Frustration is growing within Premier League clubs at Tottenham Hotspur’s ongoing stadium delay and the continued use of a Wembley pitch that was described on Tuesday night by PSV Eindhoven manager Mark van Bommel as “s—-”.
The annoyance centres not just on a playing surface that has also been used this autumn for American Football, as well as how clubs may face away games against Tottenham at different venues, but a view that the schedule to re-open White Hart Lane was always overly ambitious.
The Premier League have allowed Spurs to play their home games so far this season at Wembley, but the sight of NFL markings and such a worn pitch in one of the prestige fixtures of the season against Manchester City has deepened disquiet among some rivals.
Premier League rule K.20 states that, “that the playing surface must contain no markings other than the traditional horizontal and white lines”, but Spurs were given permission to play the City game only a day after the Philadelphia Eagles had beaten the Jacksonville Jaguars.
It is understood that effectively washing out the markings with the heavy use of water risked further damaging the pitch.
No Premier League club has previously split home games at different venues and, in 2015, league chief executive Richard Scudamore said that Spurs must play the entire season at one venue when they moved stadium. He cited “the integrity of the competition” for that stance and said that it would be “completely unfair” to play at two different grounds when the idea of playing at both MK Dons and Wembley was debated. Spurs were also permitted by the English Football League to play a Carabao Cup match at MK Dons this season.
Spurs have said that they will remain at Wembley until at least January, meaning forthcoming fixtures against Chelsea, Inter Milan, Southampton, Burnley, Bournemouth and Wolves will also take place at the national stadium. They could then open their new 62,000 stadium in either the FA Cup or the match against Manchester United on Jan 13.
A further update is expected next month and, while other Premier League clubs are well aware of the huge challenge of moving stadium, much of the frustration is founded on a belief that the timescale always invited problems. In that context, there is a feeling that more could have been done to avoid all the knock-on uncertainties and problems.
Tottenham have blamed the delay on contractors missing deadlines and are remaining cautious about committing to a future opening date.
“We know the continued delay is a source of immense disappointment to everyone and I can only continue to apologise for this – it is a sentiment felt by all of us,” said chairman Daniel Levy, who also made a point last month of thanking both the football authorities and their rival Premier League clubs.
“This is a stadium for another century and a few months’ delay will hopefully soon be forgotten when we proudly return home,” added Levy.