Spurs' desire is to share with Arsenal

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The Independent Football

Tottenham Hotspur are actively looking to move away from White Hart Lane and want to approach Arsenal to propose a ground-share should their north London rivals' plans for Ashburton Grove face further delay.

Daniel Levy, the Spurs chairman, has accepted that expansion of their gridlocked stadium will have to be shelved because of the ongoing problems over transport links and infrastructure. Planning permission has been refused, on health and safety grounds, to raise the East Stand and will not now be resubmitted. "It is clear they will not get through," said a source at the club.

He added: "Fundamentally they [the board] want to stay at White Hart Lane but something will have to give on the transport side to allow them to get the process going." Although a "piecemeal" expansion is being considered it is unlikely that Spurs will ever be able to increase their capacity from 36,000 to 48,000 - the target set by the board at last December's annual general meeting to make the club more competitive. "What they wanted was a broader, encompassing plan," the source said.

Spurs believe they have come "a long way" in lobbying for support to upgrade local transport - in particular they need improvements to the rail station at Northumberland Park - but admit that it has "been like walking through treacle. We have not given up hope but there is a lot of convincing to do. It would be foolhardy to continue any further," the source added.

An option that has been reactivated is to share with Arsenal, although Spurs accept that this will not happen if the go-ahead is finally given soon for the £410m stadium at Ashburton Grove. Because the plan is so clearly not their project Spurs believe it would be impossible to persuade their fans to go there at this late stage, even if Arsenal agreed. "We are actively looking at alternatives. If there was the chance of a decent stadium we could share with Arsenal. If Ashburton Grove didn't happen, for example," the source said.

Arsenal, who have faced huge funding and planning difficulties, are still confident that their plans for the 60,000-seat stadium will go ahead. They had hoped to have the £260m they need to borrow in place by the end of 2003 and maintain that an announcement will be made soon and building work should restart before the end of spring. However, they could still face delays from local residents, community groups and businesses who will appeal over compulsory purchasing orders which have been approved by the Government.

Officially Arsenal would not welcome an approach from Spurs, although the opposition of the board has not been unanimous in the past because of the alarming scale and cost of Ashburton Grove. Financing has been a headache for Arsenal, an indication that many banks believe the project is not a good investment. Credit committees of five banks are studying the documentation and in principle it has been accepted at last, although there are still hurdles and the deadline to open in August 2006 could slip by.

The banks are Royal Bank of Scotland, Banco Espirto Santo of Portugal, Bank of Ireland, Hamburgische Landesbank of Germany and KBC of Belgium. Apart from the Royal Bank these are not household names and in the City this is seen as a weak syndicate. Many financiers have urged Arsenal to share but the club is adamant that it will go alone.

Spurs are also monitoring progress at the new Wembley Stadium. They believe a joint approach from themselves and Arsenal would have a greater chance of success. Opposition from local residents, however, would be stiff especially as the Football Association has guaranteed that there will be no tenants. An alternative, though more distant, is a new Olympic Stadium should London's bid for the 2012 Games succeed. Preliminary talks have taken place with various clubs.

The most attractive solution for Spurs is for themselves and Arsenal to take a fresh approach and try to find a new, independent site which they could share on an equal footing. However, they may also feel that threatening to leave White Hart Lane will help build support for their own expansion plans.

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