Spurs were due to open the new stadium on 15 September with the Premier League game against Liverpool. But ongoing safety issues have forced the cancellation of two scheduled test events, which means that the new stadium cannot get its safety licence. Tottenham have taken up an option with the Football Association allowing them to continue to play ‘home’ games at Wembley for the foreseeable future.
The plan at the start of the season was for Tottenham to play just one ‘home’ game at Wembley this year, when they faced Fulham this Saturday, 18 August. They played all of their ‘home’ games at Wembley last season, and their European ‘home’ games there in the 2016-17 season too. The visit of Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool on 15 September would have been a suitably glamorous opening.
But the new stadium needed to pass two tests events, scheduled for Monday 27 August and Saturday 1 September, to get the safety licence for the Liverpool game. And those two events had to be cancelled. Only when the safety issues are resolved can they be rescheduled, and the club be issued with the safety licence to open the stadium.
“Recent testing and commissioning has now shown issues with the critical safety systems,” said a club statement released on Monday evening. “Urgent follow-up meetings with Mace and the trade contractors are now taking place…The delays created by these difficulties mean that we can no longer hold the necessary Test Events on 27 August and 1 September. These will need to be rescheduled to take place ahead of any first official match at the new stadium in order to achieve the safety licence.”
With both the Liverpool game on 15 September and the Cardiff City game on Saturday 6 October being relocated to Wembley, the earliest the new stadium can now be opened is when Spurs host reigning champions Manchester City on the afternoon of Sunday 28 October. That would be six weeks after the scheduled opening for the Liverpool match and there is no guarantee it will be ready for then. If it is not then the Chelsea game on 24 November would be the next possibility. The FA confirmed that Spurs have the option to play “a small number” of games at Wembley until the new White Hart Lane is ready.
Tottenham’s Champions League games will also be affected, with Spurs now certain to start their group stage campaign at Wembley at the very least. There are three rounds of games, on 18-19 September, 2-3 October and 23-24 October, before the Manchester City Premier League game. UEFA prefer that teams play all of their Champions League games at the same venue, the regulations stating that: “In principle, a club must play all its matches in the competition at one and the same venue.”
Spurs confirmed on Monday night that they are talking to UEFA about this. “Both domestic and European cup game venues will be determined following discussions with the relevant organising bodies,” said Spurs’ statement. Tottenham will enter the League Cup at the third round, which is played in the last week of September, with the fourth round scheduled for the last week in October. The EFL will allow Spurs to play a 'home' match away if the new stadium is not ready.
The delay also means that the NFL match between Seattle Seahawks and Oakland Raiders on 14 October, during football’s international break, has also been moved to Wembley. Daniel Levy asked NFL for its “continued patience” over the failure to get the stadium ready in time.
“We know this will be disappointing for all our season tickets holders, premium members and our fans worldwide,” Levy said. “We appreciate the support our partner the NFL has shown since the extent of this issue became evident today. At the start of the project we asked for your support during what we knew would be a complex and challenging build and now we ask for your continued patience and forbearance.”
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