Monday, November 2, 2009

Spurs reveal stadium plans, but transport remains an issue

Tottenham Hotspur revealed plans for a 56,000-seat rebuilding of White Hart Lane this week. An undoubted step forward for Spurs, even if the undulating roof-line is a little unoriginal and redolent of Arsenal's new gaff down the Seven Sisters road.

Ashburton Grove's extra capacity means Arsenal are coining in £3million per game, a revenue stream Spurs at present can only dream of matching. But with 20,000 on a season-ticket waiting list and 70,000 members, the club is confident of filling the new seats. The new stadium will be London's third football ground of more than 50,000 seats. With the Olympic Stadium and Twickenham to boot, the capital city itself could almost hold a big tournament by itself.

Spurs' problem remains its location, possibly the worst of any of the city's dozen pro clubs, around half an hour's walk from the nearest Tube station, which for London is a real trek. The nearby overground stations only accommodate toy-town trains, certainly not enough to transport the best part of 60,000 supporters.
As with the construction of Arsenal's new stadium, no money has apparently been allocated in the planning application to improve transport links, which seems suicidal given it is hellish trying to reach WHL at the moment and 20,000 extra fans will soon be heading to this fairly grubby and isolated corner of North London.

Arsenal built a big ground despite questionable transport links. They have an overground station smack beside their new home and an underground stop five minutes walk away but perversely both remain closed on match days. The club called the local council's bluff by threatening to leave the borough unless they gave them planning permission without having to pay to upgrade the stations, and they got away with it.

In addition, nearby Finsbury Park, a transport hub for North-East London, partially closes its tube station on Arsenal match days, inconveniencing the non-supporters in the locality (most Gunners fans do not live in the Highbury area anymore).

So Spurs, after years of pleading for improved transport links and eying possible moves to Wembley, the Olympic stadium in Stratford or further north to a greenfield site in Enfield, have decided to redevelop WHL and grin and bear it.

But how easy it will be to reach what is already an awkward destination on time for kick-off remains to be seen.

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

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