For generations the home ground for the Tottenham Hotspur FC was the legendary White Hart Lane. But alongside other London clubs like West Ham and Arsenal it was found that a higher capacity, more state-of-the-art venue was required. So the plans for the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium were born.
As part of a wider masterplan to regenerate a relatively deprived area of London, the proposed development had the full backing of Haringey Council, a fact that enabled it to advance swiftly from proposal to construction.
It saw its first competitive Premier League game in April 2019 against Crystal Palace, a 2-0 victory for Spurs.
At a cost of around £1 billion it means that Spurs have seen the need to have other sources of income to help repay the costs. As well as making it a venue for concerts and other events, as early as 2015 a £40 million ten year deal was struck with the NFL.
The stats behind the stadium are just as impressive as the cost to build it. With a seating capacity of 62,850 it is the largest club stadium in London, only exceeded by the 90,000 seater national stadium at Wembley.
With 17,500 seats, the ground’s South Stand is the largest in the UK rising 34 meters into the air. But alongside its huge size the stadium allows many fans to get closer to the action than almost any other ground with distances to the pitch from front row seats being as little as 4.9 metres.
Critically for the NFL, it is the only stadium in London that has also been designed with the specific purpose and facilities of hosting American football games on the synthetic surface that sits under the retractable grass pitch that’s used for soccer games.
The NFL deal
The deal that has been drawn up between the club and the NFL, masterminded by Spurs’ chairman Daniel Levy, is an agreement to host at least two NFL games each year for a decade.
Besides the obvious revenue that this will generate, it’s hoped that this will both broaden the appeal of American football in the UK and expand the Spurs brand across the US. This is important for the latter as it’s other British clubs like Manchester United and Chelsea who seem to have been more successful at achieving this to date.
It’s also symptomatic of a greater coming-together of the US and UK sporting worlds generally brought about by the US Supreme Court’s historic 2018 decision to allow sports betting.
This led to many US sportsbooks being established and an increased interest on both sides of the Atlantic in most NFL games and Super Bowl odds in particular.
Spurs have also shown a commitment to help the NFL to identify the next generation of rising stars as part of the deal. So July 2019 saw the first intake of hopefuls to NFL Academy using facilities at the stadium.
The same month also saw the UK’s first flag football event being held there. 180 school children aged between 8 and eleven from a dozen schools competed for the trophy which was eventually won by Houghton Primary School from Godmanchester in Cambridgeshire.
The games so far
Three months later, on 6 October, the stadium saw its very first NFL game. In front of a delighted crowd of 60,463 people the Chicago Bears took on the Oakland Raiders with the latter winning a closely-fought game 24-21. The very next week the Tampa Bay Buccaneers went head to head with the Carolina Panthers.
The COVID-19 pandemic meant that the games planned for 2020 had to be cancelled but 2021 saw the Atlanta Falcons take on the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins pitted against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In 2022 it was the New Orleans Saints against the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers against the New York Giants and later this year sees the return of the Jaguars who will play the Buffalo Bills and the Tennessee Titans against the Baltimore Ravens.
Super Bowl LX for London?
However, the most ambitious plan yet could be hold the 2026 Super Bowl in the stadium. Discussions and negotiations are thought to be under way already with Daniel Levy reportedly putting a price tag of £400 million to be paid over 20 years for the privilege.
There are a few stumbling blocks to be overcome first, though. The main one is the time difference. To reach a prime-time US audience the game would have to start very late at night in the UK, possibly contravening noise and light pollution restrictions in London.
But it would be quite a coup if it were to be pulled off, and one that would undoubtedly turbo-charge the British public’s interest in America’s favorite sport.