“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.