Meet the New Emirates, Same as the Old EmiratesBy: Max J. | November 13th, 2008
I had meant to do this post earlier in the week, but it’s now Thursday and what was once just an “is that true?” inkling is now the official, complete-with-pdf word. Tomorrow in north London, Spurs will unveil their initial plans for a new stadium and, um, well…let’s have a word about that.
Now, I understand that initial plans, let alone simple sketches, rarely resemble the finished product. But it doesn’t take a lot of squinting to see that Spurs’ sketch looks a bit like a certain stadium where David Bentley scored a very nice goal. Lest we think this is coincidence, let’s note the description: “a 60,000-seater Emirates-beating state-of-the-art stadium.” It also doesn’t take much imagination to think that Daniel Levy sees the new stadium as little more than a massive revenue scheme.
That the stadium is part of a larger development (Supermarkets! Condos! Low, Low Financing!) is unsurprising and barely worth commenting on. Such is the stuff of modern football economics. But surely it’s possible to build an original, intimidating venue that’s recognizable as a club’s home rather than an oblong cash machine. Making a profit doesn’t inherently demand that the gameday experience be monetized to within an inch of its life, or that stadiums be constructed around banks of luxury suites rather than treating them as the add-ons that they and the fans in them actually are. But these are foreign ideas to the men who pull the strings at Spurs.
Some weeks ago, the truly excellent COYS message board had a chance to interview Daniel Levy. Plans were still a complete mystery at this point, but the questions relating to the stadium tell the whole story:
COYS: As a fan, I am sure you recognize the atmosphere that The Lane has is special. Has this been considered in regard to the potential new stadium? Many supporters feel a modern bowl will sanitize that to a large extent, and that the name shouldn’t be sold off to the highest bidder. As you say there is only one Hotspur out there, can our stadium reflect that uniqueness?
DL: There are lots of issues. On the question of atmosphere it’s something that we’ve emphasised to the architects. There’s always a trade off in a larger stadiums with atmosphere.
BH: I understand there’s also a situation with fan proximity in the UEFA regulations.
DL: Regulations and health and safety. Stadiums you build today are vastly different from ones built 10 / 20 years ago, in terms of size of seats and things like that, but we are conscious of the atmosphere and we’re doing everything we can to ensure the design we come up with will retain the atmosphere of White Hart Lane.
Donna Cullen (Spurs official): What do people think of the atmosphere at the Emirates?
COYS: (laughs) I feel it’s not really a football stadium but an exercise in making money with some grass in the middle. And that the way the stands sit back from the pitch disassociates somewhat the fan from the action, rather than being on top of the action to give an intimidating feeling.
DL: (somewhat concerned by my response) It’s very difficult to design a stadium with the health and safety and get 60,000 people in it. Health and safety is a major factor that can’t be avoided. And last night at the Emirates was a great atmosphere so you could argue it’s all about the fans.
BH: I think the overall feeling is that we’d like it to be a stadium that’s peculiar to our club rather than being straight out of a box.
DL: All I would say is that atmosphere is one of the main requirements laid out to the architects, but it’s not easy to resolve.
Take from that what you will, but it’s fairly easy to even pinpoint the exact moment that Levy’s brain goes “Oh, f—” concerning reactions to what we’re seeing this week.
Brian Philips of The Run of Play makes a good point: the plan is ordered, relatively sensible, and gives the impression that Spurs generally know what they’re doing and have a path forward, whatever it may be. All this I’ll admit. But it misses the point that the stadium seems to be a continuation of Levy’s all-too-familiar trend of process over performance. A well-run, stable, profit-making Spurs gave us the worst league start in club history. It gives us the standard price hikes and a fee for the privilege of waiting for season tickets. A well-run, stable, profit-making stadium plan may very well give us a soulless home-in-name-only that’s more NFL than EPL. I wouldn’t hold my breath for anything different.