Saturday, April 2, 2011

The importance of being idle

This week it was reported that Tottenham Hotspur were lining up a lawsuit against the decision to award West Ham United the new Olympic stadium that’s being built for the London 2012 games. When the bidding process for the stadium occurred, and the decisions were made, the jury voted that West Ham United would become the eventual owners of the ground once the games were over. The main reason being that West Ham are situated closer to the ground itself and that they were not going to tear down the track field in the stadium or try and turn it into a more football-like stadium.

It got me thinking about clubs moving grounds and breaking stadiums, and I must admit: I hate this. I could not imagine my team (United) leaving Old Trafford, or even renaming the stadium. Where your club plays its games is a major part of the club’s history. Clubs nowadays are moving to bigger and (supposedly) better stadia in order to attract more fans, more revenue and be more modern. But that doesn’t necessarily work out as planned.

In 2006, Arsenal tore down their historical Highbury stadium to move to Ashburton Grove (named the Emirates stadium, because of its main sponsor). This move was promised to generate more revenue for Arsenal thanks to the increase in capacity, higher ticket prices and would eventually mean that Arsenal could be more competitive on the field and could help the funds to bring in higher profile players.

5 years down the line, Arsenal have not won a trophy since, they still buy young and cheap “potential”, they  have now been considered a “young team” for many years (Van Persie is now 27 – stop saying he’s young), and they rarely compete in the transfer market for anyone above the age of 26. It seems like as the famous Clock End at Highbury was torn down in 2006 to build residential buildings, so was Arsenal’s notion of time.

Tottenham need to take the example of their much hated neighbors and ask themselves if it’s worth it. Losing a major part of the club’s history for the money it could supposedly bring in. Losing all the memories and feelings that the supporters have had in that stadium to recreate new ones. It’s a big risk to take. I’m pretty sure many Arsenal fans would still prefer to be at Highbury if it meant that they won trophies instead.

Tottenham may believe that moving to that stadium would have been a major boost en route to becoming a “big club” and to compete at the highest level. But the stadium isn’t even located in the region of Tottenham in North London. Does that mean the club would change its name? What would happen to the North London derby? It doesn’t make sense. Imagine Liverpool tearing down Anfield and moving to a bigger stadium located near Manchester, would they still be called Liverpool or will they still feel like they represent their region/city?

I might end up eating my words especially if Arsenal go on and win the league this year, but like the Nou Camp, Old Trafford and other stadia that have made improvements – the changes are done to the current stadia (there are always other solutions). There was no need to break the stadium or relocate the club. You may be able to generate more revenue by moving stadia, but you can’t recreate the memories and feelings that occurred at the stadia. Football is a game full of emotions that money just can’t buy. The roots of a club, the identity, the soul, and the traditions, all that is worth much than any new stadium and sometimes the clubs don’t realize that. They just don’t realize the importance of being idle.


  1. What if a small club gets into the elite circles, but its current stadium infrastructure doesn't allow it to expand. Should it refrain itself from growth because of legacy and tradition?
    Is the heart in soul of a club, in the steel/wood/turf that make up stadiums or more in the fans and their chants, regardless of where they are?

  2. To Karim:
    I don't believe any club should refrain from growth (elite or not); what I do believe is that there are other options such as expanding the current capacity of the current stadium or renovating the entire stadium (see Old Trafford and Nou Camp for examples). There are other solutions rather than breaking stadia and moving to new ones.

    Also, the fans and the atmosphere go hand in hand in creating the heart and soul of a club, so when you've got traditional areas like the Stretford End at O.T, the Kop at Anfield, or in your case The Kop of Boulogne...these stands are so difficult to recreate at new stadiums as they are a huge part of a club's history.

    Getting rid of them, is like taking away a part of the club - in my opinion.

  3. I can't entirely agree and I can't disagree.
    My favorite team (Juventus), was bound to a stadium that was built for the 1990 WC, with poor architectural conditions (Track field, fans very far from the pitch) and not to mention , was shared with our arch-intercity rivals Torino.
    In 2006, the "Delle Alpi" was torn down, Juve bought the land and now in 11/12 we'll play in the new stadium with state of the Art specs that will generate Juve with maximum revenue.

    The name issue here will be of debate. Giving full name rights to a major sponsor will generate dream cash, but the name Delle Alpi still strikes fear into the hearts of any club that used to come to play there.

    So, I wouldn't mind both situations because Juve are in Dire need of money.

  4. Not bad Mr. Simo but something you fail to mention is that building new stadiums is a long-term investment, you can't expect to spend 500 million pounds and then spend 50-80 a year million a year on players...

    Also, the only clubs able to compete with Man.utd for players "above 26" as you say are barcelona, Real, Inter, Milan, bayern (stadium with more than 60k right?) or Chelsea (oligarch) man city (petrodollars) ;-)

    Finally Bayern Won titles in 06, 08 and 10 in their new stadium ;-)So lets not take the example of Arsenal only.

    Finally the other options as you mention "expanding, renovating etc." are on feasible if the current stadium has the possibility to expand, if you look at Stamford Bridge, White hart lane, and Highbury (remember in 06 when we went there? we we only able to find the stadium because the fans were walking to the game- the stadium by itself looked like a building)these are all stadiums build around a buildings, the only way to expand is by bringing down all the buildings something not feasible.
    Man.utd was able to expand because the infrastructure AROUND the stadium allowed them to do so.
    So yeah in order to go forward and compete, clubs SHOULD invest in building new stadiums!

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  6. I have learned all kinds of things from my many mistakes. The one thing I never learn is to stop making them.