Thursday, September 14, 2006

Spurs are on their way to Wembley - every week?

The English newspaper, The Guardian is this morning running a piece that suggests Tottenham are looking to buy Wembley from the Football Association. It reasons that because the cost of the project is so high, the FA can not afford to run it, and that as Spurs are looking for ways to increase capacity the club will buy it off them, and loan it back for England Internationals, FA Cup Semi Finals and Finals. Now, whilst this looks like The Guardian putting two and two together, it would not surprise The Waddler if there is a little more cloak and dagger to this than meets the eye.

At last year’s THFC Plc AGM, it emerged that Paul Kemsley, an Executive Director of the club, is in charge of all property projects; which comprises the new training ground and the WHL expansion/new ground project. Anyone that saw his cameo roles as Sir Alan Sugar’s chief terrier on BBC2’s Apprentice programme will recognise that this man has no fear or care about what people think of him. It would not be a surprise then that this story originated from somewhere near Mr Kemsley as a way of putting pressure on either Haringey Council or the Olympic 2012 people depending on where the club’s ambitions actually lie.

As things stand, Spurs have four options, which ranked in order of the clubs likely preference are:

1. Expand White Hart Lane. This is dependant on some backing by Haringey and the Mayor of London to improve transport links to the area. The current situation is full to bursting with 36,000 people as things stand, to match that new stadium in Islington, WHL would need to be nearly doubled, which would put an awful strain on the local area in terms of parking, trains, buses, etc.

2. Take on the Olympic Stadium after 2012. The blueprint for this idea is Man City taking on the Commonwealth Games stadium, which was converted into a football arena once the games were over. The difference is that was always the plan, whereas the London Olympic bid was chosen on the basis that the stadium would be downscaled to a smaller athletics venue after the event. Ken Livingstone opposes a tenant taking it over, but the club are apparently interested in the idea.

3. Building a new stadium from scratch. This would involve buying land and building a new stadium, just like Cashburden Grove. Various venues have been mooted over the years, from Pickett’s Lock, Tottenham Hale and even somewhere in Hertfordshire. The transport problem again rears its head, along with London property prices being a factor. Spurs couldn’t exactly convert WHL into posh flats to recoup the outlay!

4. Take over Wembley. A last resort option for both the club and the FA. It would involve Spurs moving to the other side of the capital, away from their original fan base, and it would be a struggle to fill it every week. Likewise, the FA would not want to relinquish control unless it was their only option. It would also involve taking on enormous debt.

So what is really going on? The Waddler’s opinion is that options 1 and 2 are being seriously considered, but that there is a lot of lobbying and brinkmanship involved in order to get the right backing. That involves using the media to apply pressure at the right times, which is why we will see reports about 3 and 4 appearing form time to time. The Olympic Stadium option has a finite window, as building will have to start soon, and it will either have to be built to enable a conversion to football, or built to be able to scale it down to athletics. It can’t be long before that decision is taken, and the path becomes a little clearer. If Spurs don’t get it, then they might get compensated with a tube extension to WHL, which would solve the whole problem.

The Waddler.