With the woeful timing of a Dele Alli tumble Tottenham chose this week to unveil footage and projected photographs of their £750m Spurs stadium project concentrating largely on the open concourses and west stand atrium. Yes, an atrium.
A few miles east and only two days prior to their grand reveal West Ham fans disrupted their side’s self-destruction to Burnley with protests that grabbed the nation’s headlines and the subsequent conversations around social media and in the pubs centred on precisely how it had come to this. There was the board, of course, firmly in the crosshairs: a rogue’s gallery of incompetents who had somehow turned a well-run, unified club into a carnival of misfortune. And there was the highly contentious move to the London Stadium from their Upton Park home.
The word ‘home’ is used purposely here because that’s what it was, for generation after generation of Hammers who collectively dreaded and railed against the move from the get-go. Now there was a disconnection. Now there was dislocation. So it followed that now there was serious unrest.
Then, slap, bang in the middle of this furrowed debate as to what a football ground spiritually means to a supporter, Spurs proudly showed off images that looked depressingly like a VIP lounge of an airport as envisioned by an architect with a triple-barrelled surname.
Within the five-storey high glass atrium of the new White Hart Lane is a Market Place – ‘our street food-style emporium’ – while elsewhere in the ground there will be a microbrewery, in-house bakery, and most soul-deflating of all, a ‘cheese room’, housed in an executive ‘H’ club that costs 15 grand to join. According to the bumph ‘clients’ will be offered ‘specially sourced cheeses’ at half-times and though this is a minor detail in the great scheme of things it confounds the senses nonetheless. After all, when have you ever risen from your seat on 45 minutes and thought, ‘Hmm what I could really murder right now is a chunk of Pecorino Romano’? Then again, we’re fans, not clients.
Among the avalanche of information released this week another brochure caught the eye and deadened the heart, one that advertised one of many executive schemes designed to drain the bank accounts of the wealthy. It mentioned ‘premium’, ‘lounge’ ‘entertainment’ and ‘experience’. At no stage is football name-checked even once.
Throw in the models photo-shopped chatting over an expensive beverage or immersed in their phones and all while the game is going on behind them and all told it amounted to a dystopian vision. The plans were impressive certainly but alien; detached. They left you questioning whether Tottenham were actually building a home or simply erecting an enormous, shiny edifice for commerciality.
Yet all of this would merely serve as mockery fodder for the traditionalists were it not for the club’s second bout of terrible timing this week. Because just when the North London giants needed the fans on board with their costly endeavour – and furthermore to defend its avaricious intentions against the external naysayers – it also decided to simultaneously release the pricing structure to actually get onto the lush open concourses in the first place.
Spurs fans aren’t daft and they were pertinently aware that the funding for this lavish new stadium was ultimately going to find its way into their pockets. But a 70% increase in season ticket prices in some areas? A steep price migration of 50% to others?
They certainly were not expecting that and they responded in kind. “The vast majority of fans go to football for the football, not for the facilities,” the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust damningly concluded. Writer Martin Cloake meanwhile claimed that the club’s decision to dramatically escalate prices had “badly damaged its relationship with fans”. “All we need is a stand and some seats,” another supporter succinctly wrote on Twitter.
In PR terms it was a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. In actual terms it was a kick in the teeth for loyal fans who – despite the ludicrous cheese-room and emporiums – were genuinely excited at the prospect of being immensely proud of their newly built abode.
The key difference between the circumstances endured by West Ham supporters eighteen months ago and the emotional upheaval awaiting Spurs fans next summer is location. For loyal Hammers it meant a change to their match-day routine – a new café or boozer to find; a new area to explore and assimilate into their affections. At least for Spurs their new ground is situated on the same sacred earth.
Even so, the location may still be the same but when they walk up to the sparkling construction for the first time next season – emptying their wallets and taking in the plush, alien surroundings – there is every chance that they will have never felt further from home.