Wed 03 April 2019, 15:45|Tottenham Hotspur
What a journey it has been.
Eighteen years ago we embarked on what has been a monumental and, at times – I don’t mind saying – almost overwhelming, task. The financial, operational, logistical, planning and resourcing it has taken has been immense. There is a reason massive projects like this are seldom undertaken by private entities, particularly ones of our modest size.
It was 2001 when we realised that a key part of making this club one of the top 10 clubs in the world was building an increased capacity stadium. You simply cannot be a big club with a 36,000-seater stadium.
We did not own all the land, even on the existing White Hart Lane (WHL) site. The first land transaction took place in 2002 and between then and right up until last month we set about assembling all of what we called the Northumberland Development Project (NDP) site – now an accumulative 20 acres – the result of more than 90 individual property transactions. We relocated nearly 80 businesses and I’m pleased to say the majority chose to remain in the Borough of Haringey.
The intention was always to stay in Tottenham – we were diverted at one point, largely due to hitting brick walls locally, but not for long.
The riots happened in the summer of 2011 and we knew we had to help rebuild our neighbourhood. That’s when we sat with local, regional and national government to get a commitment to focus on Tottenham and to invest alongside the Club. To date we have seen more than £100m in transport infrastructure improvements provided by Transport for London and the Greater London Authority. There is, of course, still much more to do locally.
We had stumbling blocks all through the process – not least of which was a protracted compulsory purchase order process to complete the site acquisition. It caused a delay of nearly two years – however, every time we had an issue or a delay we have looked to use it positively.
On this occasion we used the time to challenge our original designs and to push the boundaries on architectural aspects – this saw a substantial redesign of the stadium and the associated developments – so we ended up with something far better – there is a reason for everything in life.
We also did not want to spend more than one season away from Tottenham. That meant we had the added complication of demolishing part of the existing WHL stadium whilst still playing there.
We reached agreement to play at Wembley for a season, with a fall-back that we could be there for longer, although that was something we really did not want to have happen.
Yet again we looked for the positives. The increased capacity at Wembley meant that over 90,000 additional, new ticket purchasers joined our database, and saw the team play, buying 340,000 tickets between them. This would never have been possible at WHL and also not possible at our new stadium.
We broke the record for the attendance at Premier League matches no fewer than three times – beating Liverpool, Manchester United and Arsenal on those occasions. In the Champions League we filled Wembley and witnessed remarkable games against Real Madrid and Borussia Dortmund.
While we played at Wembley, we built at home.
With the economic climate as it was, pre-Brexit, no construction company would commit to a fixed price for the stadium build, so we have ended up taking all the risk and pain ourselves. This is not a straightforward stadium either, not least the fact it has two pitches and was built in two phases.
The first phase of construction was to build Lilywhite House (LWH). Having Club headquarters established early was important as we still had a Club to run and matches to stage at Wembley. We also knew we would have to increase our staff as a result of the new stadium. So we delivered LWH and along with it a new college and supermarket, delivering jobs early on and working to ensure those jobs went to local residents.
LWH is now home to the Club, Sainsburys, a gym, retail outlets and the thriving London Academy of Excellence Tottenham, of which we are the proud financial supporter. It provides a funded education to the brightest local children taught by outstanding teachers and supported by nine top independent schools. We were thrilled when the first students received offers from Oxford and Cambridge Universities.
And that’s just one example of the stadium beginning to impact lives. The NDP scheme as a whole has created hundreds of permanent local jobs, we’ve created thousands of jobs in the construction industry and spent hundreds of millions in the UK – both in the north and the south – the steel, the precast concrete, the foundry-made cockerel that graces our roof and the plaques embedded in our concourses, for example, are all made in the UK.
Millions around the world have watched daily and read about every step of the construction of what is now probably one of the most famous stadiums in the world. The news that we had hit our biggest stumbling block of all – the issues with the critical safety systems – was the darkest day of the entire project and the start of some of the most difficult months.
The construction and fit-out wasn’t complete at that stage in September 2018. Such was our desire to be back home as soon as possible, we had planned to open with unfinished works. We needed the roof, seats, access and egress and a safety licence – we had everything bar the last. So once again, we used the delay to our best advantage and made further improvements.
Finally, last month we achieved a safety certificate for Test Events. I should like to thank the Planning and Building Control departments of Haringey Council for the many hours and hard work to get us to this stage.
Our first Test Event saw our Under 18s take to the pitch. They represented the future generations this stadium was built for. It was wonderful to see them not wanting to leave the pitch at the end of the match, savouring the momentous occasion. On Saturday, we staged our second Test Event as our Legends took centre stage on another memorable afternoon. They represent our past – the players who are part of the rich history of our Club.
And now we make new history as our current squad runs out for the Inaugural Match. Tonight we open the stadium to you and the watching millions with a ceremony that embraces our journey and our vision for this, our much-loved home in Tottenham.
If I look at what we’ve achieved, it’s been a lot of heartache and it wouldn’t have happened without a lot of determined and committed people.
So thank you to all the families of all our staff and everyone that’s been involved in this project. You have all made sacrifices. A lot of people have been working long hours for a long period of time. Unless you’ve been involved in a construction project of this scale, of this quality and this complexity, I don’t think anyone has any idea just how hard it is.
There have been a large number of individuals who have been absolutely outstanding, who have been totally committed and who have been doing two jobs because they’ve had to carry out their day jobs in the football club as well as being involved in this huge undertaking.
The Board has gone through some difficult times. There have been moments during this project when we thought we weren’t going to make it, we weren’t going to be able to deliver it.
Two directors who have been on the journey from the beginning are Matthew and Donna. They have managed all the ups and downs that we’ve gone through and contributed so many aspects – so a massive thank you to them – without them in particular we wouldn’t have this stadium open today.
Mauricio, the coaching staff, the players and everyone connected with the football side of the Club have had to put up with playing at a two-thirds completed WHL, playing at Wembley, playing at Milton Keynes and then playing at Wembley longer than anticipated. Mauricio has our total admiration and gratitude for the way he and the team have continued to deliver results and play attacking, entertaining football and never once complaining or looking for excuses. For the remaining five Premier League games at this stadium I know the famous Tottenham roar will greet their return home.
Thank you to everyone involved in the construction, the designers and the contractors, some of whom have been working tirelessly for over 10 years. At one point we had over 4,000 people on site working 24/7. We have unsung heroes amongst them – you know who you are – a huge thank you to you all.
I must also mention the support and understanding we received from our neighbours, schools and churches adjoining the stadium who tolerated the construction mayhem on their doorsteps. This stadium is also for you and I’m delighted we have seen so many of you at the Test Events.
Our thanks go to the Premier League and the Football Association for their support throughout. If we had not been permitted to go to Wembley we would not have been able to build a new stadium. Thanks too to all the staff at Wembley and to Brent Council and local residents for embracing our stay.
Most importantly, immense thanks go to our fans, with special thanks to fans for travelling to Wembley to support us there.
It’s been difficult for us to provide you with as much detailed information as we know you would have liked because it was always changing. We could make an announcement one day and the next day it would be wrong so we made the decision that sometimes you just have to say nothing as we worked to keep all parties on board.
We never wanted to be away from Tottenham any longer than we had to. We have been asked ‘why didn’t you say you were going to be at Wembley for two years?’.
Well firstly, we didn’t know that and secondly, if we had said it, it probably would have meant we’d be there for three years. Anyone who has had anything to do with construction knows that things are always late finishing and always cost more and that’s exactly what we’ve experienced.
I wanted to underline that from day one we have always had your interests at heart and everything in this stadium has been delivered for you. As you wander through it, we hope you enjoy the many points of reference to heritage. We have paid an inordinate amount of attention to detail to make it special and to feel like home.
We are six months late after an 18-year journey and I hope what we have delivered for you and for future generations of supporters means that the frustrations and inconveniences of these past few months is forgiven. Thank you for bearing with us.
We did not just want to build a stadium. We wanted to change the prospects for those that live in this part of London, particularly after the 2011 riots, and for our stadium to be the flagship development that kickstarted its regeneration. The word regeneration is often used. It’s important to understand what we mean when we use it.
We see it as bringing hope, prosperity and uplift to Tottenham, embracing the local community, building on the character and talents of the area. Our vision is that our neighbourhood is a prosperous mixed community. If you live here you should be able to study, work and play here.
That is why we have delivered new, affordable homes, schools, shops and jobs alongside our stadium and embedded our Foundation.
Unlike any developer, we are not here to develop, take a profit and leave – we are here for the long-term. This is our home.
We have created a new landmark in London, one that is truly global, and one that will stage the world’s two most popular sports, Premier League football and NFL, along with many other sports and world-class entertainment.
The area will see a massive influx of tourism and visitors – we have the third largest conference facilities in London, you’ll be able to climb the roof with the Skywalk attraction, we will have a museum and soon a hotel.
All of us working together – government on all levels – have a real opportunity to support a new sport, leisure and entertainment destination in London – one that will be vibrant 365 days a year.
Our hope is that we shall now see the ripple effect of what we have delivered embraced and built upon so that we deliver opportunities for all.
So to tonight...
We have been living and breathing this project for so long, it has almost overtaken our lives and we are all drained but excited too. It has been really tough. When you have put so much of your life into this project it is inevitable that tonight is going to be moving.
I know tonight will be an emotional one for so many of you too.
We’ve achieved this as a team, together. Thank you Spurs family. We are now all back home.