Those of us who have been following the development of Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium construction over the past few years already know that Spurs’ new home will be sharing its facilities with the National Football League. Now Spurs chairman Daniel Levy, in an extensive interview with ESPN, has come out and said what has been pretty much an unspoken fact: he wants a future London NFL franchise to play its matches at the new White Hart Lane.
"We would welcome very much close cooperation with the NFL and a dedicated team. Obviously a decision is entirely theirs whether they do bring a team to the U.K., and where it would be located is something that would be talked about. But yes, we would be very much welcome to that scenario."
The NFL and Tottenham have already reached a ten-year agreement that will see up to two NFL games per season played at the yet-to-be-named stadium in North London, but the NFL has been not-so-quietly feeling out the possibility of expanding, and that expansion is more than likely to be overseas.
Interest in the NFL is growing by leaps and bounds in the United Kingdom, and London is the logical place to put an overseas franchise. By collaborating now with the NFL, Levy has positioned Tottenham to be ahead of the curve. If a new franchise materializes (hopefully by 2020), Spurs will already have a shiny new stadium that was built with NFL franchises and multi-sport collaboration in mind. According to Levy, this was absolutely by design.
"I have lived and breathed this project from day one. It is absolutely my ambition to make this work. When I first started talking about it internally at the club, again I think people around me thought I was mad as well. I guess it's my tenacity to get it done because there were many times with the NFL where there wasn't going to be an arrangement. We just kept going back and saying, 'What about this? What about that?'
"When we first went to them, we went to them with the idea of a joint stadium in some shape or form without going through all the details at that stage. As we sat down and we went through all the operations, we worked out, 'What does the NFL need? What does soccer need?' Basically we had a checklist of all the various things we wanted to achieve, and then at the end of the day it was the best solution."
Skeptics will point to Levy’s collaboration with the NFL as another data point in the continuing decline of club football traditions in England. The arrangement, after all, is a brazenly financial one, and even though a successful partnership with the NFL will no doubt help Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, at what cost? There is already grumbling from Tottenham fans about being priced out of a Premier League match, and there’s a great deal of skepticism whether partnering with the NFL will benefit the English fan apart from giving them another expensive sporting event that they can’t afford to attend.
However, even the most curmudgeonly of “Against Modern Football” activists deep down probably admit that this ship has already sailed. Football – both American and English varieties – is big business now. With multi-billionaires buying up local clubs and turning them into behemoths, this is one way that a newcomer to the upper echelons of soccer can compete that doesn’t involve new ownership pumping millions of dollars in an unsustainable way into the club.
Levy himself admits that building its new stadium in a way that accommodates an entirely different sport that has yet to gain a real foothold in England is a bit of a gamble. But to hear him say it, it’s a gamble worth taking, and success could mean a huge increase in the value of Tottenham Hotspur, one that could help launch Tottenham into financial competition with the likes of Manchester City, Manchester United, and Chelsea.
"Clearly we wouldn't both be putting all this into this stadium if there wasn't the prospect of one day a team eventually coming to London," Levy said. "But there are certainly no guarantees that A) a team comes to London, and B) they have to use our stadium.
"I think we're all putting the effort in in the hopes that they will do it."