750 million figure. It is a huge challenge, and the general assumption is that Spurs will ultimately sell this off as a consented scheme and allow someone else to take the risk on it. It may not be that easy, though, as the scheme has a low “internal rate of return” — a measure of the appeal of a potential development to investors.

Either way, it’s one to keep an eye on — the focus at the club now will be firmly on getting the stadium done on time.

Until a decision is made, I am going to keep using the £675m-£750 million figure for the project. Ultimately, the hotel and housing has to be built, and currently the obligation to do so lies with the club.

And finally

I’ve written a couple of pieces recently related to the stadium — this one on naming rights, and this one on the challenge of balancing spending between the stadium and the team.

Do have a read if you’ve not already done so — they are detailed pieces, and should be of interest to those following this project.

Meanwhile, over at Chelsea, the club is now in a second period of public consultation due to changes to its plan to redevelop Stamford Bridge.

There’s a Twitter thread here with various links.

I wrote in May that this second consultation would be required — so I’m pleased that what I reported proved to be accurate.

However, from my initial reading of Chelsea’s changes, I’m not entirely clear how the concerns raised by Network Rail about safety and access to the railway that will run under the West Stand have been assuaged.

Any journalists or bloggers interested in a story could do far worse than give Network Rail a call — this stadium simply won’t be built until they sign off, and they were far from happy with the initial plans. My blogging time is limited now so I can’t follow this project as closely as I have done previously.

Thanks for reading, please follow me on Twitter for more stadium chat. Comments welcome, in particular on issues concerning delays to public infrastructure and the plans for the Southern Development Land.

Spurs stadium update: New information on capacity, design and other details, plus analysis of timeline and finances

 

stadium screenshot

Image by @ACEinBEDFORD

In recent months, huge progress has been made on the Spurs stadium project.

Key approvals have been gained, allowing construction to hit maximum pace. The stadium, as the timelapse video for May shows, is starting to emerge from the ground. An agreement has been reached for Spurs to play at Wembley in 2017/18, and Champions League games will also be played at the national stadium next season. Demolition work has started on the northeast corner of the ground.

By the final match of next season, the new stadium will be starting to emerge out of the old one, and the future of the club will be visible for all to see.

It will also look as weird as all hell, as this video from @ACEinBEDFORD shows.

It was a small thing, but I particularly liked how Spurs have added club logos to the giant cranes on site. To me, this bodes extremely well for the final finish of the stadium, and highlights the attention to detail in the planning phase. Spurs will be spending hundreds of millions on the stadium, but sometimes it is the tiniest of details that make the biggest difference when it comes to making a new “house” feel like a home.

In this update, I will discuss timeline, project finances and the NFL, and also provide some additional details of the project in terms of final capacity, colours, pitch and in-stadium connectivity.

You can read my previous reporting on the stadium here.

Attention to detail

While the club is doing a good job providing images, videos and updates on construction, there is really no end to the amount of information Spurs fans want.

I put a few questions to the club about the minutiae of the project, and to their great credit, a club spokesman gave me some answers

First, I asked about the final capacity of New White Hart Lane. In the planning documents, the “gross total” of all seats is 61,461, or 61,131 if you strip out seats allocated to media and players. However, this total was done before Mace, the construction contractor, had done its assessment. Are there any revisions to this number?

A club spokesman said the final seating number was not yet decided, but would be close to the 61,461 number.

“The capacity of the stadium will be approximately 61,000 and the exact figure continues to move slightly as we refine the detailed design, although we shall operate within the tested capacity established through the planning process,” the spokesman said.

My second question was about the pitch. The playing surface at White Hart Lane has been excellent for many years, greatly helping attractive football.

How were Spurs going to go about finding a new pitch, and were there plans in place to ensure an equally good playing surface and to avoid the issues Wembley experienced in its early years? Would it be hybrid or grass?

The spokesman confirmed the club was currently working on this issue and carrying out testing of various playing surfaces.

“We currently use a hybrid surface at White Hart Lane and we are in the process of examining and testing a number of different systems to ensure we achieve the highest possible quality surface at our new stadium,” the spokesman said.

My third question was a pretty basic one, but I’m not sure I’ve actually seen it confirmed beyond the mock-up images: What colour are the seats going to be? Will they be the “royal” blue currently at White Hart Lane, or will it be a switch to a “navy” blue?

“We shall be using traditional Spurs colours,” the spokesman said.

So there you have it.

Fourth, I asked about atmosphere, and specifically if there were any stadiums, for example the wonderful (and Populous designed) Grande Stade de Lyon, that Spurs/Populous are “learning from” in the design.

“Atmosphere has always been at the heart of our designs and we have studied some of the finest stadia in Europe best known for this,” the spokesman said. “We are looking at all aspects in terms of how we can create and retain an incredible atmosphere including the distance of the pitch from the stands, the tightness of the bowl and the introduction of a single tier south stand.”

Finally, I asked about connectivity. Much play gets made of how technology such as in-stadium wifi is incorporated into these projects, but, to be brutally honest, it doesn’t always work as well as intended. Would the club outsource this sort of technical aspect?

“We are working hard to ensure we deliver on our desire to make this stadium one of the most technologically advanced in Europe. We are currently in discussion with specialist contractors,” the spokesman said. “Technologies are updated continuously so we shall look to future proof too.”

Tight timeline

It is no secret that the timetable for this project is tight, and minutes published by the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust of a meeting with club executives last month confirmed this.

Mace, the company overseeing construction, is now working 15 hour days, seven days per week. According to Daniel Levy, construction is on schedule, “but it remains a hugely complex project.”

Levy confirmed that Spurs had requested two matches at the end of the 2016/17 be played away from White Hart Lane to give more time for demolition and construction. This isn’t quite the “last resort”, as a block of fixtures could also be requested away from New WHL at the start of 2018/19 season. But it shows just how tight it is that every bit of extra time is being sought.

The club has announced a Wembley deal for 2017/18, but reading between the lines of reports into the deal, a “second-year option” has in all probability been discussed in case of delays. And with approvals still needed for associated works, and the myriad logistical challenges that come with building a 61,000 capacity stadium in a dense part of North London, we shouldn’t kid ourselves that delays are possible.

I’m sure if you zoomed in on the webcams on site you’d see Kevin McCloud wandering around, as this is the ultimate episode of “Grand Designs”. And you know if you watch the programme, the contractors never deliver the bloody glass on time.

The good news for Spurs, in terms of Wembley availability, is that Chelsea appear quite bogged down in their plans for redeveloping Stamford Bridge. As I reported in April, Chelsea have yet to secure key consents and will have to go through another public consultation due to changes to the design.

Money and Naming Rights

In the minutes published by THST, Daniel Levy provided an update on the financial side of the project. He confirmed that the amount invested so far had risen to £150 million.

Meanwhile, contrary to ITK chatter, naming rights have not yet been put to market, but will be “shortly”.

It will be fascinating to see what Spurs can achieve in this regard. Personally, given the way the club is falling behind the likes of Chelsea and Arsenal in commercial deals, I’d be cautious in expecting too high a figure. However, with the upswing in on-field performance and exciting homegrown core of players, not to mention the NFL tie-in, Spurs should be a far better commercial proposition now than in recent seasons.

A concern of mine is that Spurs may seek to bridge any gap in funding by simply piling up more debt on what will already be a pretty large load — £350 million has been promised by banks. In the minutes, Levy addressed this concern, loosely, noting he was “aware of the level of debt the Club could sustain and there were lots of options open at this point.”

Levy also hinted at the possible structuring of the stadium from an ownership perspective, with the establishment of an SPV (a special purpose vehicle, which sounds more like something you need to get across the construction site than a financial arrangement).

According to filings with Companies House, Spurs registered two companies recently which point to such a structure: Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Development Limited (April 26) and Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Limited (April 27).

There are no details on these companies yet, but nonetheless, it indicates that the financial and legal structuring is also being put in place alongside the steel and concrete.

Spurs and the NFL

I wrote in detail recently about the NFL and how its plans for a team in London appear to be kicking into a higher gear.

In writing this story, I learned from an NFL UK source that the NFL is having regular meetings and conversations with Spurs through the construction phase, and feels “fully engaged”. The relationship between the NFL and the UK was characterised as “excellent” and “ongoing”.

This is hardly revelatory, but nonetheless I thought it was interesting that the NFL remains involved. No doubt, the NFL is keen to ensure the facilities for American football — the retractable pitch, the locker rooms and media facilities — are installed to specification.

This is a “first of its kind” project in the UK, meaning a lack of local expertise, so it is understandable the NFL is keeping a close eye that, for example, the artificial turf is the correct sort.

Thanks for reading. I welcome any comments, and please give me a follow on Twitter for more Spurs and stadium chat. The video is by Asil Purcell, proprietor of Visualhorizon3D. You can see more of his work here: 

As Spurs stadium rises, NFL moves closer to announcing London team

You can read my previous coverage on Spurs and the NFL here. My “deep dive” on the gamble being taken by Spurs with the NFL is here.  You can follow me on Twitter here.

Is London ready for some (American) football? The NFL appears to think so.

Comments in the off-season from Commissioner Roger Goodell, who described a London NFL franchise as a “realistic” prospect, and public support from the league’s powerful owners, indicate a decisive shift taking place, in which an idea is starting to turn into a reality.

If the NFL has not quite “pushed the button” on launching its first international franchise, the Commissioner’s finger is hovering above it.

Meanwhile, in recent weeks clearly visible progress has been made on the potential new home of a London NFL team, with Spurs’ spectacular new stadium finally starting to emerge from the ground.

The sense of momentum was crystallized in a report last week by CBS “insider” Jason LaCanfora, who stated that a London franchise was a “major topic of conversation” in a meeting of NFL owners in late May.

According to LaCanfora, Mike Waller, the NFL executive in charge of international matters, gave owners a “detailed progress report and presentation” which “led many teams to come away more convinced than ever that this is something (the NFL) very much wants to happen.”

The presentation detailed concerns over timing and travel requirements for playoff games, particularly if a London franchise drew a team on the US west coast.

LaCanfora connected the dots:

“Yes, that’s how far down the line the NFL is in addressing London contingencies, and these are the types of things owners are being asked to consider as further preparations are made toward moving a team to England.”

Crucial to any forward progress for a London team was finally sorting out a franchise for Los Angeles. The league couldn’t seriously move ahead with a franchise in London before placing one in the USA’s second-largest media market. This anomaly was rectified in January when it was announced that the Rams would be moving from St Louis to LA.

(There is no pretty way to move a franchise, and the people of St Louis were royally screwed. The outrage if a team is taken from a US city overseas will be even more vociferous.)

With this resolved, attention at the league’s Annual Meeting in Florida in late March could turn to other things. Judging by the comments by owners, it is clear that London was a topic of conversation. I counted four owners — the Dallas Cowboys, Cincinnati Bengals, Baltimore Ravens and New England Patriots — who discussed London in positive terms with reporters.

Jerry Jones, the Cowboys owner who is considered one of the most influential in the league, was asked by SI’s Peter King where was “next” after LA.

Jones replied: “We don’t get many opportunities to say “this is what we give back to fans, this is a wow”. Los Angeles was that. What else could we do that with? London looks like that to me.”

Jones also mentioned Mexico City, which will host its first regular season game next season, as a possible destination.

The importance of these comments can’t be stressed enough given how decisions are made in the league. It is the 32 owners who will ultimately decide on a London franchise.

A few days later, at a townhall meeting with members of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Goodell stated, clearly, that he felt London was ready for a franchise.

“As a market, I believe they (London) can support a franchise,” he said.

“I actually believe that a franchise in London is realistic.”

According to Goodell, his concern was ensuring a London team wasn’t at a competitive disadvantage due to logistical issues such as flight times and scheduling.

“I think we can find solutions to those issues,” Goodell said. “The way we schedule and the way we do things, those are things we’re still focused on.”

I don’t think the importance of these comments can be stressed enough. Before a franchise is placed in London, the league has to be comfortable with several pivotal things:

  • The London market can support an NFL franchise
  • A London franchise has a stadium to play in
  • There is a suitable candidate for relocation to London, or viable plans for expansion
  • US broadcasters are happy (London games would never be played in primetime Sunday, Monday or Thursday evening slots)
  • A London team, with logistical issues, would be competitive and schedule integrity would not be affected

Stating that the London market is ready for a full-time franchise is a HUGE statement, as without it, the rest is moot. Again, if the question now is the brasstacks of how the games are scheduled, then it is hard to argue against the idea that we are “almost there”.

If the market was the most important, second is the stadium. An NFL standard facility is required, and Spurs are delivering it. The Spurs stadium will feature a retractable pitch as well as NFL-size locker rooms and media facilities.

Huge steps have been taken by Spurs in the past few months in terms of receiving key permissions and commencing full-scale construction.

The NFL is in regular contact with Spurs and feels fully engaged in the stadium construction process, an NFL UK source told this blog. The relationship was characterised as “excellent” and “ongoing”.

(And yes, if this had been “terrible” and “dead in the water”, I might have a story)

A couple of weeks after Goodell’s comments, ESPN ran a long primer discussing the remaining hurdles for London — for example whether an expansion or a relocation was more likely, the issues facing players, and logistical matters. It is worth a read.

The final comment from an unnamed team executive summed up the mood:

“It’s one of those things where I know all the problems,” said the team executive. “But one of the things you learn in this league is it doesn’t matter what the problems are, you better figure them out because if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen, tough crap.”

The setting for Goodell’s comments was interesting, given the Jaguars are widely assumed to be the most likely franchise to move to London. Goodell tweaked the franchise, stating the growth of the market in northeast Florida was “below expectation.” Another contender is the Oakland Raiders, although a move for them to Las Vegas seems more likely.

The “magic date” (albeit never an official target) for an NFL franchise has always been 2022. In January, Mike Waller was quoted as saying by the BBC that plans were “on track” for a London team by this date. In my Q&A with Sky Sports NFL presenter Neil Reynolds, he said 2022 was “very realistic”.

Is the league on course for 2022? It would seem so. Judging by the comments from owners in recent months, London is at the forefront of their thoughts and discussions. I can’t recall an owner trashing the idea of a London franchise, or at least not in recent years. (Please point out these comments if they do exist, I’m interested to learn)

“Pushing the button” on an NFL franchise in London doesn’t mean it will materialise overnight. Instead, it will trigger the start of an ignition sequence preparing for launch to the next footballing frontier.

If the NFL put it to a vote and announced the establishment of a London franchise by the time of its next Annual Meeting in 2017, that would give the league five seasons to launch in time for 2022/23. Five years to build the hype, five years to find a team, five years to resolve any lingering logistical issues, five years to experiment with new timeslots in London that appeal to US broadcasters.

I’m biased on this because I’m a huge NFL fan and would love to see a team in London. The fact that it would most likely use New White Hart Lane as its home only adds to the appeal.

But I’m pretty sure that interest would grow rapidly across the Spurs fan base and beyond once a London team was announced and became “real”. To quote Buddy Garrity in Friday Night Lights, everybody loves football, they just don’t know it yet.

If the league hasn’t formally decided on bringing the NFL to London on a permanent basis, it is getting close to the point of no return regardless.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs (and NFL) chat.