Last Wednesday, Tottenham Hotspur played their first ever game in the not so creatively named Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. Despite the fact that the Stadium is quite clearly an architectural masterpiece, it unfortunately spells the beginning of the end of the football culture we were raised on. As Tottenham fans tweeted photos of fancy foods, exotic beers, lavish seating and their perfect pitch, it’s clearly evident that the fans once labelled by Roy Keane as the “prawn sandwich brigade” are now being catered for far more than the ever present passionate football fan, who would bleed for the colours and follow their team home and away, year in and year out.
It’s easy for the media and casual football fans to brandish and label such fans as hooligans and disregard them as part of a binge drinking culture that football wants to disassociate itself from. However, these are the fans who carried their clubs in the 80s when football wasn’t so fashionable and the Premier League was just a swimmer trying to locate an egg. These are also the fans that turn up for away games in April, when their teams have nothing to play for. Most importantly in relation to the future, these are the same fans who will attempt to raise the decibel levels, when their team is desperately seeking an extra boost of inspiration from crowd, in order to incentivise them to raise their levels in games where they aren’t at their best.
Unfortunately, these fans, who would once occupy a large majority of season ticket seats, are set to be overshadowed by a larger number of corporate or casual fans. Football is evolving into its next phase, where it will marketed as “family day out” or somewhere you can take your girlfriend on a date, rather than somewhere you solely go to passionately support the team you love.
Now, this doesn’t mean it can’t be something for all types of fans, but the traditional passion elicited from die hard football fans, often coupled with colourful language and chanting, doesn’t mix well with women, children and families.
The long-term effects of this will likely result in a very subdued atmosphere, a loss of passion, silence in the stands and a significant loss of home field advantage. This is already evident, given the lack of atmosphere generated at both Wembley Stadium and The Emirates. As much as football has benefited from franchising and the Americanisation of the game in terms of its growth in marketability, the game has subsequently lost the roots that helped support its growth in times of need. I have no doubt that the expansion and evolution of stadia will continue to aid the economic growth of the game, however, it’ll come at the expense of the atmosphere that only football could once create- an atmosphere you can still observe, by switching on any South American game.
From a betting prospective, we’ve already seen some strong trends relating to teams who have moved or revamped their stadiums. Arsenal and Atletico Madrid are two teams who have moved stadiums in the last decade. Both continue to have strong records against teams not competing for their domestic title, however, both have struggled against teams that they would consider to be their competitive rivals. Given Arsenal have a greater sample size, we will primarily focus on them.
Under Arsene Wenger in 2006 to 2018, Arsenal played 336 games at the Emirates, with a win rate of 68%, down from the 70% under Wenger at Highbury. However, most notably, we have seen a trend of bigger teams rising to the occasion, possibly based on the familiarity that bigger teams have of modern day stadia, which requires little or no adaptation to play on a perfect surface in-front of a tepidly rapturous crowd. Since moving to the Emirates, the top flight quartet of Manchester City, Chelsea, Manchester United and Bayern Munich, have managed to win 18 out of 47 matches, while Arsenal were under Wenger, giving the visitors a win percentage of 38%.