Martin Cloake has been ‘at it again’, which is to say contributing thoughtfully once again to a debate that has occasionally veered a little in substance.
I hope you don’t mind me using the open letter method to contact you. It’s a method you’ve used yourself and it is one which is quite efficient in communicating with the large number of people who will be interested in the subject of the new Spurs stadium. So while I’m sending this by email direct I am also publishing a copy on my blog. I hope you will feel able to address the questions I raise in both forums.
Just to explain who I am, I am a supporter and writer/journalist. I’ve worked with the club on a number of occasions on books, and I also write about the business of sport in a freelance capacity. So I have a personal and professional interest. To be totally transparent, my view at the moment is that I would prefer if it is at all possible for the club to stay at its current site and play at the impressive new stadium outlined in the Northumberland Development Project. While I don’t agree that emotion can, as you suggested in the wake of the weekend’s press coverage, be entirely removed from football matters I recognise that commercial realities have to be faced. Which is why I think it is important that the questions I am about to pose are answered.
I think it is clear to say that there is significant opposition to the plan to go to Stratford. You have stated that you have received significant email support for the move, I can say I have seen significant opposition. I don’t believe an inbox measuring contest is a particularly productive or informative route to go down. There are clearly divisions among our own support. I would suggest that answering the questions I am about to pose would provide much-needed clarity. I know there are a number of considerations affecting people and organisations beyond the club, but let’s start with what we can deal with ourselves.
I hope you will accept this approach as an honest attempt to cast light on a number of issues which are worrying fans. A sense of place, history and tradition is important to any football club, as is emotion, and all of these things are what makes the brand strong, as the club’s marketing department has recognised effectively over the years. This is why I believe that any move that could be seen as compromising those factors needs to be explained in a very transparent manner, with the onus on the reasons to move rather than those against staying. Think how much better it would be for all concerned if there was unity behind the plans to go forward, at least within the Spurs family. Of course, you own the club and it is yours to do with as you like. But we all like to believe, in our different ways, that the club is ‘us’ and the strong identity with the club and the current location is part of what makes the asset you now control so valuable.
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1 In your latest statements you have said the NDP is “unviable” and that if the Stratford bid fails we will “have to go back to the drawing board” and move out of Tottenham in any case. Yet in the detailed plans still currently on the club website, and in the presentations made to accompany their launch, the NDP was presented as viable. When did the NDP become unviable? What factors made it unviable? Why does so much appear to have been spent on promoting an unviable project? And why is it still presented as a viable project on the club website?
2 It would be good to get the full detail of exactly what the “extra” costs being talked of by the club relating to the NDP are. Much has been made of the s106 monies, but these were included in the original, viable, plans. Are these costs “extra” or just “more than” those associated with the Olympic Stadium? I hope you can see the important difference between these two concepts. On another point of detail, a figure of an extra £50m has been cited, while s106 and related costs are cited as totaling £16.4m. Where does the other £33.6m come from?
3 On a related point, is it the case that Stratford has emerged as a “more viable” option than the NDP. Again, there is an important difference between Stratford being the only viable option and it being a more viable option.
4 As far as I can gather, the planning permission for the Stratford Stadium after the games allows only a 25,000 seat stadium which opens on a limited number of occasions every year. If Spurs were to move in, this would mean the planning process would need to be reopened. How does the cost of this, plus what must necessarily be at the moment unknown s106 costs associated with it, stack up against the NDP?
5 With the proposed rebuilding work at Stratford, plus the time taken for the renewed planning process which seems unavoidable, the new stadium at Stratford would not be ready for occupation until at least 2016. This is two years after the date the club originally indicated it could move into the NDP stadium. Given the arguments about the need to stop falling behind rivals with greater capacity, how does a minimum two-year delay in doing so impact on the club’s financial position?
6 Much has been made of the transport problems around the current ground. On the official website the transport section of the NDP presentation says “The transport infrastructure here is already in place, with four stations and up to 144 buses an hour serving the stadium area. Together with planned and proposed service improvements and new investment to be made by the Club, they deliver enough capacity for the increased number of supporters visiting the new stadium.” The site goes on to list a 20-point plan which would deliver a transport strategy. The view now seems to be being put that the transport issues around the NDP are insurmountable. Has the situation changed, and if so how? Or has Stratford emerged as a better option, rather than the only one?
7 Having described the NDP as “unviable” does this mean that if the Stratford bid is rejected there is no plan B for stadium development? Given the obvious need to compete in the reality of today’s football market, and given the minimum of four seasons – more if we have to develop new plans – it will take to move, does this mean you don’t think the club can compete?
8 It’s been suggested that the Stratford move may be a precursor to a sale of the club. On Radio Five you categorically denied that the board was going to sell the club. When asked: “So you have no interest in selling Spurs”, you answered “Correct.” When asked further: “Under any circumstances at all?” you said, “We have no intention of selling the club.” This may seem to many people a rather surprising position for an investment company to take. So, if you’ll forgive me asking the same question again, can you confirm that the board of Tottenham Hotspur FC do not now, have no intention of, and will not at any stage in the future, sell the club?