Football has come a long way since Pukka Pies on the terraces. Driven by rising expectations of what corporate entertainment means, Britain’s national game is now competing with any other high end event, whether it’s theatre in the West End or the Wimbledon tennis championships.
That shift has forced clubs like Tottenham Hotspur to become more creative and offer customers and their guests something different.
Having received an early preview of the stadium in January 2017, we’ve now seen its premium packages in full virtual reality. With the club claiming to set a new benchmark for football hospitality, can SMEs expect a return on their investment?
The business case for corporate entertainment
As an industry worth an annual £1.2bn, corporate hospitality doesn’t always come cheap. But the stats clearly suggest businesses are finding a solid return on their investment.
According to research from the Sports, Travel & Hospitality Group, the hospitality provider behind the London 2012 Olympics, over 80% of decision makers who buy corporate hospitality are confident in its effectiveness as a relationship-building tool.
In terms of those who attend as guests, the study found that 71% would increase business spend with a company following a positive experience.
The scale of choice on offer available at the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium is also indicative of the varying requirements of today’s SMEs, but it’s crucial standards don’t drop.
The chance to dine with former players and gain access to post-match ceremonies points to another new reality for corporate entertainment – VIP access in the social media age. Even in the corporate “cheap seats”, Michelin-level catering is standard and there is an impressive attention to detail to atmosphere and surroundings.
Tottenham Hotspur stadium in focus
The club is almost ready to unveil its new stadium, under construction since 2012 and with SMEs firmly in mind.
Once the 2018/19 football season has kicked off, Tottenham Hotspur will boast a capacity increase from 35,000 to 61,000, hosting NFL games and concerts alongside football.
The club plans to host as many as 45 non-football events each year in effort to appeal to a wide audience.
“We shall be delivering the most unique entertainment venue in the world, with the opportunity to bring major events, such as NFL and concerts to Tottenham.”
Daniel Levy, Tottenham Hotspur chairman
Conversations with NFL also inspired the Tunnel Club. “When we looked at NFL stadia, the Tunnel Club was such a major feature of their stadia, it was just a no-brainer that we would be putting one in,” the club’s executive director, Donna-Maria Cullen, told us back in 2017.
The Tunnel Club – separating 100 guests from the players with just a sheet of one-way glass – is a UK-first and offers a unique match-day experience. Before kick-off, guests can feel almost part of the matchday squad as they walk parallel to the players to the same Recaro-style seats behind the dugout.
“For suites, we feel the future should be very interactive – so quite a bit more fun, than traditional. That means things like chefs cooking in front of you,” Andy O’Sullivan, director of hospitality, told us.
Suites are also available on non-matchdays for businesses to use as a fully-serviced London office or showcase space.
The venue also has its own private members club, the H Club, which is named after club founder Henry Hotspur. For those who can fork out the premium, the H Club allows guests to dine at the chef’s table or alongside former Tottenham Hotspurs players.
There’s something universal about team sports. Unsurprisingly, football is the UK’s most popular sport, followed by tennis, Formula One, rugby union and athletics. Close to one in four little boys all over the UK dream of being professional footballers, which is why when it comes to breaking the ice, entertaining clients, or trying to land a new deal, the universality of football can be a massive bonding experience.
Even top cafes, restaurants, bars, meeting rooms and the like don’t stack up to the one thing a matchday experience can bring; the atmosphere.
To ensure the football lives up to the features, Spurs have been canny enough to learn from the flaws in neighbouring projects.
Both the Wembley national stadium and North London rivals Arsenal’s Emirates have been criticised for failing to trap the chants and cheers of fans inside the ground. To prevent an irreversible problem, Tottenham’s architects decided to think outside the box.
The club employed global rock act U2’s sound engineers to ensure the ground retains its cauldron-like atmosphere. While Arsenal’s Emirates stadium reportedly leaks noise out of the corners, Tottenham’s new home has been designed to keep the noise inside the stadium.
“We looked at Wembley and the Emirates and how they’ve struggled with atmosphere,” a spokesperson for the club told Real Business. “We’ve tried to make this a tight stadium like the old White Hart Lane.”
“People are there for the 90-minute football experience – even if you’re entertaining clients, you want the experience to be memorable.” The atmosphere after a 3-2 Spurs win at a North London derby would certainly leave an impression for clients to remember you by.
The club has built its corporate offering around a simple formula. Business leaders who invest in this combination of entertaining football and high-end hospitality will continue to build long-term relationships and find value in the experience.
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