The last couple of weeks have seen plenty of exciting news at Tottenham Hotspur especially with the confirmation of the NFL deal that will see at least two games a year played at the new White Hart Lane for 10 years from 2018. As the NFL continues to grow in the UK, rumors have continued to spread in regards to a franchise finally being placed permanently in the UK.
The NFL games now have a hardcore of 35,000 season tickets sold every year for the current 3 game series held at Wembley, with most games selling out before kick off. Last year’s triple header saw almost a quarter of a million fans turn up at Wembley, a phenomenal number when you consider the UK’s last full professional American football team, the Scottish Claymores, folded in 2004.
It’s widely known the UK went NFL mad in the mid to late 1980’s. I was one of the original fans, staying up late on school nights to watch my team (the one from Washington) and fell in love with the game. Friends supported the Raiders, the Dolphins, the Bears, we played touch gridiron on the school field and we eagerly devoured copies of Gridiron and tried to get our heads around the draft system.
Yet, the 90’s saw a lot of us drift away as we hit our 20’s. I didn’t watch an NFL game from 1992 until about 2002. I honestly can’t tell you why I stopped watching. It just happened. Then one day, a discussion in the pub on a cold January night saw us agree to watch the Superbowl XXXVII and that was that. I, and several friends, rediscovered the NFL and I now watch 4 games a week, host a Superbowl party for friends and suffer the frustration of seeing the once powerful Washington franchise struggle year-in year-out. I know how the draft works now. I have a fantasy football team and I probably would say the NFL is my second favorite sport by some distance. Hell, I even watch college games these days too.
The explosion in the NFL’s rebirth in the UK has surprised me. I never realized it had become so popular until I went to a couple of the NFL Wembley games and was blown away. As the NFL moved more games over, it became clear to me that something was in the pipeline, be it a new franchise or moving an existing one (the Jags, Raiders, Rams or Chargers have all been mooted as the one to move) but the NFL can see an opportunity like no other sports business.
It was last summer when rumors about the new Tottenham stadium being designed with NFL in mind started. The announcement made by the club on July 8 had been preceded over the weekend by a flurry of online rumors stating that Spurs had done a deal with the NFL. The fact that a company named Populous were the stadium architects should have been a big clue, given their history of working with the NFL in both stadium and training facilities design.
With the new Tottenham stadium featuring a state of the art retractable grass pitch, a first for any major sports venue in the UK, removing any concerns about pitch degradation and customer built facilities to house the extended locker rooms for NFL teams, it is clear that the club view the NFL as a viable and important part of the regeneration for the whole of Tottenham.
Personally, I think it’s a fantastic deal and on the whole, I think most Spurs fans are pretty pleased that we’ve got one over some of our rivals. Of course there has been some negativity, but then again, these are the fans that think a red sponsor logo on the Spurs shirt is akin to the ultimate sin.
For Tottenham to truly catch up with the big 4 clubs (Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea), they needed a new ground and revenue streams the other clubs couldn’t find. City and Chelsea are awash with cash. Arsenal’s prudence since moving to the Emirates is now paying off financially and Manchester United, well, we all know just how much money they make.
A 61,000 seater stadium is about right. Demand is always high for tickets and as much as we all love the Lane, sadly it looks a little worn around the edges these days. The ground may be going, but the memories I and other fans have of seeing Gascoigne and Greaves, Klinsmann and Blanchflower, King and Bale grace the turf at White Hart Lane will always be with us.
I can’t wait for 2018 and to take my seat in the new White Hart Lane.