New Tottenham stadium ‘not possible’ without 2011 London riots – Evening Standard



Tottenham’s new stadium would not have been possible without the 2011 London riots, according to the club’s executive director Donna-Maria Cullen, who said the venue’s September opening ceremony will  celebrate the area’s recovery from the unrest.

Cullen – a driving force behind the stadium project – said she and Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, were “on our knees” back in 2011, as they struggled to keep the club in Tottenham, after losing the bidding for the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to West Ham.

In January of that year, Levy claimed remaining in Tottenham was “not viable” given spiralling costs and the demands placed on the club by Haringey Council, Transport for London and English Heritage.

But six weeks after the riots, which began in Tottenham on August 6 and quickly spread to other parts of the capital, the club was granted planning permission.

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Cullen said: “Maybe we were mad [to stay in Tottenham]. We are all on our knees – I was in San Diego on holiday and I think Daniel was in Florida.

“The riots happened in Tottenham. We had a telephone conversation and we said, ‘That’s it – we stay in Tottenham’. Something good always comes from something bad.

“All of a sudden there’s focus from local regional and national government. We’d banged our heads against that brick wall for so long. Nobody would have spent money in an area that had no commitment from government to support infrastructure and transport.

“As soon as we had the riots everyone came back around the table and it was something we could do. We always wanted to stay in Tottenham.”

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The riots left parts of Tottenham around White Hart Lane devastated but, seven years later, Spurs are on the cusp of completing their 62,000-seater new stadium, which they hope will be another regenerative spark for one of the poorest areas of London – described by Cullen as “the ripple effect”.

The ground will open with a ceremony ahead of the Premier League fixture against Liverpool on September 15 – provided they earn a safety certificate after two tests events.

“It [the opening ceremony] is also a nod to area, to the riots, to literally this is now a fresh start for everyone. Our roots are all over that stadium,” Cullen said.

Asked if it would be comparable to the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, she added: “No, not quite on that scale.

“Like the [White Hart Lane] finale, I like to reduce the number of moving parts, because you never know what’s gong to happen…like a pitch invasion! Then you can just work around it.”

She also ruled out Levy parachuting into the ceremony – as Daniel Craig did in character as James Bond in London’s Danny Boyle-directed curtain-raiser.

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“We are so worn down by the sheer effort of delivering it,” Cullen added of the stadium, which will cost “£350-400million” – with the overall Northumberland Park project, including a hotel and nearly 600 new homes at closer to £850m.

“But it is really quite something. When you do walk into that bowl, it’s like a coliseum. You’ll have seen Hugo [Lloris] and Harry Kane’s faces – there’s nothing manufactured about that. It’s going to be hard not to feel the crowd there and for it not to be a great home territory and somewhere where hopefully away teams won’t like to come.

“We’re doing loads of touches that will bring us back from White Hart Lane. You’ve got to keep it real and authentic. You’ve got to pitch it so that a fan walks in and they know they’re in a feisty football stadium, but it is about just having more comfort really when you watch football.

“It’s the little touches. We had some design work that was going to cover the concourse floor and I said, ‘No, don’t do it’. The floor is unbelievable and it’s made of crushed White Hart Lane [bricks].”

For now, the venue will be called The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium but Cullen said discussions with potential naming rights partners were “ongoing”, while she did not rule out ‘Tottenham’ remaining in the name.

Cullen also said that snagging work on the stadium would continue even after it has opened, explaining: “Don’t underestimate what a huge task we took on in order not to have a second season at Wembley.

“We are going to be saying to fans, ‘We’ve got to where we’ve got to, come and enjoy and celebrate the opening but there will still be bits that we will want to do better, finish differently and complete’.”

Cullen was speaking at an event in Los Angeles with First Star, a charity that helps foster youth. She said: “Children in care is one of the things we’re really passionate about and “To Care is To Do” is one of our long-running projects, one in which we invest a lot of time and energy.”