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Donna Cullen

Executive Director, Tottenham Hotspur

Published in Sports Management May Jun 2017 issue 131
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Tottenham Hotspur’s executive director says the new stadium will be ‘a game changer’, effectively putting the club ‘on a different financial footing’
Tottenham Hotspur’s executive director says the new stadium will be ‘a game changer’, effectively putting the club ‘on a different financial footing’

It’s an exciting time to be a fan of Tottenham Hotspur. The club is in the process of cementing its place alongside the elite of the Premier League, with Mauricio Pochettino’s energetic side beginning to consistently challenge for the championship.

To reinforce that position, the club’s hierarchy decided to build an ambitious new stadium that would challenge the other big guns like Manchester United and Arsenal when it came to gate receipts and ancillary revenue.

The Populous-designed stadium will be completed ahead of the 2018/19 Premier League campaign, and will become the largest footbal club stadium in London with a capacity of over 61,000.

Donna Cullen, the club’s executive director, says the new stadium will be a “game changer” that will put Tottenham Hotspur “on a different financial footing”.

The club’s current White Hart Lane ground holds just over 36,000 fans, and while it is widely recognised as one of the most atmospheric stadiums in English football, its amenities are somewhat antiquated compared to Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium and Manchester City’s Etihad Stadium. Its capacity is also a lot smaller than Manchester United’s Old Trafford and Liverpool’s Anfield ground.

However, antiquated and small are two adjectives that can’t be used when describing the soon-to-be-built venue, which will include a much-publicised tunnel bar and loge boxes inspired by US American football stadiums.

Ambitious plans
“This has been so long in the planning stages,” says Cullen. “The stadium has taken over our lives, down to the nooks and crannies and details.” She adds: “We’ve scoured the world looking at the best venues. The stadium will be one of the best sport and entertainment venues in London, if not the world.”

The Tunnel Club will be the first of its kind in British football, offering fans the chance to see players through one-way glass as they make their way through the tunnel to the pitch for each match. Loges – which will also be a first for the UK – offer corporate fans private dining and networking spaces during the match as part of Tottenham Hotspur’s new hospitality packages.

American innovation
Both the Tunnel Club and the loges were inspired by National Football League (NFL) stadiums, many of which have both facilities.

The club has entered an agreement with the NFL for at least two NFL matches to be played at the stadium every season for 10 years, and the facility has been designed with this in mind. An artificial NFL pitch has been constructed six feet below the natural turf surface, which can be stored under the stand when not in use. Extra-large changing rooms have also been fitted for the huge entourages brought by NFL franchises.

Cullen – who has been on the club’s board since 2006 – reveals that hosting NFL matches will bring an extra £120m-£130m to the local community on top of the extra £300m that will be generated by playing Premier League football matches in a larger stadium.

She even mentions the idea of hosting a double header – with a Premier League football match on the Saturday and an NFL game on a Sunday – which could keep fans spending money in the area over a whole weekend, but concedes that this would be an extremely challenging undertaking.

The venue will also be able to host concerts with a 50,000-60,000 capacity including seating and standing on the pitch.

The heart of the community
Aside from the new opportunities the stadium will bring to the club, helping in its ambition to win major titles, Cullen is determined to make sure the structure benefits the community as a whole.

The first stage of development included the construction of a new Sainsbury’s store. The club insisted that the large supermarket chain employed the majority of its staff from the local area. As a result of the stadium being built, a number of other developments are popping up in the surrounding area, and Cullen hails this “ripple effect” as one that will benefit the entire community.

“Additional masterplanning and development schemes are now coming forward, including homes, mixed tenure homes, restaurants and leisure facilities,” she says. “It will be very much the sport and leisure hub of the Tottenham area, and all of the stations are having transport upgrades.”

Cullen adds: “This really is a stadium for everyone. The Tottenham Hotspur Foundation will run schemes so the stadium has life around it 365 days a year. There’ll be markets, pop-up stalls and festivals – embracing what Tottenham is all about.

“This really is Tottenham’s time,” she beams. “The pressure is on us, but it’s very exciting.”

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