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Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has drawn criticism following the latest round of NFL London Series games.

The unique retracting playing surface at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium has come in for criticism amid the latest game of the NFL London Series. Tottenham specifically designed their new stadium to host American football, as well as football as we know it in the UK, with the venue becoming the first purpose-built American football venue outside North America.

The move was made to boost revenue – and indeed the stadium’s profile – enabling the venue to host two of the four NFL London Series games each year, with Wembley Stadium the exclusive home to those games previously. To prevent damage to Tottenham’s state of the art football pitch – which is the priority – the stadium was designed to have a retracting surface. The football pitch is not the only retractable surface in the world, but it is the only one to split into three parts.

In the US, the homes of the Las Vegas Raiders and Arizona Cardinals have retracting surfaces, but they slide out as a whole, largely to ensure they can be properly cared for in hot climates. For Tottenham, the sliding surface was installed so that NFL games and concerts do not impact the football surface, a common occurrence in other stadiums, be it because of rugby or other events.

Essentially, the football pitch splits into three, slides out underneath the South Stand, and the NFL playing surface – which is covered for concerts – is in three parts underneath. The surface in place for the NFL games is what is referred to as ‘field turf’, which is much like the 4G surfaces often used around the UK, made up of fully synthetic grass and tiny rubber balls.

After the football pitch is retracted, the NFL pitch is added to in order to fill the gaps, and therein lies the problem, according to a report from ProFootballTalk. According to the report, concerns have been raised by NFL players and officials over the composition of the surface, which has ‘deep dips’ around the areas where the field is meshed together – the ‘seams’ area of an American football pitch.

Now, the pitch did pass the inspections for the recent games between the New Orleans Saints and Minnesota Vikings, and the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. Those inspections are done jointly by NFL officials and officials representing the NFLPA, which is the players’ union for the league.

Though, the inspections are done pretty late in the lead up to the games, and it would have been a huge surprise if the pitch failed with the teams and thousands of fans en route from the United States. A source told ProFootballTalk that it is a ‘bad surface’ for American football, while Vikings safety Lewis Cine suffered what was described as a ‘freak’ injury to his leg during the first of this season’s London games. No clear link has been drawn between the injury and the surface, but Cine suffered a fracture while landing awkwardly in the area of the aforementioned seams.

It’s also important to note that this season’s games were not the first to be played at the stadium, or indeed on the surface in question. Tottenham or the NFL have not commented on the reported issues at this point, but if a solution is sought, they have a full year to find one, given the remaining London game will be played at Wembley for this season, as planned. Spurs are not due to host their next two NFL games until this time next year.

Though, this could well be a concern for Spurs more than the NFL, given they spent a significant amount of money to ensure their new stadium was ready to host NFL games. These are not the kind of reviews they will want for their outstanding venue, and certainly not across the pond, where Daniel Levy and Tottenham are working to grow the club’s brand.

Tottenham have been approached for comment.

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