Tottenham Hotspur Stadium goes straight to the top – see the ranking of 60 stadia in new Venue Performance Rating tool
18 June 2020
Spurs’ home ground is the highest-ranked stadium in a new version of the VPR system from engineering consultancy Buro Happold.
The score "reflects potential and can show whether a club is financially under-performing or over-performing in relation to their stadia," says Buro Happold venue director.
Tottenham Hotspur Stadium tops the Overall table, as well as the Revenue rankings, while Barcelona’s Camp Nou leads the way in Impact, and Valencia’s Estadio Mestalla is the highest ranked for Experience.
Buro Happold is also developing its own version of ‘Expected goals’ – which is ‘Expected revenue’ for each stadium.
The international engineering consultancy Buro Happold, which works with football clubs across the world on their stadium design, has launched a new version of its Venue Performance Rating (VPR) system, with the full rankings available on offthepitch.com.
Drawing on an array of data, together with Buro Happold’s own 20-year venue design experience, the VPR provides metrics measuring all the key elements of a stadium’s performance.
The tool was first introduced last year, with the first league table appearing in Brand Finance’s Football 50 and used as part of its annual assessment of the world’s most valuable football clubs in terms of brand value. Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabéu Stadium topped both the stadium and the full 2019 Football 50 rankings.
The new version of the VPR features an Overall stadium ranking, as well as three additional categories: Experience, Revenue and Impact. There are three divisions for each of the four rankings, resulting in a total of 12 league tables. In all, the system ranks the performance of 75 different stadia, with the top 60 for each ranking listed – 20 in each league table.
The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which opened last year, is the top-ranked stadium in this year’s Overall VPR rankings. The Spurs home ground also tops the Revenue rankings, while Barcelona’s Camp Nou leads the way in Impact, and Valencia’s Estadio Mestalla is the highest ranked for Experience.
Each of the three elements of VPR – Experience, Revenue and Impact – will continue to be developed, including for the Premium version of the VPR tool, which enables an enhanced assessment of a stadium.
Table may surprise fans and owners
The Experience Rating scores the potential influence of the stadium and its surroundings, based on the experience of a typical fan on a match day.
Metrics are assessed relating to the internal experience, including characteristics relating to the view and sound in the stadium bowl, and external experience, which includes metrics such as the proximity to public transport nodes and the number of nearby food and beverage outlets. The rating also accounts for experiential features, such as large TV screens, Wi-Fi provision and safe standing capability.
"This rich tapestry of criteria is why our Experience league table may surprise fans and owners at first glance," Andy Pottinger, a director in Buro Happold’s Sports and Entertainment team, tells offthepitch.com.
"For example, Goodison Park scores well and is 13th in this year’s Experience table. However, this is perhaps less surprising when you consider ratings like the92.net’s Overall table, which ranks Goodison Park in 12th."
In the Premium version of the VPR tool each stand within each stadium is also considered. "What makes a great experience for one fan can be different to what makes a great experience for another," explains Pottinger.
"We use weightings to reflect this difference in preference. For example, when we have modelled stands dominated by hardcore support, such as the new South Stand at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, we have placed a higher importance on sound than on space. In stands focused on corporate guests, the higher importance is placed on space and view."
Competition for global viewers and digital impressions will increase
All of the VPR categories have a relationship with the financial performance of the club, but this one has the greatest correlation.
The Revenue Rating scores the revenue-generating potential of the stadium, encompassing match day, commercial and broadcasting income.
This is scored by combining metrics such as the current revenue per fan; an assessment of ‘destination status’ (how attractive a stadium is for a neutral fan to visit, from within the same country or elsewhere); the current UEFA facilities rating; and the flexibility of the venue to stage non-football events.
“A prime example of the latter is the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium’s justifiable claim to be a purpose-designed NFL stadium as well as a football stadium, thanks largely to its retractable pitch,” says Pottinger.
Furthermore, we believe that well-designed stadiums can actually influence the fans, given enough time. For example, if a club wishes to encourage a younger fanbase it should consider that in the design of a new stand or stadium.
He adds that the design of a stadium is having an increasingly significant impact on broadcasting revenue.
“In the coming years we expect the competition for global viewers and digital impressions to increase still further, with broadcasters preferring certain venues over others,” he says.
“For example, the visibility of advertising and the energy created by safe standing may play a role in this."
Pottinger also notes that through partnerships with clubs, Buro Happold “can go deeper, and create metrics relating to the influence of technology and sustainability.”
He believes that in the coming years “both of these aspects will surely rise up in the expectations of partners and sponsors. Outside of football, acts such as Coldplay and Massive Attack are choosing venues that align with their values. Embodied carbon, operational carbon, and quantity of material sent to landfill are all examples of quantifiable metrics.”
Novak Djokovic does not cut corners in his choice of racket either
The Impact Rating scores the potential influence of the stadium on what happens on the pitch – in other words how the stadium can facilitate the ‘12th player’ effect.
This is scored by assessing metrics relating to size, form and sound. Sound is quantified via a computational script which predicts the sound level, in decibels, in assigned locations. So, for instance, the average dB level on the penalty spot at the end where the home team generally shoots towards in the second half is used to assess the influence on the team in the crucial last ten minutes of a game.
“It is important to note that our assessment is based on a standardised group of fans – the relative volume of different fanbases is another study entirely!,” says Pottinger.
“That said, just as Lewis Hamilton is perhaps the best driver in Formula One, many would consider he also has the highest-performing car. We suspect that Novak Djokovic does not cut corners in his choice of racket either! So, the principle is let’s help the fans to be the best they can be. Furthermore, we believe that well-designed stadiums can actually influence the fans, given enough time. For example, if a club wishes to encourage a younger fanbase it should consider that in the design of a new stand or stadium.”
Due to the stellar status of Real Madrid
The Overall VPR table brings all of the Experience, Revenue and Impact ratings together, and scores the all-round performance of a stadium.
“The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has attracted enormous praise and revenue since its opening, and they are this year’s title winners,” says Pottinger.
“A major factor in this was the scoring of experiential and revenue-generating features, such as the retractable pitch, Tunnel Club, Sky Lounge, microbrewery, 360-degree concourses, safe standing capability – the list goes on.”
“In many respects, it is extraordinary for a new stadium to make it to the top of the table, because we include some elements of history in our system – such as the number of major finals and international matches hosted in the last ten years, and the length of time with its current name. Furthermore, Tottenham’s capacity is considerably less than the likes of Camp Nou and Wembley Stadium.”
The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that two Buro Happold-engineered stadia sit at the top of this year’s Overall VPR table. However, he stresses that “this is not because we have massaged the figures – it is genuinely what comes out of the metric structure when it’s applied.
Last year’s winner, Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, slips to fifth, which Pottinger says is “primarily because it scores so poorly with regards to experiential and revenue-generating features, and this is clearly a reason why the stadium is undergoing renovation. Nonetheless, fifth is still a huge achievement, and is driven by strong performances in several areas, such as metrics corresponding to acoustics, compactness and location.”
He adds: “The Bernabéu’s score is lowest in the revenue category, which initially felt wrong given that their actual revenue per fan is as high as anyone, but our view is that this high revenue is due to the stellar status of Real Madrid, rather than their stadium.”
Pottinger observes that “this brings us into an interesting aspect of VPR, in that it reflects potential and can show whether a club is financially under-performing or over-performing in relation to their stadia. In the same way as football stats now refer to expected goals [xG], we are now entering the realms of ‘expected revenue.’ We will share more on this in the coming year.”
Not massaged the figures
Buro Happold has played a key role in designing some of the world’s most impressive stadia, including the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, the London 2012 Olympic Stadium (now the London Stadium, the home of West Ham United), the multi-purpose Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, and the new Education City Stadium created for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
It is also working with a number of clubs on new stadia and ambitious expansion plans. As well as Everton these include Leicester City and Nottingham Forest.
“The eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that two Buro Happold-engineered stadia sit at the top of this year’s Overall VPR table,” observes Pottinger. However, he stresses that “this is not because we have massaged the figures – it is genuinely what comes out of the metric structure when it’s applied. Another stadium with a heavy Buro Happold involvement, the London Stadium, scores lower (25th) because of metrics like spectator density and acoustic assessments of how much noise from the fans makes it to the pitch.”
“The principle of reporting our findings without manual adjustment is important, because the aspiration of VPR is not to be 100 per cent ‘correct’ or even 80 per cent. It is to create a structure that allows informed decision-making. With some clients that may involve completely overhauling the weighting system to suit their own preferences and aspirations for their club.
Elland Road delivers strong performance
“The Olympiastadion and the Giuseppe Meazza (San Siro) Stadium (39th and 37th respectively) are two high-profile and famous stadiums that fall outside the top division, for different reasons. The Olympiastadion, like the London Stadium, suffers from not being purposely designed for football, while the San Siro has average view characteristics and minimal modern features. Unsurprisingly, Hertha Berlin, Inter Milan and A.C. Milan are all exploring alternative venues at this time.
“Elland Road is an example of a stadium that might be considered old-fashioned, but is also regarded fondly in most fan surveys, such as those by the92.net. Its position of 27th in this year’s VPR is a strong performance for an old stadium of medium capacity and is let down mostly by its revenue-generating potential. Nonetheless, the platform is there for the stadium to rise like the club itself, perhaps in a similar way that the Main Stand at Anfield has lifted it into the top 20. Villa Park and Stamford Bridge have similar potential.”
Of all the 75 stadiums studied for the new VPR rankings, the lowest scoring, with 25 points, is Bournemouth’s Vitality Stadium.
“This will no doubt cause little surprise to those associated with the club, but it does serve to emphasise the importance of Bournemouth capitalising on their success under Eddie Howe and building for the future,” says Pottinger.
He adds: “We welcome everyone’s opinions on the current rankings. Not only because it’s interesting to us, but because we will tweak the weightings for the 2021 tables to reflect the feedback we receive. Football is about opinions and so are stadia. It is not intended to be perfect. It is intended to help us take stadium design to new levels.”