Tottenham Hotspur’s new home aims to balance the needs of diehard supporters with an incoming generation of more casual fans. Central to this is Jump Studio’s design for its hospitality spaces, which take the bars and restaurants of East London as their benchmark, rather than the club's rivals to the north and south.
London – For Tottenham Hotspurs' manager, the team's recent move to their new 62,062-capacity stadium can only be qualified a success if it engenders a change in mindset. ‘Now, there is no point in thinking like a small club,’ Mauricio Pochettino quipped. ‘You must think like a big club.’ Their participation in last month's Champions League final suggests that such a transition may be ahead of schedule, but it’s still instructive to ask what a modern stadium designed to help a football franchise achieve ‘big club’ status looks like, and how it operates.
That concept can be interpreted quite literally, of course. Tottenham is graduating from a venue that could hold only 36,000 spectators, mid-table by the standards of most of the Premier League's top six teams, to a home twice the size. But while this expansion undoubtedly offers an upgrade in soft power, this is largely about gate receipts. More bums on seats means more revenue at the turnstile… and, crucially, at the concessions that line the concourses above.
These latter spaces in particular can tells us a lot about the future of club football and the increasingly important role hospitality plays within it. Because, in truth, size is only half the story here. Though reaching close to its 62,062 capacity on a regular basis will undoubtedly provoke a smile from chairman Daniel Levy – the driving force behind this (reportedly) 1-billion pound project – pure numbers are not enough. They’ll have to be the right type of fan if they’re going to help pay off that sizeable capital investment.
As football has cemented its place as the world's favourite sport, and the Premier League as the sport's most popular and prosperous competition, so has its fanbase evolved. This combination of global reach and the shift in perception of football watching as another form of entertainment –rather than something to be lived, breathed and bled – means the mix of people turning up on match day is shifting away from the diehard and towards the casual. And for the casual fan, the totality of the match-day experience is more important than the purity of watching the game. How is that interpreted architecturally? Well, it means that at least as much attention is paid to the ancillary spaces as to the main arena.
This is what makes Tottenham’s stadium such a fascinating case study. For the purists, architects Populous included elements such as the vertiginous, single-tier south stand and the provision for safe standing (once approved). This will create a much-welcomed intensity during games. Both call back to an era of English football in which match-day passions ran much hotter. While these were arguably more exciting venues, however, they were not more welcoming ones for those who deviated from the mean.
But as Nielsen’s World Football Report 2018 shows, today’s audience has diversified in every way, from gender to nationality to income bracket. In fact, and perhaps most surprisingly, medium and high-income earners were more interested in football than those on lower incomes in every country surveyed apart from India. This gives some clue to Tottenham’s decision to promise a (much ridiculed) cheese room as part of their provision for top-bracket ticket holders. It hasn’t materialised in the final build, but that doesn’t mean that the club was wrong to try and anticipate the needs of those luxury consumers showing an increased appetite for live sport.