Spurs Fans Betrayed: Proposed Olympic Stadium Ground-Share Plans

“The protectors of the Premier League would do well to remember history and identity.” Such words were spoken by Simon Inglis, published football author and general English stadium guru, in response to the idea of Tottenham Hotspur cosying up to their London rivals, West Ham, by sharing the yet-to-be-built Olympic Stadium. Although Spurs announced that they were holding “informal talks” with the Olympic Park Legacy Company back in the Summer, outrage over their potential plans still remain. This stems mostly from unhappy Hammers fans who have seen their club’s likely successful bid challenged by their fierce North London rivals.

However, Tottenham should be more concerned about their own fans’ reactions to the proposed ground-share. Such a move would be considered a betrayal of the core of the club’s fan-base, specifically the local North London supporters. If the club were to relocate away from its geographical roots, it would create uproar around the streets of Tottenham.

It could be argued that Premiership club fan-bases are now truly global and that such ‘local fans’ are not as important in the grand scheme of things. Yet it is these fans who are the season-ticket holders, the ones that fill White Hart Lane week-in, week-out, deafeningly urging their players onwards on the field. And this vocal capacity should not be underestimated. One only needs to look at the Red Knights’ campaign in Manchester to see its effect. After all, how many green and gold scarves do you see in Nottingham, compared with the incessant waves seen on television reports from the streets of Greater Manchester? To make matters worse for these fans, the idea of sharing their stadium – their fortress of solidarity – with one of their greatest rivals would be the ultimate humiliation. Imagine thousands of expectant Tottenham fans descending upon their club’s home, only to be ushered into the Away stand after seeing the claret and blue of the West Ham faithful occupying their season-ticket seats.

It is true that ground sharing has some positives, especially financially. It is estimated that Tottenham would save £400m by not building the proposed new stadium near White Hart Lane. But, as seen, there are far too many negative aspects.

The San Siro in Milan, shared by Inter and AC Milan, is similar to the Olympic Stadium in that it is owned by the local council. As a result, the two clubs lose £5m a year in renting costs. This may seem insignificant in comparison to the vast sums of income these clubs generate, but they lose huge potential profits from non match-day events held at the venue. No ownership means no control of these events and the money goes to the council. Therefore, it is unsurprising to hear that Inter intend to have a stadium of their own in the not-too-distant future, whilst AS Roma, who currently share the Stadio Olimpico with Lazio have also announced plans for their own new stadium. Ironically, they have described it as “English-style”.

So before the big figures at Tottenham Hotspur FC follow up on these “informal talks” over the Olympic Stadium, maybe they should stop and consider their own loyal fans and listen to their opinions, or else risk alienation. After all, if treated well, fanatical supporters will remain faithful to the club through good times and bad. But the same cannot be said of money.

James Royce

8 Comments on this post.
  • rob
    3 November 2010 at 18:19
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    it would be the ultimate betrayal for west ham fans too

    3 November 2010 at 19:31
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    erm, I think you’ve misunderstood something somewhere. There, as far as I’m aware, is no “ground-share” proposed. We have submitted a claim to the Olympic stadium, but that claim is in competition with West Ham’s, not combined with it.

  • paul
    6 November 2010 at 12:35
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    THFC4LIFE is right in saying that there isnt a proposed ground share. thus, there is no need for this article as this isnt the issue at hand. perhaps you should have looked at the implications for hosting the 2015 world athletics championships as the bid has been withdrawn due to spurs’ plans to remove the running track whilst west ham would keep it in place.

  • James Royce
    8 November 2010 at 16:45
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    THFC4LIFE, you are completely right. I wrote the article in light of a statement from Tottenham saying they were – at that time – going to go ahead and compete with West Ham for the use of the Olympic Stadium. As a result some people were suggesting that the 2 should share the ground for numerous reasons, and this article was merely to point out why such an idea would be a bad one. Sorry for the misunderstanding.

  • timothyedwards
    9 November 2010 at 02:55
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    Actually in reply to THFC4LIFE and paul I think this article remains extremely relevant as it asks questions of a number of issues English football has yet to answer with regards to the direction our “stadium culture” if you will, is heading.

    James makes a very interesting point talking about the situation in Milan and Rome with clubs growing tired of the “ground-share” idea that seems to prevail far more on the continent than here. Groundsharing is often held as a tradition English clubs should adopt to avoid spending frivolously on new stadia solely for one club (Liverpool and Everton being a prime example). What James points out however is why the grass is not always greener, with owning one’s own stadium not only bringing in valuable regular income through match-day takings and using them as other facilities such as for concerts, but also becomes a huge asset in terms of the clubs overall value.

    Another point well-made is the geographical importance of stadiums for supporters. The geography of a club is as important to it’s history and culture as anything else. Tottenham are a club of North London with a local fanbase from the area. As a Sunderland fan I couldn’t imagine the outroar if the equivalent there was to happen with a new stadium built in say, Gateshead or South Shields.

    We are constantly told that the “Italian” way is where we should be heading, in everything from our national team to stadiums, but James’ article has boldly argued the opposite when few have.

  • JJJ
    10 November 2010 at 02:18
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    In response to Timothy Edwards, no-one is saying that we should follow the “Italian way” of doing things, a bizzare idea in itself, considering that each country is multi-faceted and shouldn’t be pigeon-holed. The fact that we have an Italian manager of the national side doesn’t mean squat. The public pressure for teams to share stadiums has never been significant, and therefore I don’t think the issue of “stadium culture” is really that relevant. Also, as well-written as James Royce’s article is (and it is an impressive piece), I would not say that he’s “boldly argued the opposite when few have”, when in actual fact, very few have supported the idea of sharing stadiums.

  • Dave Jackson
    10 November 2010 at 17:27
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    If somebody told me that Wolves would have to share a ground with West Brom, I’d tell them to take a long walk off a short pier!

    [email protected] James’ Stadium of Light Park anyone?

  • dan
    25 November 2010 at 16:02
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