It’s fair to say that the recent Premier League triumph enjoyed by all in the blue half of Manchester didn’t particularly enamor the vast majority of the neutral footballing public. For many, the sight of Vincent Kompany holding the league title aloft was vastly overshadowed by the looming specter of Sheikh Mansour’s petromillions.
But for Tottenham Hotspur supporters, the Manchester City story evokes a whole array of contrasting emotions. Both football clubs behold a rich history and it’s fair to say that in recent times, their fan bases have endured a relatively sustained level of dashed hopes and disappointment. And whilst City are now enjoying their moments in the sun, Spurs fans have been left looking up. It was always inevitable, but their one time rivals for Champions League qualification, have now left them for dead in the Premier League.
For some traditionalists, the thought of joining City via the riches of foreign billions is too painful to comprehend. Why should Spurs sell their soul to the devil? Investment has always been sustained at White Hart Lane and some could argue that the money poured in through the cash flow of Joe Lewis and ENIC is a luxury that other Premier League clubs could never compete with. But Tottenham have always tried to live within their means.
However, the harsh truth is that to break through the league’s glass ceiling of achievement, financial morality and shrewd business ideologies cannot be held close to the heart. Sooner or later, Tottenham Hotspur are going to have to cave to a sugar daddy.
Firstly, it is important to not begin tarnishing the achievements of others through rose-tinted spectacles. Top-flight football within this country is, and has been for quite some time now, primarily run as a business first and a football club second. The business acumen of a club’s board and chairman are now just as important as the scoring prowess of their star striker. Some teams such as Tottenham and Arsenal have got this right- regardless of the endless chiming about their finishes in the league, they’ve always remained in the top division (in recent times anyway). Leeds United didn’t get it right and the effects for them have been tumultuous. Even Liverpool, for all their glory and European Cups, flirted with the horror of administration in the autumn of 2010. Football in the 21st century has no sentiment for history or the triumphs of yesteryear. That won’t increase the bank balance in the global game.
So in a world where the fates and futures of Premier League clubs are decided as much in the boardroom, as they are on the football field, who are we to necessarily slate the triumphs of Manchester City? It is impalpable to compare the Citizens with Real Madrid, but despite the difference in prestige between the two clubs, elements of their success have been founded by similarly outrageous investment. For all their revenue, you can hardly say that Florentino Perez’s bankrolling of the Galacticos, in either of his presidential terms, is living within their means,Yes, they consequently doubled their revenue and their global marketing potential, but it was all funded off the back of extremely generous bank loans, the sale of a training ground (which was investigated by the EU Commision) and with the safety net of Perez’s billions himself. Surely the only difference with Manchester City is that it that banks such as Santander and Caja Madrid were bankrolling Real, as opposed to a wealthy Arabian businessman? Of course you can argue that Real Madrid were already one of the world’s biggest clubs, but the financial facts are there to see.
However you may view the morality of such investment and spending in the world of football, Tottenham Hotspur are most certainly at a crossroads in their history. The Northumberland Development Project is crucial in every way imaginable to the Lilywhite’s. The club simply cannot sustainably compete with the wages that their rivals are able to pay potential talent and this in no small part to the limitations in matchday revenue that White Hart Lane is able to bring. The financial rewards that Arsenal are currently reaping at the Emirates has been shoved in the face of Spurs fans to the point where the words ‘corporate hospitality’ are almost blacklisted.
But this is the issue. There is simply no way that the construction of a new stadium can begin, unless a gargantuan amount of money is raised first. And the only real way that Daniel Levy can do this is via the issue of naming rights. The NDP is estimated to cost anywhere between £350-£400milion. There will be a small amount of state subsidy, as the project is set to bring investment to the whole of Haringey, but there is no way it is getting off the ground without serious money being pumped in from a third party. And with rumours that the board are sounding out investors to the tune of a 20-year contract, there is no doubt that whatever company does take the plunge, it will be associated with Spurs for the long haul.
Yet if a company, such as the touted Qatar Airways pump several hundred million into the club and foot most of the bill for the new stadium, what really gives fans the right to sneer at the goings on at Eastlands? Because although it isn’t bankrolling a ludicrously indulgent wage bill, the potential of the naming rights investment still has the ability to change the fortunes of the club forever. Tottenham’s fate would still be inexplicably changed by the decisions of an overseas investor; would it really be that different to the scenarios at Chelsea and Manchester City?
Football can no longer claim to be the working mans game, when a club such as Tottenham Hotspur will charge just under £50 for the cheapest seat at a ‘Category A ‘game. And hence maybe, we can no longer take a working class attitude to football, either. No club is particularly in the wrong here, be it Tottenham, Arsenal, Manchester City or Chelsea. But it could well be that the idolisms of attaining success with your own resources, simply don’t hold credence in the 21st century. Because if in ten years we’re celebrating a Premier League triumph in a shiny new stadium, we will be as indebted to a select few in a boardroom as any player wearing the cockerel.