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THST and the Tottenham transfer policy

4 min read
by Martin Cloake

Martin Cloake, co-chair of THST and author of a number of Spurs books, explains the Trust’s role in Tottenham’s transfer dealings.

It’s all our own fault. Those of us who choose to do rather than just say. You put yourself in front of people and, inevitably, you attract flak. There’s no point complaining. It just comes across as ‘poor me’, or as sanctimoniousness – ‘well, why don’t you get involved then?’ However true the point is about it being easier to say what’s wrong than to try to make things right.

So this isn’t a complaint about people complaining. But one thing always puzzles me. And that’s when the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust gets berated for not signing players.

Supporters Trusts across the country deal with many things affecting fans. That’s our remit, so we deal with stuff around ticket pricing and safety and access and atmosphere – anything that affects the fans. We don’t, as a rule, deal with on-field matters.

Now, you might say that what happens on the field is the most important thing of all. And it certainly affects fans. And you would not be wrong. But you’ve also got to ask what could, or should, we do about what happens on the pitch?

Remember a few years ago when Ebbsfleet United launched a scheme that allowed fans to choose the matchday line-up? Shortly after they did I met up with Steve Perryman, who in his role as Exeter City’s director of football is a big fan of supporter involvement with clubs. He said he thought the idea was barmy, and that if they introduced it at any club he was associated with, he’d walk.

You can see his point. Much as we all like to sit and chew over who we should sign and where and how they should play, the simple fact is that we are amateurs. I can already hear the response that “Some of the players and managers we’d had have been pretty bleedin’ amateur”, but think about it. There are probably as many opinions about who Spurs should sign and how we should play as there are Spurs fans. And that’s one of the reasons we tend not to comment about individual players.

There are probably as many opinions about who Spurs should sign and how we should play as there are Spurs fans.

When fans began to organise, one of the ways in which the powers that be and the football press tried to ridicule the idea was to bring up the prospect of fans trying to pick the team. (That’s the football press’s job, you idiots!) But that was never the idea – and they knew it. What fans involve themselves for is to ensure our clubs are run sustainably and to try to ensure that we remain competitive. And because we’ve got a screw loose, too, almost certainly.

So if there’s an issue over lack of investment or the direction a club board is taking, a Trust will speak out. But what we don’t do, despite the requests that increase as the transfer deadline gets closer, is ‘do something about our lack of striker/defensive midfielder/leader/insert preference here’. Because we can’t.

We simply don’t know what the detail of transfer negotiations are. We don’t know why certain players do or don’t want to come, and we don’t know why certain managers do or don’t like certain players. We’re not involved, and that’s probably a good thing. Much as I love Spurs, the idea of me running the club is not one I warm to. Which probably makes you feel better too.

So I can never understand why people come up to us after a bad game and tell us we’re “useless” because we haven’t signed a player. Maybe it’s just letting off steam at someone who’s accessible – we’re easier to talk to than our club chairman, after all.

And anyway, what exactly are we supposed to do. Rock up at the main gate at West Brom and demand to start negotiating for Berahino?

We work on many different issues, and when we meet the club’s board I think it’s safe to say they are pretty clear that we want Spurs to have good players and to play attractive football. But in the end we can’t go out and do the deals. And nor should we.

We’re not involved, and that’s probably a good thing. Much as I love Spurs, the idea of me running the club is not one I warm to

If you think that means the whole idea of a Trust is useless, there’s probably nothing I can do to convince you otherwise. All I can say is that I think it’s better to try to influence the things we can, and there’s plenty we need to influence.

Of course what happens on the pitch is what it all comes down to in the end. But for that to happen, the professionals who are paid good money to ensure that happens need to be allowed to do their job. If the way the club is run means that’s not happening, we’ll certainly try to do something about it. But we’re not going to be taking a leaf out of Ebbsfleet United’s book.

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

Martin Cloake is co-chair of THST, a Park Lane season ticket holder, and author of a number of books on Spurs. @martincloake

18 Comments

  1. totnam
    25/08/2015 @ 9:53 am

    Hands washed then.

  2. Steve
    25/08/2015 @ 10:00 am

    Perfectly understandable, however I seem to remember the Yugoslavian manager asking the press to pick a team to play against his own choices, and the press team won easily (just saying)

  3. Andy
    25/08/2015 @ 10:47 am

    I would class the clubs current transfer policy as ‘lack of investment’ Martin, so yes, the Trust SHOULD get involved on this occasion.

  4. Ofosh
    25/08/2015 @ 6:14 pm

    Mate, all the fans want is for the Trust to hold the investors (ENIC) to account for treating the club like a profit making machine and not putting success on the pitch before success off it… nobody expects you to sign player x and by writing this sort of article you do a disservice to a great number of your members… we were standing on the edge of something special and with minimal investment we could and should have been a regular top four team. One Ryan Nielsen and one Louis Saha later and we all know what happened… clearly Chelsea beating Bayern didn’t help us and I can’t hold the investors to account for that but I can hold them to account for mismanagement of the playing side… whilst this is not a democracy and we can’t formally vote for who our chairman or manager when the fans turn your time is usually up… I have zero faith in the trust and absolute faith in our core support to start making life very uncomfortable for our investors and manager… now shouldn’t you be negotiating a £2 discount on coach travel to Anfield or something equally useless!!!

  5. jo
    26/08/2015 @ 4:06 am

    “absolute faith in our core support to start making life very uncomfortable for our……… manager”

    Like that will help the team. People like you are why we will never be successful. Putting pressure on a manager who hasn’t been given the right tools to do his job is asinine.

    • ofosh
      26/08/2015 @ 10:16 am

      Under Poch we have bought 11 players… that’s a whole team… and you say he hasn’t been given the tools… We are approaching 15 months since he took over and we are no nearer to identifying his style or philosophy unless of course it’s is turgid, predictable and slow paced football… He is taking us backwards and whilst maybe not equally culpable as Levy he certainly has to take some share of the blame for the garbage on the pitch… ps. out of the 11 players bought under Poch only Alderweireld looks like a regular when everyone is fit… more damning is that 2 of those 11 have already moved on… We have sacked better coaches for producing better so why allow Pochettino more time… because he’s a yes man and probably feels like to have such a big job when his coaching career has been average at best!!!

  6. totcat
    26/08/2015 @ 6:22 am

    I see the trust as nothing more than a group of lads with good intentions but no real power and without that power you will achieve nothing. You can not negotiate with a dictator, tyrant or despot, you have to force your will upon them through power otherwise you are simply wasting your time, effort and money. If you go to that table with your hand held out like some Dickensian child asking for more, you may if you are lucky and the tyrant is in a good mood get some scraps but never a steak. So how do we the fans get that power? We already have it but it is not organised. The greatest fear of an investment company is “loss” loss of profit, loss of income and loss of asset value and we the fans control all of the above, we however are to unorganised to harness and use that control. It is us that generate the interest from TV, marketing, advertisers and sponsors not ENIC and without us the fear of loss crystallises in the mind of the dictator and materialises in the balance sheet. Now I am not calling for a boycott but the absolute and complete opposite, if we as fans could organise via a single portal or outlet for all our merchandising needs and increase the level of income that it provides to our Tottenham (higher the income greater the power) and then turn it on or off as needed then the power rests with us. with a well organised worldwide fanbase of millions ready to buy or subscribe or not as the case maybe then the table has been truly turned and it will no longer be us begging for more. Investment in the team will suddenly become paramount for ENIC or we turn the income off, this will compel them to comply or sell and these hard nosed business men will know that selling is now less attractive as any prospective new buyer will have to deal with us, as we control a large chunk of the money. If any of you are worried that this strategy will end up by us doing “a Leeds” then this should put your mind at rest, ENIC have shown us that they are totally loss adverse and therefor the only course of action that will result in a profit is to work with us not against us. If they wish to sell then any new buyer will know of our power so they will enter the deal with their eyes open and be less likely to view us simply as an investment opportunity and more likely to be someone who wishes a greater glory for Tottenham than simply profit for profits sake. Now here is the best bit, if they want to sell and no buyer can be found then Tottenham has no or very little sale value and as we the fans control the income then it is us who will in effect become the new owners of our beloved Tottenham hotspur Football Club by way of director appointments and board control. ENIC have built a fully sustainable football club (off the backs of our supporters) and I thank them for that, it is now our turn to stand up, be counted and change the emphasis from profit to success, all we need is organisation. are you up to it THST? this ball is in your court. Tottenham till I die, still Tottenham when I’m dead.

  7. Martin Cloake
    26/08/2015 @ 6:55 pm

    Bit of a long one this, but people have taken the trouble to pose questions so it seems right to take the trouble to try and answer some points.

    @Ofosh Take the point about holding the board to account, and we can and do do that over general approach and overall policy. What I was addressing was the requests to get involved in individual debates about individual players. You make a good point about the Saha and Nelson signings. But who decided to sign or not to sign players? Redknapp has a lot to say, but it’s not always the full story.

    You yourself say things could have been improved with minimal investment – yet much of the disquiet comes from people who say the owners haven’t invested enough. The fact is, lots of money has been spent. There’s a valid point to be made that the money spent isn’t as much as the money that’s been made, but an equally valid one about whether or not it’s a good thing to be in profit. Personally, I wouldn’t criticize anyone for not getting in to debt, and I don’t think people are really saying they want the club to spend so much it gets into debt. What’s really at issue is whether the money that has been spent has been spent wisely. And that comes back to questions of who can and should make those decisions.

    I’m sorry you’ve got zero faith in the Trust, and also sorry that you seem to see negotiating price discounts, however small, as either useless or an alternative to other things we do. We accept we have a difficult job dealing with a privately-owned company that is worth a lot of money, and we try to do what we can with the resources we have. Our members seem to think we’re getting the approach about right and, while we’re not complacent about that that, we take encourage from it. There’s more chance of holding the club to account if more people get involved in the Trust and make it possible to do things, rather than pointing out what isn’t being done.

    @totcat ‘good intentions but no real power’. That’s a valid point in many ways, although I’d argue that we’ve achieved quite a bit despite our lack of formal power – something which is extremely difficult to build at any Premier League club. We’ve argued with the club plenty, and we’ve also been pragmatic when necessary. We think we walk the line reasonably well to maintain independence and also to stay in a position when we can put our view and have some influence. We’re constantly aware of the dangers of becoming ‘part of the machine’ but most of our feedback seems to think we’re getting it about right. But, as I said above, we’re not complacent.

    Your proposal is interesting but, I’m afraid, impossible. What you’re suggesting is that the fans set up an alternative merchandising operation to the club. That would get writs for infringement of copyright coming straight out, even before the difficulties of sustaining a volunteer-run, successful commercial operation against a full-time operation run on behalf of a ‘brand’ in the richest leage in world football. So that’s a non-starter.

    I also suspect that fans would see any alternative operation as ‘anti-Spurs’ and so wouldn’t back it. Back in the day when I sold fanzines outside the ground we were regularly accused of diverting money from the club. What’s left is effectively a boycott, and again it’s something that’s been looked at over many years around many issues and there’s been very little support for a measure most fans see as anti the club.

    Even if somehow your plan could work, the fact that TV money is far and away the biggest source of income for the game knocks the entire conversation into a side alley.

    So, unfortunately maybe, we have to find other ways to campaign and influence. Even if we called a boycott tomorrow – and I personally don’t think there is reason to, which doesn’t mean I agree with everything the club does, it just means I don’t think there’s reason for a full boycott – there is little chance we would get support. One of our biggest problems is that when we do put out calls for people to get involved in things we do, we struggle to get anyone to turn up. Maybe that will start to change with the activities we’re trying to organize to coincide with the weekend of action on ticket pricing in October – it’ll be Swansea away for us.

    I’d be delighted to be proved wrong, but I don’t think we’d get mass support for a campaign to take over the football club, even if it were possible. So we’ll continue to work on the things we can deliver and influence, and try to build our strength so we can influence and deliver more.

    • SpurredoninDublin
      27/08/2015 @ 12:28 pm

      I actually think your response was better than the OP. That is not to say that the OP was poor, but it does not matter how you frame it, when you tell people what your role is, they will manage to redefine it, so that you also fit into their targets of opportunity.

      As for the comment on coach tickets, small as it may be, I wonder what (if anything) the poster of that comment has done to benefit his fellow supporters that is the equivalent of this? But let’s say that you regarded “Transfer policy” as part of your remit, how many of us really believe that when Baldini, Levy and Mopo are discussing this, they are going to say, “Let’s ask Martin Cloake what he thinks”

      • ofosh
        27/08/2015 @ 9:32 pm

        I’ve done nothing to benefit my fellow supporter… not a single thing… but then I am not the chairman of the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust.

        • SpurredoninDublin
          28/08/2015 @ 6:02 pm

          So why are you pooh poohing the fact that he has achieved something, albeit relatively small? If it’s a question that you think more could be achieved, then why don’t you stand for election? What it comes down to is can you do any better?

    • ofosh
      27/08/2015 @ 9:25 pm

      Martin, thank you for taking the time to reply… you make some lucid, well thought out and intelligent points but I simply can not be part of something which in effect supports our investors. I’m very practical and understand the difficulties in trying to challenge the big four and their huge revenue streams. My anger with our investors and the trust centres around one question. “ARE WE DOING THE BEST WE CAN TO DELIVER THE BEST RESULTS ON THE PITCH” Spending 45m on a player might not guarentee success on the pitch… spending 45m on a lodge for your training ground certainly doesn’t… unless of course you’ve seen a lodge score from 20 yards out… recording a 60m profit after tax (a premier league record) suggest much more could and should be done… but ultimately when I read your minutes from your various meetings with the investors (for which the majority of the time they send the office intern) all I see is “we can’t disclose the detail for legal reasons” or “it’s not straight forward to do a transfer” and then it’s just accepted without challenge… so tell us Daniel why is it difficult? Would it not be prudent to start the process earlier if it’s so difficult rather than 5 days before the window shuts… I am sure our coach would prefer to work with new players during the pre season”…. sadly Martin… you toe the party line… the investors give you a standard response and you accept it and move on… I am sure there are those grateful for price freezes and the odd discount here and there and if that’s all you can achieve then crack on… personally I think you need to be a bit more militant and start questioning where the club is and where the club is going… We are 18 months away from the end of White Hart Lane as we know it and you don’t gave a clue where we will be playing in 2017/18 but I tell you what… Our investors know that I guarentee you… Once again, appreciate you taking the time to respond… best wishes… ofosh

    • totcat
      28/08/2015 @ 9:14 am

      Hi Martin, thanks for your reply, unexpected but pleasantly surprised and well received. I agree it wouldn’t work but if you are going to dream, dream big, The idea of the merchandising was not to set up our own “brand” but to collectively buy from the Spurs shop via a single portal the same as say Pro-sports in the USA. If we could muster all our worldwide fan clubs to act as one and encourage all fans to buy more, this would be seen as pro not anti-spurs. A club of our size with the enormous number of worldwide fans that we attract should be right up there in terms of turn over but we seem to be lagging behind. I do not know the exact number of fans we have but figures in the hundreds of millions have been quoted, so a quick bit of maths, 100million fans buy £20 -£50 of goods from Spurs via our portal, well that blows the TV money out of the water. It doesn’t need to be run on a volunteer basis just a non-profit or all profit re-invested in the club basis and that would be very pro-Spurs. People who know me say I deal in concept’s not detail’s and I fully agree with them, I create the idea, the dream and let others do the work and make the money, I fear this idea, this dream is to big for us but if someone thinks they can make it work then good luck to them and sign me up.

      • SpurredoninDublin
        28/08/2015 @ 6:25 pm

        Just a point about getting every body spending, a friend of mine who lives in Thailand recently asked me buy an Arse shirt for her son while I was in London. I think I paid in the region of £40 for it. The first thing I noticed when I got it home, was the label which said “Made In Thailand”. I was embarrassed and let her have the shirt for free. She told me that she could buy the same shirt in Thailand for £5.

        When you consider that the big fan bases are in Asia in mainly developing countries, it’s going to be difficult to get someone to buy from the Spurs Shop, when they can get 90% off by buying local copies which were almost certainly made in the same factory as the shirt in the shop. In most of these countries, £40 is more than an average weeks wages. In fact I would bet that if Martin were allowed to ask, he would probably discover that the shirt many of us wear is made in a SEA sweat shop and costs under £4 to produce.

        I see the “patriotism” in your suggestion, but I think at the end of the day, most of our foreign supporters would think you were mad if you told them, “Lets get behind the team and buy from official outlets only”. Like me, they might actually consider that the prices charged for the shirts are unjustifiable when you know how much they cost to manufacture.

        • totcat
          29/08/2015 @ 8:06 am

          My understanding is that Pro-sport is to introduce an exclusive range of Spurs gear in the good old USofA which probably means a different pricing policy, this could be done worldwide, with a much cheaper cost in lower income countries, McDonald’s do this with their burgers, pitching the price at the level needed to sell their produce in each country. As for Thailand, most of the Grade “A” copies are made by the same people with the same fabric and in the same factory as the official gear but this is just one of many countries that we have fans. I hope you washed your hands with carbolic soap after you touched the arse shirt and some people could view giving that shirt to a child as abuse (haha).

  8. Martin Cloake
    28/08/2015 @ 9:09 am

    OK. When we meet the club there are two out of three of the club’s directors present, so that’s not exactly sending the office intern. Just on a point of fact. I guess it’s all down to perception – Trust board members are often told by the club that we don’t toe the party line enough, so there you go. We’ve had plenty of differences of opinion and they are all well-documented.

    On the details of transfers, we’re never going to get every dot and comma. But if there’s something to say at the end of this transfer window about the general approach, we’ll certainly say it.

    As for the year away from White Hart Lane, work around where we play and what happens while we play there is taking up quite a lot of our time at the moment.

    • ofosh
      28/08/2015 @ 11:17 am

      Fair enough… its all down to perception… you can’t please everyone or maybe it’s just me you can’t please… again, appreciate you taking the time to reply and good luck with all your initiatives…

    • SpurredoninDublin
      28/08/2015 @ 6:30 pm

      Away from WHL: Has anybody suggested Twickenham as Wembley appears to be out of the question?

      Vicarage Rd and Craven Cottage have both been dual used as football and Rugby grounds in the same season, and Twickenham holds 80K.

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