LONDON >> NFL games will be played at Wembley Stadium on three consecutive weekends for the first time because the new home being built for English Premier League club Tottenham won’t be ready.
Tottenham said today that it would be unable to host the Seattle Seahawks and the Oakland Raiders on Oct. 14 due to “issues with the critical safety systems” at the 62,000-seat stadium in the final stages of construction.
“We appreciate the support our partner the NFL has shown since the extent of this issue became evident today,” Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy said.
The teams won’t have to adjust plans significantly because Wembley, English soccer’s national stadium, is only 12 miles across north London from Tottenham.
Wembley will also stage the Oct. 21 game between the Tennessee Titans and the Los Angeles Chargers, and the meeting between the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars a week later.
Tottenham’s new stadium, which is built on the site of the now-demolished White Hart Lane stadium, was designed as much for soccer as American football. The grass soccer pitch can be retracted and kept under lights below the stands when the artificial surface is required for the NFL. The dressing rooms can also cope with NFL teams without adjustments.
The NFL won’t say if the 10-year contract at Tottenham only officially starts when the stadium is ready to stage games.
“We totally understand the issue,” Mark Waller, the NFL’s executive vice president of international, said. “We shall continue to work with them towards making our future games at Spurs a huge success. The new stadium will be an amazing venue for the NFL and we are very excited about our long-term partnership with Tottenham Hotspur.”
Tottenham has been forced to continue playing home games at Wembley after its new home wasn’t ready for this month’s Premier League season start.
“Urgent follow-up meetings with (construction firm) Mace and the trade contractors are now taking place,” the club said in a statement. “We are reviewing the situation and planned timetable to rectify and re-test, after which we shall be in a better position to outline a revised timetable.”
Tottenham has postponed test events that were planned for Aug. 27 and Sept. 1. They are yet to be rescheduled so local authorities can decide whether to grant the stadium with a safety certificate.
Tottenham will now have to play at least three home league games at Wembley. The club said the venue for home games in the Champions League group stage, which starts in September, will have to be “determined following discussions” with tournament organizer UEFA.
“At the start of the project we asked for your support during what we knew would be a complex and challenging build and now we ask for your continued patience and forbearance,” Levy said in a message to fans.