Spurs sign up intelligent edge to digitise new stadium

Computer Weekly visits White Hart Lane to see how Tottenham Hotspur football club is building the most technologically advanced stadium in the UK

With its new stadium, Tottenham Hotspur football club not only aims to have London’s biggest-capacity football club ground – holding 61,500 spectators – but also plans to make it a major destination, with top chefs, luxury VIP lounges and the ability to host other major sport and entertainment events.

The idea is to create a destination venue. The new stadium has been designed from the outset for multi-use, including a structurally engineered, fully retractable pitch – a first for the UK.

The ground will have a synthetic grass surface beneath the grass pitch, which will  be used for NFL American football games and other events.

The stadium’s IT infrastructure – based on technology from HPE – is being incorporated from the ground up, enabling connectivity for visitors across the entire venue and flexibility to cater for future demands.

Sanjeev Katwa, head of technology at Tottenham Hotspur, says: “Creating a technology infrastructure to support an enhanced visitor experience requires solutions that can meet the growing demands of visitors that come to our new stadium.”

While football is the top priority at Spurs, Katwa says technology is high on the board’s agenda. “My accountability is to my board and aligning myself with them,” he says.

The club looked to the US for inspiration, says Katwa. “The take-up of wireless connectivity in UK stadiums is very poor,” he says. “Only two or three have really done anything and in Europe there are not many venues that have wireless. But in the US, it is almost a given. Any venue you go to, whether it is for NFL, soccer or indoor arenas, they have all got connectivity. It is a given. They don’t even need to promote the fact that they have connectivity.”

Wireless connectivity

There is a huge difference between implementing Wi-Fi and deploying high-density wireless connectivity. While a wireless access point can provide Wi-Fi access for fans, the latter offers the possibility of improving the whole visitor experience. In the US, fans can order food from their seats, avoiding queues, check the location of toilets and find their seats easily when they arrive.

Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium will not only be used for English Premier League football, but also for NFL American football, and Katwa adds: “If you can meet the requirements of the NFL, I think you have the connectivity requirements well covered.”

He says the project began with a blank sheet of paper. “When you have an opportunity to build from scratch and choose technology with design as a clear mandate, it gives you a chance to look at lots of technology,” he says.

According to Katwa, Populous, the global architectural design firm responsible for the new stadium, understands the importance of technology for the fabric of the buildings it designs. He says staff from the football club’s technology group worked with Populous and Buro Happold, the integrated engineering consultancy, along with other technology specialists at the very start of the stadium’s design.

Katwa began working with HPE two years ago to look at integration, to avoid ending up with pockets of technology.

Apps strategy

The club is also looking at its apps strategy supported by the networking infrastructure, he says. This is being provided by Aruba, which HPE acquired for $2.7bn in 2015.

The football club has also developed personas of fans to help it implement the right technology. “We want fans to arrive early,” sayd Katwa. “We are keen for them to spend money on food and beverages and we want to offer engaging content and other experiences, such as the museum shop.”

Along with the networking equipment from Aruba, the club is using HPE’s Pointnext services organisation to meet its current and future technology demands.

Eugene Berger, Aruba’s UK CTO, describes the network infrastructure being deployed at Tottenham as the infrastructure to support the stadium’s operational technology, such as switches, and all the technology services to support TV coverage and security requirements.

Intelligent edge

This creates what HPE describes as an intelligent edge. Meg Whitman, CEO of HPE, says: “Tech innovation is critical in every industry and Spurs are using tech – the new frontier of the hybrid world – to take advantage of a greater intelligence to transform the visitor experience – to revolutionise the fan experience.”

Donna-Marie Cullen, executive director at Tottenham Hotspur, says: “When we set out, we wanted to ensure the stadium was technologically advanced. An increased-capacity stadium would be a game-changer for us. We want the build to be the most technologically advanced of its kind. Technology plays a role in every step of the journey for the fan. It will also be a great site for concerts.”

Along with the stadium itself, the club has a new head office, Lillywhite House, which will have one of the largest Sainsbury’s supermarkets in Europe on its ground floor, Cullen adds.

Read more on IT innovation, research and development