London railway station to be renamed Tottenham Hotspur

Mayor says change must be subject to public consultation but club appears to be telling partners decision is made

The railway station near Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium is to be renamed after the club lobbied the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and his transport office, who had insisted that the club should pay more than £14.7m for the privilege.

The north London Premier League club first approached Transport for London (TfL) more than two years ago wanting to change the name of White Hart Lane station to Tottenham Hotspur.

A memo of understanding between the club and TfL, controlled by Khan, is now being drafted but Spurs won’t have to meet the multimillion pound asking price which it has vigorously contested.

The club, one of Britain’s wealthiest, will regard the decision as a win as it seeks to cash in on a new 62,000-capacity stadium which has been hit by delays and escalating costs. However, the move is likely to spark concern about the loss of revenue and the precedent it sets for the corporatisation of London’s heritage transport network.

TfL has a policy of not selling the names of designated heritage stations on a long-term basis but agreed after initial meetings with Spurs to explore the idea. A third party valuation of what it would be worth if the station was renamed for a 10-year period was put at £11.7m, in addition to implementation costs of £3m. Tottenham challenged this valuation and said it did not want to pay.

TfL briefed Khan, the transport body’s chairman, who said that the station name change would only be possible on the basis of the commercial terms and, even then, would be subject to a public consultation.

Since then, however, Tottenham has been telling would-be commercial partners that the station name will be changed, according to documents seen by the Guardian.

The U-turn comes after meetings between Tottenham, TfL and London mayoral officials where the club’s executive director, Donna Cullen, pressed its case. She stated that the name change was critical to realising a £250m commercial strategy revolving around selling stadium naming rights to a major partner and that the club did not want the renaming to be treated as a commercial deal.

At one meeting in December 2017 with Leah Kreitzman, the mayoral director for external and international affairs, Cullen suggested the club could fund a new escalator at Tottenham Hale station instead of paying the commercial fee. TfL decided the cost would be a minimum of £3.5m and was of limited value.

Tottenham Hotspur declined to comment.

A spokesperson for the mayor of London said: “The mayor does not support setting a precedent of selling off station names. However, a unique brand partnership between TfL and Tottenham Hotspur would benefit both TfL and Tottenham, supporting significant investment to create a new sport, leisure and entertainment destination as part of the wider regeneration of the area. TfL is still in discussions about this opportunity.”

The Green party co-leader Siân Berry, who plans to stand against Khan in the 2020 London mayoral election, said the renaming would “open up the slippery slope” towards other well-known stations and the network being “cluttered up” with corporate branding.

“There’s the question of the money, too, of course. If something is worth the money then that’s what should be handed over if this is going to happen,” she said. “How this has come about will also be of great interest to me and others members of the London assembly. A decision of this nature should be subject to the greatest of scrutiny and should definitely be subject to a public consultation.”

A TfL spokesperson said: “TfL has substantial experience in delivering successful commercial partnerships for the benefit of its customers and London in general. Opportunities of this nature are always thoroughly evaluated before completion to ensure that TfL delivers best value for its stakeholders.”

An underground station on the Piccadilly line has had the name of Tottenham’s north London rivals, Arsenal, since it was changed from Gillespie Road in 1932 following a campaign. TfL, created in 2000 as part of the Greater London authority, has developed a policy of not selling the names of heritage stations, but sometimesdoes so for 24-hour periods for public relations purposes.

Khan’s predecessor, Boris Johnson, ruled out the renaming of stations, largely due to the cost of changing the thousands of signs and maps across the network. In 2013, TfL also rejected a report by a London Conservative assembly member that stations should have corporate sponsors, with privatised stations bearing branded names such as Burberry by Bond Street; Knightsbridge, Home of Harrods and Virgin Euston.


Ben Quinn

The GuardianTramp

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