The Football Chairman is a precarious position to hold. They are ultimately responsible for all failures and very little of the success that a football club may behold. Look at the reign of Alan Sugar. His time at the club will be seen as mixed blessings: While off the pitch he saved the club from the nightmarish Irving Scholar, on the pitch sustained success never really appeared.
If you are a chairman you can rarely be perceived as an all round good guy. Recently some fans have made their feelings known about Daniel Levy, that he has been bad for our club and and cite differing reasons for why. Below are some of those criticisms, followed by my take on them:
1. He does too much business at the very last minute of the transfer window, by which time Spurs should have a settled squad. Effectively we are left with few ‘plan b’s with just moments to spare. Consequently we have a squad that is weaker that the last season.
I don’t like the transfer window to feel like a roller-coaster, and I’d love us to start the season with a settled squad. In this case I hate the game and not the player, I think a transfer deadline is a good thing because without something to force each other’s little business would get done, although deadline should be at the end of July and not August.
As deadline day looms both selling and buying clubs have an imperative to do business then and there. We’ll talk about the fact we missed out on Moutinho, yes Levy could have acted earlier, but because the player had multiple owners it was a complex deal. AVB said he doubted that the deal would go through, so it’s up to you who you believe. You could either think that Levy didn’t try hard enough to get the player, or he did, but it just didn’t happen. I choose to believe that Levy did what he could to push it through.
2. When it comes to buying players Levy is too tight and inflexible on price, even shaving previously agreed fees down.
We must negotiate hard when it comes to transfers, there’s nothing wrong in trying to get the best value for an acquisition. Also it’s not just the transfer fee, it’s the contract we have to commit to, what’s that? £4-5m a season on top maybe? People will say how cheap Van Persie appeared in his transfer for Manchester United, yet don’t be surprised if they’re committed to paying £10m a year in wages. The new players in are not going to be on small contracts, we look at the headline price but it is just the tip of the iceberg.
I read a lot of criticism from Lyon about the Lloris negotiation, their chairman complained that Levy was one of the hardest people to do business with, and that Spurs had shaved prices down and changed the terms of the deal. Levy is simply trying to get the best deal for the club, and if you went out shopping, wouldn’t you want to get the best possible price? Moreover Lyon were not staring down the barrel of a gun, when push came to shove they could have said ‘non merci’ to our offer, they didn’t, if Levy were that bad why do business with him?
I think a transfer deadline is a good thing because without something to force each other's little business would get done, although deadline should be at the end of July and not August.
3. Levy put his pride before sitting down with Harry Redknapp and should have agreed a contract extension. Worse still he replaced Redknapp with a Manager who is, at best, no better than Harry Redknapp. Historically Spurs have not chosen managers well, Redknapp was a fluke in the history of Levy’s stewardship.
Hindsight will answer every question about what decision was right or wrong. Really I see this as two separate issues, was it right to let Redknapp go? and was it right to pick AVB?
Redknapp was a success and he got us out of a rut, but I can’t pretend it was all great, the tail end of the season was pretty miserable and I think all the indicators are that his head was turned by the possibility of the England job, this led to breakdown between the two. I felt he’d lost interest and come the end of the season it was probably the right time to call it a day, had he started the 2012/2013 season I think there would still be simmering tensions which wouldn’t have gone away.
As for AVB, he is either the feckless man that took Chelsea to the dogs or the young genius that turned Porto in to an all conquering side. The fact is we have had three competitive matches and while the last performance was poor, all I can say is that it’s way too soon to make any judgements, AVB has a vision and he needs a fair shot at making it happen.
This doesn’t let Levy off the hook, he chose Hoddle, Santini, Jol and Ramos, it’s a mixed bag, he’s guilty of harsh firings (the Jol one was particularly unceremonious) and some poor decisions. Levy is motivated to do well for the club but is fallible to questionable judgement, that said, if you work for a company that’s never employed the wrong employee you’re probably self-employed.
4. Levy tried to move the club to Stratford, and has been slow to deliver a much needed new stadium so that we can honestly start to compete within the ‘fairplay’ framework.
Levy has been at the club for 12 years in which time a number of clubs have secured bigger and better grounds, has he rested on his laurels for too long? Flirted with the Olympic project too long? He wants us to raise more revenue yet we’ve waited over a decade to get anywhere near resolution.
In fairness this has been a tricky situation, buying up land around the Lane and getting planning permission has been a nightmare. Stratford was a cheap and easy fix, be in no doubt Levy was serious about the Stratford project. The value for money that Stratford represented was massively tempting and the real deal breaker for the Olympic planning authority was the fact we were going to bulldoze the track and start again, that’s possibly West Ham’s problem now.
For all of the criticism, however, the new ground project is under way now, it’s in Tottenham and will meet our aspirations, Levy has made it happen; better late than never!
But doesn't that sound a bit like ENIC are trying to exploit Spurs for the sake of profit? Absolutely, these are businessmen, cold, hard and calculating
Looking at the argument and counter argument it’s not really ‘black and white’, we don’t live in a world where people are pure heroes or villains. Levy’s perspective on Tottenham is a world apart from mine. Levy came with ENIC, they are an investment company, in December 2000 they bought a 29% stake in Tottenham Hotspur for £22m, as time has passed and investment increased it now owns 85% of the club. This was not an act of charity or philanthropy on the part of Daniel Levy or Joe Lewis, they bought a business to sell it at a later date for a serious return on their bet.
When you hear that Joe Lewis is one of the richest men on this planet you should have figured out by now that he’s not going to stake the family jewels on Tottenham, he is going enhance the collection as a result of developing the club and Daniel Levy is there to achieve that aim.
But doesn’t that sound a bit like ENIC are trying to exploit Spurs for the sake of profit? Absolutely, these are businessmen, cold, hard and calculating, they did not stand on the shelf as a child, they didn’t chant, they did not stand up because they hated Woolwich and they did not get poisoned from one of the many dodgy burger outlets around the Lane!
The good news is that it’s not in Levy’s interest for Tottenham to fail, that would reduce the value of Tottenham and make it less attractive to sell on. Tottenham have to be challenging for the league and have a permanent place in European competition, with just a little potential to earn more revenue, like a new Stadium or new Sky TV deal that whets the appetite. The common denominator is that he is as hungry for success as we are.
It’s not a mistake that Spurs are one of the few clubs in world football that pull a profit and can boast being ‘properly’ run, that can be evidenced by getting in £10m a season from Under Armour for the new kit, the £12.5m a year in shirt sponsorships, he has grown the club by 121% over the last 6 years and a wage to revenue ratio of around 56% (according to the very detailed Swiss Ramble). Ultimately Levy, whilst not perfect, has made us a good football club because you can’t be one of those without being a good business.