A Letter from… Tottenham 2028

Johnny Tucker heads to the future and reports back from Tottenham 2028, when a new ground has been opened and the club has gone on to win the Premiership...

Words by Johnny Tucker

It’s now been a decade since the new ground opened at Tottenham Hotspur and what a momentous time that turned out to be for the club and the surrounding area. Tottenham went on to win the Premiership for the first time that season, finishing above arch-rivals Arsenal for the second year running.

It was the beginning of a run that put them firmly at the centre stage of European football reaching the Champions League final in two consecutive years and lifting the trophy in the second final with the help of a brace of goals from Gareth Bale who had returned to the club that year.

The focus was on Tottenham, which when the new £750m Populous-designed stadium opened, was one of the most depressed areas in London with one of the highest unemployment rates in the capital. Since then it’s undergone a major transformation, not least the 20-acre Northumberland Development Project with the stadium, leisure and hotel facilities and over 500 homes at its heart.

Spurs estimated the impact of its development would increase local spending by £300m a year and see the creation of 2,500 jobs, with an emphasis on employing locally. This all went hand in glove with the extensive £600m Haringey development plans for the area, including major transport changes with the extension of the Victoria line and a £14m revamp for White Hart Lane Station (by Landolt + Brown). The strategic regeneration, which finished in 2025, also included 5,000 new jobs, up to 10,000 new homes and 93,000 sq m of employment and commercial space.

With the council’s housing redevelopment, council tenants were offered places so as not to completely change the socio-make up of the area. But the very nature of the place has changed. Tottenham Hotspur itself pushed the gentrification, ‘with pop-up cheese and craft-beer stalls’ (thank god that beer fad is over — it left a bitter taste in the mouth, literally).

Eventually the artisanal coffee shops started appearing in the high street, sounding the death knell for the nail bars, cash converters and pound stores, though not the fried chicken outlets. How London loves its fried chicken.

I remember being at the launch of the new stadium vision in 2017, at what was then a state-of-the-art virtual reality suite, complete with Oculus Rift goggles — they seem so clunky now compared to the augmenting and virtual voggles that most people wear these day. As well as the bigger picture of the development, that launch was also very much about the various corporate and high-net-worth individuals’ packages that were going to be available. Those ranged from Michelin-starred dining clubs and suites that could be used all year round, to the advent of the ‘Super Loge’ (not to be confused with luge which is altogether a more slippery slope) — private dining suites with access to the members lounge as well. Most interesting was an import from American football (NFL) — the Tunnel Club. A premium area with a glass wall onto the players’ tunnel, as well as a seat — the same heated, Recaro seat as the players — directly behind the technical area.

The Tunnel Club idea imported from the NFLThe Tunnel Club idea imported from the NFL

And of course this was just the start of the influence of the NFL in the area. Ever keen to spread its financial tentacles into Europe, the NFL had already been playing regular season fixtures in London. The new Populous-designed Spurs ground was created specifically with NFL in mind, having a full artificial surface beneath the ‘soccer’ pitch, the latter sliding out of the stadium to rest beneath the forecourt in a change around that can be completed in a matter of hours.

At the time of the 2017 launch, I talked to the NFL UK talent scout and former two-time New York Giants defensive end Superbowl champion (2007/2011), Osi Umenyiora. I asked him if having a stadium with a dedicated pitch and separate home- team facilities was the first real step towards establishing a permanent NFL franchise (team) in London: ‘I certainly hope so, it’s making a commitment.’ And would that team be the Jacksonville Jaguars, which had already played a number of home games in London? ‘It could possibly be the Jags, that’s the talk, but the NFL is so crazy it could be anyone!’

The London Jaguars took up permanent residence in North London two years ago and the NFL has been a big part of the story of the revitalisation of Tottenham. The bonus of having the artificial pitch also means Spurs can host regular gigs, and indeed the stadium was designed with the help of an acoustician who worked for the band U2 (way before Bono went on to head up the UN). The music helped the profile with a younger audience, being a medium-sized venue — somewhere between Wembley and the Trump (formerly the 02) Arena — in London in the then burgeoning, but now saturated, live events market.

And what of the stadium itself other than the NFL pitch? The corporate and high-net-worth entertaining was of course a small, if financially significant, part of the story. Key for the fans was that it became the largest club stadium in London, at 61,000 — crucially having 1,000 more seats than the Dunkin Donuts Stadium (formerly Emirates) of arch-rival Arsenal. Even the Herzog & de Meuron-designed Chelsea stadium, which opened in 2021, did not surpass it for size.

Populous created a 17,000-seat, single-tier home stand — the front less than 6m away from the pitch. Very different from West Ham’s converted (originally Populous-designed) Olympic Stadium, where the retained running track put the action a long way away from fans. As legendary West Ham player Billy Bonds once put it, ‘The pitch is like an island out in the middle.’

Conversely, the Spurs stadium’s pitch is the beating heart of the ground and the ground has become the beating heart of a regenerating Tottenham.

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