Thursday, January 18, 2007

Growth Spur-t

When it comes to writing posts about Charlton, I'm increasingly finding myself disillusioned and uninspired, so I've taken the rare liberty of highlighting an interesting piece written about Tottenham Hotspur.

I don't care much for Spurs, but I am a big fan of Topspurs, the opinionated and extremely informed (but occasionally delusional) website run by Jim Duggan.

With only 23 games played, the top four places in the Premiership are already (and inevitably) taken up by Man Utd, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal. As long ago (for this blog at least) as September 2005, I discussed whether football was in decline and the sentiments I put forward then are as applicable today. Given that Charlton were very near the top of table at that juncture, hopefully I can plead 'not guilty' to sour grapes when I again argue that if relegation ensues, we might reasonably miss the Premiership money, but as a 'true football fan' not the Premiership itself.

In this regard, it was interesting to read Jim Duggan's recent views along somewhat similar lines. It was especially interesting, because unlike Charlton, Spurs have a genuine medium-term prospect of infiltrating the seemingly impervious 'big four' yet whilst Duggan naturally craves success, he does not like the way it is being achieved.

Thus I was reassured that such an eloquent and popular opinion-leader even at one of the so-called 'bigger clubs' was thinking along the same lines as me. He also by implication criticises some of the type of ill-considered initiatives that Charlton also have explored (stadium expansion etc..), which appear to assume that supply will create its own demand, and the inevitable capital expenditure will be funded comfortably. Perhaps it is only Chelsea's current self-immolation which gives us all hope that our beautiful game is not being stolen from us for good.

With his permission, I have cut and pasted a very mildly edited version of his article below. Hopefully it will resonate with you as much as it did with me:


On Friday, new non exec director Keith Mills plugged Spurs in the Standard with the following comments:

"I hope to build the club both domestically and internationally. Spurs have big potential. Look, there are some 30,000 fans on the waiting list for season tickets. There are pockets of interest internationally but clearly we do have to have an international footprint and the big clubs all aspire to have a fan base outside the United Kingdom. Tottenham need, however, to improve the capacity of the stadium. To reach their aspirations they have to have something north of 50,000 seats. It is whether they stay where they are and develop - or find somewhere else and move. In the next five years Spurs will have to look at these stadium options.”

Marvellous stuff – so in the next five years Spurs will have to look at these stadium options. Blimey, why did no one think of that before? No Bosman signings in the boardroom, we’ve really got the top man.

All this old bollox about International footprints, for me, is really putting the cart before the horse. Spurs may go to China, USA and wherever but what will they be selling as their brand to people who lack imagination? A mid-table premiership finish year-after-year? Black and white images of Greaves, and a range of both carbonated and still mineral waters? Who is that going to impress these days when it’s Ronaldinho, Cannavaro and even Henry on the front of Nintendo?

The stadium is not the shoo-in which conventional wisdom assumes it will be. Stadiums cost money. Currently Spurs get 36,000 paying on average upwards of £40 per game when you add in all the exec boxes, other corporates and the rest of us mugs. Assuming Spurs' customers attend 19 league games and four cup games that brings in around £33m annually.

Assuming Spurs got a new stadium which costs around £350m and had 55,000 for the same amount of games paying an average additional tenner per game at £50 (out of your pocket for their privilege) – Spurs would bring in £63m – but then would be left to pay around £22m in interest repayments (at 6%) and some more in capital repayments and all of a sudden you are back to where you started. Sure they could take £20 out of your pocket each week and get a few more quid but they could just as well do that now and will do so and that sort of thing is gonna hurt.

And 30,000 on the season ticket waiting list. Really! And yet they are still advertising half season tickets. Hmmm, is that latent demand really there, year in year out? Do you think that the only way for Spurs to compete is to either build a new stadium or get some megabucks owner? Is that the only way? The Gooners managed pretty well with a good manager and proper off-the-field guidance for 10 years on 38k capacity, similar fanbase and a similar transfer budget to Spurs with Champions League each year and a few runner-up positions in the League. It sounds un-sexy and un-postmodern to suggest it, but hands-dirty hard work and knowing what’s what, rather than fancy ideas may be the way for Spurs.

Lots of teams have got new stadiums but are still going nowhere – Boro, Derby, Soton Sunderland, and Man City even got a free one. And then there is the other way – selling the club to what will probably be a rich nutter with a massive ego. Everyone will think Chelsea, but for all the lavish spending down the Bridge, the club is effectively the plaything of a rich man & similarly placed West Ham got Boa Morte for all Mr Fishfinger’s promises of the Champions League. Money will only buy you a certain sort of player when you are out of the CL – either a second rate one or a greedy one. Chelsea got lucky with Mourhinho, bought their way to the top and look like falling back down again without him (as we all know deep down Chelsea are nothing) with the supporters left disenfranchised and the paid for victories hollow. You could also ask a Hearts fan where it all leads.

So what’s the answer – I don’t know. On one hand you have an uncompetitive league which year in year out reinforces the power imbalances. The options appear to ask the fans to dip into their pockets more, get a new stadium and ask the fans to dip into their pockets some more, or get a rich megalomaniac in and still dip deeper into their pockets just to keep pace.

And then, is it all worth it? It’s a long time since I’ve written “we” and felt part of Spurs the club as opposed to Spurs the brand which is increasingly peddled and I can’t imagine that relationship getting any closer in the coming years as fans will have their dreams increasingly exploited. But then again, we’ve all got a choice, although it appears to be between being a victim and walking away.


At 1:04 PM, Anonymous Billericay Dickie said...

The premiership has gone flat for a large number of football fans. I sit with a group of Charlton fans that all started going to the Valley together when we were at school in the late 1960’s. We all agree that football in the old Division 1/ Championship was far more entertaining than it is in the Premiership. Now that we are resigned to relegation, we are quite looking forward to once again seeing some competitive football. Some of my friends take along their young sons and these kids have quickly become disillusioned by the constant negative football that we see at the Valley week after week. Charlton can never compete on equal terms with the bigger teams and for the younger supporters who are the future lifeblood of the club will possibly change their allegiance when the see their local team getting beaten week after week.

The novelty of seeing Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal etc has long worn off. Personally I would much prefer to see an interesting 3-1 win against a team like Norwich rather than a struggle to win 1-0 against Man City.

I won’t shed to many tears when we are finally put out of our misery and relegated.

At 3:45 PM, Anonymous Eaststand Rick said...

Totally agree. The most boring games are the ones against Chelsea, Man Utd, Arsenal when they play in second gear and murder us. Very rarely do you get a good old fashioned end to end match in the premiership.

At 2:16 PM, Blogger tim said...

I think this has ever been the refrain of so called also-rans. i was born in 1975, in the first 15 years of my life, Liverpool were champions 10 times. There were undoubtably some fine matches - there 5-1 distruction of Notts Forest with John Barnes at his peak was one. But appart from that, you watch a lot of games and the actual quality would look more very poor compared to the touch and finesse of players today. No team over the past 15 years has dominated quite to the extent that Liverpool did and i think you should acknowledge that before saying football is all of a sudden uncompetitive

At 2:17 PM, Blogger tim said...

Apologies for the bad grammar - just got out of bed..

At 3:00 PM, Blogger New York Addick said...

I'm touched that I'm the first thing you think of upon waking :-)

I honestly couldn't care less which of the 'big Four' wins the Premiership but am more concerned that there's very little chance for any other team to finish 4th, let alone 1st.

With regard to the ten titles Liverpool won between 75/76 and 89/90, the following were the runners-up:

Man City
Man Utd (twice)

Over the past five seasons meanwhile, only two clubs outside the 'big four' have even breached the top four: Newcastle (twice) and Everton.


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