Many Tottenham Hotspur supporters must be giddy with delight knowing who their opponents will be during their first ever entry into the Champions League group stage. Spurs will be facing current Champions League title holders Inter Milan, Werder Bremen and Dutch champions FC Twente, who were formerly managed by Steve McClaren.
The anticipation is already building for Tottenham’s matches against these three very tough European opponents. But the shame of the matter is that Tottenham’s capacity at White Hart Lane is only 36,310. And that capacity may be reduced slightly to adhere with UEFA’s strict guidelines in terms of advertising boards. Oftentimes in grounds where the seats are close to the pitch, such as White Hart Lane, the front rows of seating cannot be used as their views of the pitch are blocked by the extreme size of the boards; Plus, some season ticket holders are not guaranteed tickets for games and have to sit in seats other than their usual ones for games.
Financially it would make more sense for Tottenham to consider playing their games at Wembley Stadium, which has a capacity of 90,000. Knowing how passionate Tottenham supporters are, and how many of them are around the world, Spurs would have no issue selling out Wembley for all three of their home matches.
Interestingly, Tottenham’s hated rivals Arsenal played their Champions League matches during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 seasons at Wembley. At the time, Arsenal’s home ground was Highbury which had a capacity of 38,419, almost two thousand more seats than White Hart Lane. But due to UEFA’s restrictions, Arsenal had the choice of reducing the capacity to accommodate the advertising hoardings or they could seek permission to play elsewhere. Arsenal decided to play at Wembley, which then had a capacity of 70,000. As a result, the Gunners were able to double their “home” attendance after they received permission from UEFA and The FA to play the matches there.
The FA’s stance on Arsenal moving to Wembley issue was this: “Bearing in mind Arsenal’s exceptional circumstances, the demands of Uefa and the fact that the matches are in Europe’s premier club competition, the FA feels able to consent – on this occasion.”
As for Tottenham, one of the biggest advantages for them playing their matches at White Hart Lane is the incredible atmosphere which can be like the twelfth man for Spurs.
When you think about it, Tottenham has a decision to consider. What is more important to them? Playing at White Hart Lane where the home-field competitive advantage may help them advance to the knockout stage, or moving their home matches to Wembley where the atmosphere will not be as intimidating for the away teams but where Tottenham Hotspur can generate far greater revenues? The bottom line is how good does Daniel Levy and Harry Redknapp thinks this team is. If they think they’re capable of qualifying to the next round, they should play at home. If they feel they’re going to have a tough time, maybe they should “cash in their chips” now, seek permission to play their games at Wembley and, if approved, use the revenues generated to buy better players in the January transfer window to ensure they qualify for the Champions League next season?
Tottenham Hotspur’s new ground is still a few years from being ready so it may be wise for Tottenham to consider seeking permission to move its Champions League matches to Wembley. Yes, it wouldn’t be the same atmosphere as White Hart Lane. But if Tottenham could create the atmosphere like they did at Wembley for the 2008 Carling Cup Final when they beat Chelsea 2-1, then it’s definitely worth considering.