The final installment of Martin Cloake‘s views on the whole Stratford debate.
Another thank you to Martin for letting us hack his work up and so give us a great catalyst for debate.
One of the problems with the opposition to the Stratford proposals is the high profile of David Lammy. He never seemed particularly interested in Spurs before, but now he’s the champion of the ordinary fan. And his interventions come across as grandstanding.
There’s also the fact that he is attempting to pin much of the ‘blame’ for Tottenham’s interest in Stratford on Boris Johnson.
I’m no more a fan of Johnson than I am of Lammy, but the fact that Lammy is managing the Mayoral campaign of Johnson’s rival Ken Livingstone does make you think. There are many people people playing a game within a game here.
While it’s not clear whether Spurs ever asked for the public assistance Lammy says they should have, it’s also not at all clear that Lammy has done much constructively to address the real concerns Spurs have about their relationship with Haringey.
I was initially critical of what seemed to be Spurs’ insistance that a lot of public funds be used to support their private company. But the pendulum seems to have swung now. I’d have more time for Lammy if he told us clearly what constructive proposals he’s put forward to broker a deal that would keep Tottenham in Tottenham.
Some of the arguments the club and people seeking to its case have used are simply daft and a little insulting. I’ll say again that I think there’s a lot of tosh talked about ‘community’ by the anti-Stratford campaigners, but Spurs have matched them.
The club said that Stratford “is only five miles east”. Anyone who knows anything about London knows that even a mile makes a huge difference in this big and complex city in which the concepts of manor and loyalty are deeply entrenched.
Architect David Keirle, who it looks like may have been put up as a lightning conductor in this whole debate, said that no one wanted to move from Maine Road to the City of Manchester stadium when he was involved with that, but now no one would move back.
David, if you take a look at a map you’ll see both stadiums are in Manchester. Which may explain things. There’s more than a hint of ‘we’ll do it and the mugs will come’ about some of the views put forward – although to be honest us fans don’t help ourselves with our often illogical loyalty.
The daft arguments aren’t confined to one side, though. There’s a lot of jumping up and down about how knocking the stadium down would be a waste of taxpayers money. But even if West Ham get the stadium, much of it will be torn down and public money will be used to help the club convert it for its purposes. It’s that fact which may well swing the decision for Spurs in these austere – at least for those of us who don’t work in the banks – financial times.
I set out the position my heart takes at the start of this piece.
But I recognise – God I’m getting old – that the head must play its part too. If it is true that it would damage the club financially to stay in Tottenham, and that case is far from proven, then I’d regretfully accept the necessity to move. I’d probably go to Stratford to watch the team, but I don’t think it would be the same. But when we talk about value and investment and return, what is meant? What makes financial sense for, let’s say, an investment company looking to sell to a major player in the entertainments market, may not make the same sense in the longer term for a football team.
Tottenham’s owners are an investment company and investment companies seek a return on their investment. Spurs existed a long time before ENIC came, and will – let’s hope – exist for a long time after they go.
The interests of the owners and the club are not always the same, although Tottenham’s board members get very annoyed if you point that fact out. It’s that potential difference of interest that sits at the heart of this, and which explains why the debate is getting bitter. Because it’s possible that ENIC and Joe Lewis could make a nice return on their investment while leaving behind a franchise with an increasingly tenous link to its history and which is just one arm of a global entertainment business.
To me, all the indications are that Spurs will go to Stratford if they possibly can. I am far from convinced that is the right decision, or that the decision has been made in the interests of the club rather than the club’s owners. I’ve already seen the heart of the home support ripped out in the 1980s when executive boxes replaced one of the finest popular terraces in the country. I’ve watched the club drift under the awful leadership of Alan Sugar.
And now I should be enjoying some of the finest football I’ve ever seen my club play. But, and there’s always a but with Tottenham, there is a shadow hanging over us, the shadow of Franchise Hotspur in Stratford, the global entertainment channel.
I’m prepared, still, to be convinced. But right now, I’m not.
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