"Spurs should never consider leaving White Hart Lane" - an article for the Evening Standard

Thursday, 11 November 2010

This article on Tottenham Hotspur, White Hart Lane and the possible move to the Olympic Stadium was originally published in the Evening Standard [link] .

To register your support for Tottenham Hotspur to remain in North London, sign the petition here [external link]

Click on the Spurs website and you read: “Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is located in north London. Tottenham's home ground is White Hart Lane.” Both of these things are now at risk.

Spurs moved to White Hart Lane in 1899. It's the home of the great Bill Nicholson, of Blanchflower, Greaves, Hoddle and Lineker.

The club is also rooted in the community — Northumberland Park ward, which includes Spurs, is one of the poorest five per cent in England, with the highest youth unemployment in London.

The club has planning permission to redevelop White Hart Lane and has bought up much of Tottenham High Road in anticipation of doing so. Haringey council and I have worked hard with Spurs chairman Daniel Levy to gain planning permission for a redeveloped White Hart Lane.

This scheme is the only way of lifting the decay which hangs over the area. Mr Levy recognises this, saying the plan “has the potential to act as the real catalyst for the much-needed, wider regeneration of the area”.

So why have Spurs also applied to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford in 2012? Why is the London Mayor backing them on this?

The Olympic Stadium is not suitable for football: the athletics track would have to be demolished. Converting it so soon would be a massive waste of public funds and the Olympic Park would become a building site again for two to three years after just two weeks of Games celebrations. This would not be good for Newham — or athletics.

Yesterday the White Hart Lane plans went to Boris Johnson for approval. It is decision time for the Mayor and Mr Levy. I am calling on them to allow the White Hart Lane plan to go forward.

I want them to accept their responsibility to generations of Spurs fans and to the boarded-up shops and slum homes of Northumberland Park. And I want them to accept that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club is so-called for a reason — because it belongs in Tottenham.

From Barnet to Waltham Forest, Enfield to Haringey, we look east and see the Olympic revival in Newham; we look west and see the revival brought about by Wembley. We need Spurs to remain committed to north London, to White Hart Lane, and to their fans. And we need the Mayor to stay true to his campaign pledge to spread regeneration around and not pit north London against east.

I admit that I have been a Spurs fan all my life but this is about more than the team I love. This is about the importance of a football team to a community: not just another business but an institution with a relationship to the people who give it life. And it is about a Mayor and a club chairman who say they want to help poor places such as Northumberland Park but then seem ready to dump them at the first opportunity.

We have seen this before with Wimbledon, who had to leave their south London roots and are now in Milton Keynes, as MK Dons. If Johnson and Levy have their way, we may click on the website in 2015 and read: “Stratford Spurs Football Club is located in east London. Spurs' home ground is the Olympic Stadium, Newham.”

The time to act is now. If you want to keep Spurs at White Hart Lane, sign the petition at petitiononline.co.uk.

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