With building work (apparently) due to start on Tottenham’s new home ground by the end of the month, I’m currently enduring an internal battle of head and heart. I’ve driven across the Golden Gate Bridge, climbed the Pyramids of Giza, watched the sunset over the Taj Mahal and bowed my head at the Golden Temple; but my adoration for White Hart Lane eclipses everything else. It’s so more than a building to Tottenham fans, as I’m sure every home ground is to fans of every respective club, but we at Tottenham are ever the sentimentalists. The fact of the matter is that we’ve outgrown White Hart Lane. The fan base has become too large, the team too successful and the demand for tickets too great. To a businessman like Daniel Levy, it doesn’t make sense to limit revenue by staying in a ground smaller than some Championship clubs have. When the day comes that Tottenham play their last game at White Hart Lane, the ambition and progression of the move should out-weigh the sadness.
Outgrowing White Hart Lane isn’t something that’s happened overnight either. Although there’s never been a stage – in my lifetime at least – that the stadium has played host to low attendance figures, it’s only now that we’re beginning to shake our tag as perennial underachievers. The key to the club, and the ownership especially, to begin funding a full stadium build was sustained success. The ridiculously long season-ticket waiting list would have to endure continued success in the upper-half of the table, European competition and retail success in worldwide markets before the club green lit any sort of expansion. Although frustrating at the time (inflated ticket prices, lack of guaranteed attendance, tedious points rewards schemes etc) it was the most sensible way of guaranteeing that the club would be making a financially viable investment. The last thing any of us would have wanted is a lack of funds to improve the squad because we’d ploughed our cash in to a half-build stadium on the verge of hosting Championship football. Via seasons spent playing in the UEFA Cup and Europa League, the club gave itself the time it needed to put profits on one side, matching our monetary stature to our footballing one.
Tottenham, however, are once again being mentioned in the same breath as Manchester United, people rightly expect from us more than they do Liverpool and newly successful bankrolled clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City don’t enjoy the prospect of playing against us either.
However, over the past few seasons, our ambitions as a club have shifted entirely. Playing in European football’s secondary competition now feels like a burden rather than the privilege it once was. The clubs we were once mentioned in the same light as, the ‘bests of the rest’ as it were, have all but fallen away apart from us. Aston Villa narrowly avoided relegation last season, Blackburn are now a Championship club with mutinous fans and Everton look destined to finish just inside the top half of the table and be happy with it for time immemorial. Tottenham, however, are once again being mentioned in the same breath as Manchester United, people rightly expect from us more than they do Liverpool and newly successful bankrolled clubs such as Chelsea and Manchester City don’t enjoy the prospect of playing against us either. We have the playing staff and ambition to compete at the top level, but we don’t come close to their match day revenue and our wage bill looks like pocket money compared to theirs. A brand new increased capacity stadium would go a huge way to bridging that financial gap, and in tandem with our new state of the art training facilities, would greatly help in consistently attracting a level of player that we’re becoming accustomed to having at the club.
The biggest positive for me however is the location and design of the new ground. Northumberland Park, as it is being called in development, will stand on exactly the same ground as the current stadium, and has been designed with White Hart Lane in mind. We pride the Lane on how close the stands are to the pitch, creating an incomparable viewing experience and the wall of noise the ground can generate, providing one of the finest atmospheres in the country when on form. And according to information released so far, the new stadium shouldn’t be any different. Designed with the club in mind, overseen by Daniel Levy, the aim isn’t to create a generic soulless bowl comparable to the one at Ashburton Grove. With the government funding we’ve worked hard to secure, we should see the surrounding borough of Tottenham rejuvenated too, as well as a long overdue improvement to the transport links. As the club improves, so should the community and surrounding area, and it fills me with pride to know that the club cares enough to maintain a working relationship with its immediate public.
It can’t be forgotten though, that any business involving Daniel Levy is rarely ever one-dimensional. It has always been ENIC’s long-term goal to build us up and eventually sell us on for maximum profit when possible. The package all new investors look for is a successful team, good day-to-day infrastructure and a modern stadium. Without this essential trifecta of entities, potential suitors rarely ever deem clubs as viable business models. It is no happy coincidence that the most successful clubs on the back of changes of ownership are the ones with all three of these in place, Chelsea and Manchester City the obvious examples. Selling a club on in dire need of one of the three needing fundamental work doing can have irreparable damage on owners ambitions and funds. Liverpool, QPR, West-Ham and Blackburn are all clubs who have suffered due to boardroom uncertainty over vital aspects of the club. What ENIC, and Daniel Levy specifically are trying to achieve, is to create and sell on a ready made success. Rather than selling their property unfurnished, if you will, they plan to include all of the fixtures, fittings and contents. They’re doing the footballing equivalent of property developing on a much larger scale, buying a little ‘fixer-upper’, using their own funds to bring it up to scratch and then letting it go for a huge profit.
Happiness with the club’s future then, depends on your outlook on modern day football. Those disillusioned with the business football has become will obviously resent this change, happier with football as it once was, romantically accepting mediocrity and lack of progression in turn for passionate support, players that give their all for the club rather than their wage and a fan base that feels the same way that they do. On the other hand, there are people who have come to accept football for what it is and has become, willing to look past that and carry on giving their support irrespective of the moneymen and politics, whom accept success at face value when it comes. For me personally? I have no qualms with the way in which the club is progressing and is being run. For me, football did begin in 1992, mainly because that’s the year in which I was born, and I don’t know of a time before it, which may be a blessing in disguise. When the ribbon is cut on the new stadium and the naming rights sold, whatever the name may technically become, it will always be White Hart Lane to me.
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