Tottenham Hotspur had been promising an update about the status of the new stadium by mid-December. Today, that update came, but it isn’t what many fans want to hear.
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy announced that progress has been made on the critical safety systems that prompted the first initial delay this past fall, but noted that work on the site will continue into Christmas, after which the test events can be scheduled.
Unfortunately, according to a release on Tottenham’s website, that means that the targeted date of January 13, the home match against Manchester United, needs to be pushed back into at least February.
The past few months have been spent rectifying issues with the critical safety systems. We are pleased to report that progress has been steady and we are now into the integrated testing and commissioning phases that take place ahead of the application for a stadium safety certificate.
Testing is being conducted both during the day and night and our contractors will continue to work during the Christmas period. Barring no further significant issues we should then be in a position to schedule Test Events.
While the club release doesn’t say it, the implication is that scheduling test events during the Christmas fixture season would be problematic, not least because of the extra strain it would put on the Metropolitan Police in what is an already busy time. That was suggested by Matt Hughes, writing for the Times (£), who went on to suggest that the next likely target for a stadium debut would be the home match against Newcastle United on February 2.
In the statement, Daniel Levy once again acknowledged his own frustration mirrors that of supporters who have been waiting for the stadium, but noted that things are moving along.
“We are acutely conscious that we are asking fans to go to Wembley for far longer than any of us wanted to. However we are now seeing the progress that we needed to see.
“What I don’t want to do is set any firm dates until we have finally achieved a safety certificate. So many people tell me to look at other major schemes that run late and, whilst I know it happens often, we are still hugely frustrated.
“It is important, however, to recognise the sheer complexity of the scheme. It will be one of the first fully-integrated digital stadiums and will also be required to meet the latest and most stringent safety regulations.”
The other question as the stadium inches towards completion is whether Spurs will be able to host the home match for their Champions League Round of 16 series at their new home, or if they will be forced to use Wembley once again. Matt Law, writing in the Telegraph, says that UEFA is aware of the situation, but that no decision has been made as to whether Spurs will be able to use their new ground. The first leg of the Round of 16 will be held on February 12-13 and February 19-20; Spurs will not know which week they will play until the draw, but as an unseeded team they will play the first of the two-legged series at home.
A UEFA statement said the following:
“Uefa is in close contact with Tottenham Hotspur FC regarding this matter. A decision will be taken in due course and in any case before February 2019.”
This obviously isn’t the best of news, but there IS good news in here — things are inching along nicely and the date of the stadium opening is closer than ever. What seems pretty clear at this point is that Spurs WILL play in their new stadium this season at some point. The club is operating under an abundance of caution. That won’t help assuage the feelings of fans who are still frustrated by the delays, but it isn’t nothing.