Tottenham stadium to host only one NFL game in 2018
LONDON -- Tottenham Hotspur's new stadium will host just one NFL fixture in 2018, with Wembley retaining two of the three matches in the capital, the National Football League has announced.
In the first confirmed event at Spurs' yet-to-be-named new home, the Oakland Raiders will host the Seattle Seahawks on Oct. 14.
The absence of a second fixture at the redeveloped White Hart Lane raises doubts about the readiness of the 61,559-capacity stadium and the surrounding area, after the club announced a 10-year deal with the NFL to host at least two matches per year in July 2015.
But NFL's executive vice president Mark Waller said the single game was in line with the first years the NFL played at other sites in London. Wembley hosted the first NFL London game in 2007 and did not host two fixtures in the same year until 2013, while Twickenham hosted one match in 2016 before moving on to two last year.
"We are very excited about playing our first game at Tottenham's magnificent new stadium and will follow our usual pattern of playing one game in our first season at a new venue, as we did at Wembley and Twickenham in previous years," Waller said.
"This enables us to achieve important learnings relating to the fans' preferences, ticketing, team logistics and local transportation and infrastructure in order to create the best possible experience and environment. We will play an additional game at Tottenham in a future season, over and above the planned two per year, to make up for this."
London mayor Sadiq Khan also said in a release that the city will "look forward to going back to staging at least four NFL games in London" in the future.
The number of games is a backward step for the NFL's London expansion plans after the league staged four fixtures in the capital last year, with Waller previously saying there could be a a permanent London NFL franchise in the next "four to five years."
In the other matches at Wembley, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Philadelphia Eagles and the Tennessee Titans visit the Los Angeles Chargers. The games will be played on the Oct. 21 and 28, though the NFL is yet to confirm the order.
The club's £800 million arena will feature the world's first dividing retractable football pitch, with an artificial surface underneath that will be used for NFL games and concerts, and a dedicated NFL entrance. There will also be NFL-sized dressing rooms and dedicated NFL medical and media facilities, while the stadium has been designed to ensure the sight lines are as good for NFL as for football.
The NFL have contributed £10m towards the tailoring of the stadium, while Spurs and the league will split gate receipts and food, drink and merchandise sales from NFL matches there.
Spurs are spending this season at Wembley and they have the option to spend a further year at the national stadium as a contingency if their new home is not ready for the start of next term.
Contractors are working 24 hours per day, seven days a week on the stadium site and Levy, who reiterated his desire to one day share the stadium with a permanent NFL London franchise, said he was confident the ground would be ready in time.
"Unless there are unforeseen circumstances, I am very confident, and I wouldn't be sitting here today otherwise, saying that the season we are about to enter in August, we will be playing our games here from the start of next season," he said.
"The investment in this stadium, it requires a very long-term vision and our relationship with the NFL with the initial contract we signed for 10 years but we very much hope there will be a franchise in London and we would very much like this stadium to be used for that club."
The chairman also reassured Spurs supporters that the NFL would not dictate any matters relating to the Premier League club, saying: "As far as the football side of this, as far as our fans are concerned they can relax. The NFL will have nothing to do with the soccer side.
"Over the long term [the additional revenue from the NFL] is beneficial [to the club], but as I said before it's not directly linked."
Dan is ESPN FC's Tottenham correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Dan_KP.