Opinion: Return of the Shelf: Is the new Spurs singing section destined to fail?

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a state-of-the-art arena, which opened four years ago. The atmosphere on matchdays, however, leaves much to be desired.

Although the building costs incurred were significantly higher than the initial budget, the new ground at N17 is an asset to the club. It has the capacity to host NFL matches, boxing fights and concerts. It will also host the world’s first in-stadium electric karting facility, from August 2023.This is impressive, but many supporters are frustrated that the club cares more about running a business model that generates profits which are not reinvested into the squad.

Although the structure is a sight to behold, the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will not be topping any tables for its atmosphere.The most important aspect of a stadium on a matchday is not how aesthetically pleasing it appears, but how loud the fans inside are. The atmosphere at the new stadium has generally been underwhelming.

The issue at hand
The problem has not merely been created by supporters failing to generate a good atmosphere, but by fans being separated who used to sit together at the old Lane.

Those who have loyally attended matches for many years have been spread across a stadium with a capacity which exceeds 60,000. A stadium which attracts plenty of tourists and spectators who are unlikely to get any chants going.

The club shows little concern that younger supporters, who are often the most enthusiastic on matchdays, are being priced out. One Hotspur membership fees rose again ahead of the 2023/24 season. This is contributing to the soulless atmosphere.

The singing section
Hope remains, however, as a campaign dubbed the ‘Return of the Shelf’ has been created to unite the most vocal supporters in a singing section. Work has also been done to fly large flags pre-match in the South Stand and to create new songs about the players.

Those behind the campaign for a singing section should be commended for their efforts. It is a step in the right direction that fans have taken the initiative as a collective group to create a better atmosphere.

The club has also shown signs of progress with fan engagement by accommodating the new singing section. Yet there are still many hurdles which stand in the way of the ‘Return of the Shelf’ from succeeding.

Two separate sections
Firstly, two different sections have been allocated – areas 324 and 249 (Spurs Song Sheet). This poses an issue because the section has already been split in two, with multiple blocks in between.

To make the section as effective as possible, all the supporters involved with the campaign need to be in the same area to create a wall of noise.

The stadium should be large enough to relocate some season ticket holders without moving them too far from their existing section. This is something which needs to be done if the club is serious about backing the campaign.

Positioning of the sections
Another problem is the positioning of the sections, as they are nearer the back of the Sound Stand. The away supporters are given a good corner close to the pitch to make noise. The home supporters seeking to improve the atmosphere have been denied this privilege.

The sections benefit from being situated in a one-tier stand, but generating an atmosphere would be much easier if there was one larger section on the first few rows.

Many clubs have ultras or other supporters’ groups which are placed closest to the pitch in order to maximise the noise.

Tottenham on the other hand has slotted the new singing section into the most convenient areas. The club should have made the compromise and offered a more preferable section.

This would result in the Return of the Shelf creating a much-improved atmosphere that the players and club alike could be proud of.

No safe standing
Finally, the sections allocated are seated parts of the stadium. The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has rail seating designed for safe standing, but the supporters most likely to be standing have not been allocated this.

Bans were issued in the early days of the ground for supporters guilty of persistent standing. This is no longer the case, but it would make more sense that the standing section is occupied by those singing for ninety minutes.

Instead, it is casuals on a day out and supporters who watch the game in silence who inhabit the area. Those who make little noise may as well sit down to watch matches.

The way forward
Ultimately, the Return of the Shelf campaign is a much-needed positive at Spurs. If it is to be successful, the club must do better in accommodating it in a single section close to the action on the pitch where it will best improve the atmosphere.