Local residents are fighting back against the gentrification led by Tottenham Hotspur's stadium redevelopment plans. Spurs fan Joel Sharples looks at how the club has let down the community it is supposedly a part of.
The recent protest movement in Brazil has drawn the world’s attention to the way in which sport-led development can act to disenfranchise, uproot and divert funding away from low-income communities. Less attention, however, has been given to the strikingly similar dynamics at work on a smaller scale in North London, where residents of Tottenham are facing eviction from their homes as a result of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club’s stadium redevelopment plans. The #AgainstModernFootball concept is gaining traction at the moment and perhaps this is emblematic of why – football clubs are now not just disconnected from the communities that they are a part of; they are actively contributing to the destruction of those communities.
You might have thought that the 11th richest club in the world that stands to make windfall gains of over £100m over the next three years from the new TV revenue deal might be able to dredge up the additional £5m that is supposedly needed to release private investment for the new stadium. Instead they are turning to Haringey council, who intend to raise the £5m through the sale of the Love Lane/Whitehall Street estate, which sits between White Hart Lane station and the stadium. This could lead to the demolition of nearly 300 council homes, with residents being kept in the dark about whether they will be found suitable accommodation in the area. Given that Haringey has one of the longest council housing waiting lists in the country, with 10% of all households in the borough on the list, it is highly unlikely that they will.
Spurs have played their cards well with the council in recent years, using the threat of exodus to the Olympic Stadium in Stratford to squeeze ever-greater amounts of public subsidy from Haringey Council and the Greater London Authority. In 2011 the council leader Claire Kober stated that no public money would go into the development and Spurs would provide £15-16m in Section 106 funding to redevelop the local area. Nine months later a £17m public funding package was on the table and by January 2012 this was raised to £41.3m with almost all of Spurs’s S106 obligations dropped. Ironically, this is almost exactly the sum that Spurs challenged in the courts as illegal “state aid” when it was offered by Newham Council to West Ham to develop the Olympic Stadium.
Perhaps most cynical, and audacious, is how they tapped into £8.5 million of the £50 million set aside by Boris Johnson to develop areas affected by the August 2011 riots. In doing so, they have effectively cashed in on the social unrest in Tottenham to fund a stadium that will provide huge profits for shareholders and little if any benefit to the surrounding community. The money will essentially go towards funding the improvements to infrastructure surrounding the stadium that Spurs would have had to provide anyway to cope with the extra 20,000-odd fans travelling to the area on match days.
But what is most concerning for local residents is how THFC has shirked its responsibility to provide affordable housing at the same time as it is destroying existing council-owned homes. In its initial plans Spurs had an obligation to provide 100 affordable homes alongside 100 to be sold on the open market. This in itself was pitifully low given the housing crisis in Haringey, but in 2012 the council responded to Spurs’s blackmailing by waiving this requirement as well as the £1.2 million that had been promised to improve local schools. Instead the club has been allowed to build 285 homes that will be sold at market rates. These will be overwhelmingly one and two bedroom flats that will no doubt be snapped up by City workers enjoying the improved overground links to central London, also paid for with public money. This will contribute to pushing up rents in the area which, combined with the benefits cap which has been introduced in Haringey, could force large numbers of low-income families out of their homes.
As a lifelong Spurs fan the slow realization that the club I love is no different to any other large corporation in its parasitism and disrespect for community life has been a painful one. However, as stakeholders in the club and potential punters at the new stadium, I think fans have a responsibility to show solidarity with those who will be affected and potentially displaced by the new development.
Local residents and traders have been mobilising to resist the current wave of gentrification that is sweeping through Tottenham, driven by the stadium redevelopment plans. Our Tottenham are organising a street assembly this Saturday 6th July to say no to the threat of evictions, high rents and loss of community services and demand the improvements that the neighbourhood actually needs.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @JoelJBSharples