Q&A: Your questions answered on the new Spurs stadium and the state of the club’s finances

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Charles Richards / @spurs_report

I have written extensively about the new Spurs stadium and finance issues on this blog for the past two years. I get a steady stream of questions from Spurs fans keen to know more about the stadium, and the club’s financial health. In particular, the jump in construction costs to £800m has caused a considerable amount of concern.

Borrowing the idea from more imaginative bloggers, I asked my Twitter followers to send in their questions — and boy did you. I had more than 40 questions, *most* of which were serious. I’ve grouped the questions into subjects, and tried to answer as many as I can.

NAMING RIGHTS

@KarnaRohit
Any chance we can still have it called White Hart Lane ? How much are the naming rights going for ?
@hertfordlilly
How far off are we from finalising naming rights? This year’s performance must mean we are in a stronger bargaining position?

There is zero chance the new stadium will be called White Hart Lane — well, unless you have £300m burning a hole in your back pocket and want to buy the rights for the next 10 to 15 years. Daniel Levy has made clear, from the outset of this project, that Spurs will look to sell naming rights, and nothing will make him deviate from this plan. It is an integral part of the project funding.

In terms of naming rights, we’re now into the window of when the club may announce it. Levy has previously stated that a deal is typically agreed after the midway point in construction: sponsors want to know the stadium is going to be delivered on time and as specified. In terms of an “optimum” time — you think once demolition of old White Hart Lane is complete, this would be the time to do it. That should be around September — but it is just conjecture. The announcement that Spurs were renewing the AIA partnership until the end of 2022 suggested there won’t be a joint shirt-stadium sponsorship arrangement such as Arsenal have with Emirates. It seems unlikely Spurs would agree to a short extension with AIA if a naming rights deal weren’t signed and sealed.

Whenever I tweet the words “naming rights”, a bunch of people say “it’s going to be Nike”. I’m pretty confident it won’t be — it’s a building, not a superstar striker. I wrote about naming rights a while back, and urged caution on what Spurs could expect — the talked-about £30m per year seems extremely optimistic. I hope I’m proved wrong — Spurs have picked a good time to go up a level in league performance, and the NFL tie-in may appeal to some companies.

WEMBLEY

@njs10
Are we going to make more money next season at Wembley vs last season at WHL and how does that compare to season after at new stadium?
@jakemrich3
How will Wembley affect revenue? If we get nothing from food but how much of ticket sales do we get and will it counter the rent?

It is extremely hard to forecast what impact playing at Wembley will have on Tottenham’s bottom line. First, we don’t know how many tickets/hospitality packages Spurs will sell — maybe we’ll sell out every game, but I strongly doubt it — and second, we don’t know how much Spurs are paying. I’ve seen figures of around £20m per year bandied around. But do Wembley take a slice of ticketing income? And how are concession sales split? We just don’t know.

(Update: Spurs will NOT receive proceeds for concession sales. See comment below, with link to THST minutes)

However, we do know one thing: when full, Wembley is a cash cow, there’s a reason two Champions League finals and countless other major sporting events have been hosted there. If Spurs can come close to selling it out each week, and make a good stab at the corporate hospitality market, then, even with the rental fee subtracted, Spurs should easily exceed the modest £40m or so matchday revenue from White Hart Lane.

On the subject, here’s a fun fact: Daniel Levy once tried to buy Wembley. Talk about things coming full circle.

WAGES

@WindyCOYS
Do you have a feel for (or better, actual info) whether our players are *actually* underpaid compared to similar players at wealthier clubs? And, if so, how long will we need at new WHL before we can expect to see increase in wage spending (i.e. how long did it take other clubs)?
@m13tul
Revenue 2 wages we have always been 40% to 48%. If we try and up that figure to 55% will it make enough of a impact and what is he downside

Spurs had a wage bill of £100m in 2016, and revenue stood at £209m. The average wage bill of the other top six was £211m. Quite simply, Spurs have been playing in a different league to the other five teams, and it only underlines what a remarkable job Mauricio Pochettino has done.

However, things change quickly.

In the coming years, Tottenham’s revenue is going to soar: the next accounts will show Champions League revenue and the new PL deal (income from the latter alone will jump from £95m to £148m). From next season, we’ll have the additional income from Wembley, as well as another season of Champions League football. After that we should be into our new stadium and all the additional revenue that comes with that. There will also be the uptick from the next kit deal.

By my (very rough) projection, Tottenham’s revenue should jump to around £275 million next season, and the only way afterwards is up. Of course, Spurs will have stadium financing costs to absorb, but there is significant scope to increase the wage bill as required.

Spurs aren’t standing still. In the current accounting period, 13 Spurs players have signed new contracts, while Champions League participation likely will have triggered significant bonuses.

Are Spurs players underpaid? Sure they are — every single one could dramatically increase their earnings if they moved to another top six club. Ultimately, Chelsea and Man City are billionaire playthings and will always be able to offer more than a rationally run club such as Spurs. But Spurs, with every window that goes by, will be in a better position to compete. While we’re offering Champions League football, a chance to compete for trophies and be part of a close-knit and ambitious squad, plus the best manager in the league, we’ve got points in our favour too.

I don’t think the relatively low wages is just a case of Daniel Levy driving a hard bargain, Pochettino also appears to have made a virtue out of keeping a relatively fair balance of incomes among the squad. This will remain true through the years ahead — you’ll see the likes of Dele, Eric Dier and Harry Kane regularly sign new contracts, each time bumping them higher and higher, creating new ceilings. If Kyle Walker moves to Manchester this summer, it will be spun as “Spurs can’t afford to keep Walker”; but actually the situation is far more complex. Walker allowed his head to be turned, in the heat of a title race — for Pochettino, this may be an unforgivable breach of the team ethic by a player who is ultimately relatively easily replaced.

As for wage-to-turnover ratio, actually for Spurs it has rarely been in the 40 to 48 percent bracket. Generally, in the last decade, it has been between 50 to 60 percent. It topped out at 65 percent in 2013 — spending more on wages is no guarantee of success.

Spurs are hoping to bring it to about 45 percent through the stadium construction phase — but ultimately, keeping this special squad together has far greater financial benefits than whatever savings could be made achieving that ratio.

You can read my analysis of the 2016 accounts here, and I explored the issue of balancing stadium and on-pitch success here.

OWNERSHIP

@stevecco
THFC in unprecedented position for title challenge. Balancing the books is laudable but why is the owner so reluctant to dip into own pocket

I’m guessing, the photos that spread about “Uncle” Joe Lewis’s new yacht didn’t go down too well?

As Spurs majority owner, Lewis has been consistent through his tenure: he doesn’t speak, and he doesn’t put significant money into the club. Spurs has always been an investment — ENIC stands for English National Investment Company. It’s been a hugely successful one. When ENIC first bought a 27% share in 2001, the deal valued Spurs at around £81m. The value now is comfortably above £1 billion.

Lewis’s worth is estimated at around $5.7bn, per Forbes, but, there has never been any indication that it is for spending. Nothing is going to change at this point. Personally, I’m fine with the current ownership — Lewis isn’t extracting money from the club in dividends, or borrowing against its assets personally, while Daniel Levy is an experienced and competent chairman who cares about the club. Success earned is far more satisfying than success bought — whether it’s dodgy Chinese tycoons, unpleasant Qataris or spivs pretending to be billionaires, be careful what you wish for.

DEBT

@FrankMersland
How huge is the clubs debt stipulated to be when the stadium is built? And how much to be paid in annual mortgage/interest?
@jilllewis33
Seen suggestion Arse made big thing of making funding streams public while we’ve been more secretive. Any cause for concern/funding gaps?
@Phon1k
We will be the most indebted football club in the world when the stadium opens, cant uncle joe lewis just pay it all off?

The simple — and scary — answer: we don’t yet know how big the debt will be, or how much it will cost each year. Spurs have agreed a £350m funding package with three banks, and this will be the main element of the finance. But, with costs set to top £800m, more money is going to need to be found. Naming rights and future ticket sales are the main two elements to add to the funding mix — but it’s not clear how much Spurs will actually be able to bring in and if another debt facility may be required. By my (very rudimentary) assessment, Arsenal’s finance cost peaked at £47m, and hovered around £40m for four years before being refinanced to a lower annual payment. Arsenal pay around £20m per year on their Emirates “mortgage”. Spurs will likely pay more as we are borrowing more, but it’s impossible to say how much it will be until the details are known. We’ll get our first look in the next accounts. In terms of length, think the mortgage on your house — this will be a long-term arrangement.

The transparency question is an interesting one. There’s a balance to be struck between keeping fans informed and protecting commercial information; Spurs will reliably err on the side of the latter. It’s just part of Levy’s personality, and isn’t going to change. The club has said it will announce the funding package, and I would expect it to explain the financing costs when the annual report is published. But we’re not going to get a running commentary, as the saying goes.

Will Spurs be the most indebted football club in the world? It depends how you measure it. Here’s a handy guide.

Manchester United’s net debt, at last recording, was £409.3m — Spurs may or may not end up topping this (I suspect Spurs will, not least as the club has already invested heavily in the training centre). United have that debt for the privilege of being owned by the Glazer family, while Spurs are going to have the best new stadium in the world. Technically, there’s a clear leader in the debt stakes — on paper at least, Chelsea owe Roman Abramovich £1.053bn.

And no, Uncle Joe isn’t paying off Tottenham’s debt.

NFL

@brits_endzone
Is the plan for the new stadium to be the home of the NFL London franchise (if it happens). If so do you think that’s good for spurs overall

Spurs have made clear they are building a home not just for themselves, but also for the NFL if the American league decides it wishes to put a franchise into London. The NFL has put a small amount of money in — around £10m up front plus a 20-game agreement that will be worth tens of millions — and has been actively engaged through the design and construction phase.

A year ago, I wrote that it appeared that the NFL was close to pushing the button on a London franchise, but there has been little in way of developments since then. There are major logistical hurdles: training, travel, tax, and those are just the things that begin with “T”. There’s another scenario, in which rather than having a franchise, the NFL plays a full eight-game schedule in London (or a full eight-game schedule overseas, including London, Mexico City and wherever else they take games). It works well with a 32-team league — each team plays overseas every other year, and loses a home game every four years. It gives London fans the chance to see regular NFL football, but without the risk of having to endure a terrible team such as the Jaguars on a permanent basis.

What does this mean for Spurs? The NFL deal is a winner as it guarantees that at least two of the 16 non-Spurs major event slots are used. Each one will probably be worth between £2m and £3m for Spurs, so the more they can get booked out, the better. The NFL connection may offer some marginal uplift in terms of naming rights, and modestly boost Tottenham’s profile in the USA. But if Cameron Carter-Vickers kicks on and represents Team USA regularly, that would probably be a far greater boost. If the NFL does decide it wants a franchise in London, then Spurs can help in other ways — for example in helping build a training facility, accommodating players, and so forth. Hotspur Way is becoming home-from-home for NFL players visiting the UK — they all head up there for marketing work, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has visited.

TRANSFERS

@ZevRoberts
How much money realistically do we have to spend in the coming transfer windows?

Whatever Spurs spend, it will be dwarfed by what the other members of the top six spend, and possibly a few of those below. But there is money to spend if needed — Spurs found £30m on deadline day last summer for Moussa Sissoko, for example. I’d expect Spurs to have around £30m to £40m net over the next couple of summers, plus whatever profits can be rolled in from player trading. This summer, there is £18m of Nabil Bentaleb money to spend, and likely a decent profit on Kevin Wimmer if he moves on. Plus there could well be Kyle Walker money to spend. On the one hand, we’re not going to spend as much as Manchester United or Manchester City; but on the other hand, we have far less work to do. There’s nothing that should stop Spurs competing for talented youngsters such as Ryan Sessegnon, or spending big to fill the troubled right-sided midfield position.

REVENUE

@mepfish
Current match day revenue is £40m vs Arse £100m. Post stadium build will we eliminate this differential?
@craig4589
Aside from incr revenue from ticket sales, what are the significant commercial opps the new stad brings? What extra revenue could we expect?
@lewkc1
How, specifically (like by revenue stream, can Spurs close the gap with other 5 and how does stadium help that?

The aim of the stadium isn’t to eliminate the gap in matchday revenue with Arsenal, it is to put Arsenal behind us. It’s not a design statement like Roman’s coliseum, if Chelsea’s new stadium is ever built: everything Spurs have done is about maximising revenue. Even without the NFL connection and facilities, it feels very American — designed to make you spend time there and open your wallet, whether you are in the South Stand, or in a Sky Box. Things have moved on a lot in the decade since the Emirates was built.

So aside from beers and burgers, how else can Spurs make money? There are 16 non-Spurs major events allowed each year, two of which are blocked out by the NFL. Spurs will want to fill as many of these as possible, earning between £2m to £3m a time. They may get some help from AEG to fill these slots. In addition, the club is marketing the stadium as a year-round destination, aiming to attract visitors to the Tottenham experience, restaurants and stadium tours; there will also, no doubt, be conferences hosted within the stadium. This will feel more tangible once the hotel and luxury housing is developed on the southern portion of the site — bless it, but Tottenham High Road is hardly Regents Street.

The area Spurs continue to lag most seriously is in commercial revenue. While Manchester United are a money-making machine, and Manchester City pump revenues to evade FFP, Spurs continue to fall further and further behind. The new Nike deal sums up the situation: a £30m annual fee brings parity with the likes of Arsenal and Liverpool, but, seemingly out of nowhere, Chelsea tore up its Adidas deal and signed up with Nike for £60m per year. Spurs don’t seem aggressive or well-connected in this particular market, which is why I’m cautious on naming rights. For now, all Spurs can do is keep on winning and hope this brings new deals.

ACCESS

@basdaly How many Wheelchair Accessible Seats will there be in the New stadium ? Thanks

Per the planning documents, there will be 259 wheelchair spaces in the new stadium. In old White Hart Lane, there were just 51.

I’ve not yet seen confirmation of final number of wheelchair spaces as the seating configuration has been tweaked in the past two years. But, there’s no excuse for a brand new stadium in accessibility. If you look at the stadium cameras now, you can make out some of the areas for disabled fans — right in the centre, not tucked away in the corners.

The full section of the planning statement is here:

Screenshot 2017-05-22 at 9.48.24 PM

READINESS

@pasavito
What happens if new stadium isn’t ready in Aug 2018? Could we play in a stadium that is maybe 4/5′s complete? Would we be allowed to?

The stadium, quite simply, has to be ready. The aim is to be ready for July 2018 — that will enable test events to take place before the season starts, or, heaven forbid, something like Europa League qualification. If it slips into August, there are contingencies — Spurs could open the season with a block of away fixtures, similar to what Liverpool did last summer as their new stand was delayed. Essentially, this gives Spurs until mid September due to the international break. After that, if the stadium still isn’t ready, it would be a second year at Wembley. Daniel Levy has confirmed that there is a contingency arrangement in place for that scenario. Unfortunately, Premier League rules prevent a team from having two home stadiums in a season, so there’s no chance of switching after Christmas, say.

It won’t be possible to play in a partially finished stadium — Spurs will be building the sliding pitch underneath the south stand, so it simply won’t work. Perhaps there is some leeway in terms of internal fit-out, but it promises to be an enormously difficult and stressful 15 months.

In terms of markers, Levy has said that the roof should start to go on in late January/early February 2018. If this happens, things are looking good. Spurs are pretty much working around the clock — here’s hoping they don’t discover any rare newts under old White Hart Lane.

That’s all I have time for — thanks to everyone who sent questions in. If you are looking for answers to specific queries, try the iSpurs section of the club website, or the stadium minisite — there’s a lot of information online. Some I couldn’t answer! If it’s really gnawing away at you, hit me up on Twitter or in the comments — it’s always nice to talk Spurs in the long summer month between post-season and pre-season tours.

How do Spurs get better?

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By Charles Richards / @spurs_report

The Premier League is a show that never ends, and with the 2016/17 campaign done and dusted, attention moves immediately to 2017/18.

While players enjoy a well-earned summer holiday (after the dreaded post-season tour), planning for the next campaign will intensify: the transfer market waits for no-one.

For Spurs, after a magnificent season in which only the sustained excellence of Chelsea denied the club some much-wanted silverware, the question that will be asked by the likes of Mauricio Pochettino and Daniel Levy is a simple one: “How do we get better”?

Unlike the Manchester clubs, Spurs have few gaping holes to fill in the transfer market; unlike Chelsea and Liverpool, there is less need for an extensive deepening of the squad to cope with enhanced demands of European football.

But does that mean Spurs can stand still? Absolutely not. The club only needs to look at Arsenal to see the dangers that complacency can bring.

Speaking before the White Hart Lane finale, Pochettino made clear that he wasn’t going to let the summer drift by: “We are so ambitious and always want to improve. We are building step by step for our future. We are preparing for the next season in all the areas we need to improve, and we believe we can improve and be stronger.”

By way of perspective, Spurs got a LOT better from 2015/16 to 2016/17.

  • Spurs gained 16 extra points — increasing from 70 to 86
  • Spurs cut down the number of draws from 13 to 8
  • Spurs scored 17 more goals, increasing the total from 69 to 86
  • Spurs increased goal difference by +26, from +34 to +60
  • Spurs were unbeaten at home, and won all home matches against top six rivals bar Liverpool

This is impressive for a variety of reasons. For starters, Spurs were improving from an already strong base — a 3rd place finish, not an artificially low mid-table position. Also, Spurs didn’t have the same luck with injuries as in Pochettino’s first two campaigns. Harry Kane, Toby Alderweireld, Mousa Dembele and Jan Vertonghen all missed more than a month worth of games; while Harry Winks, Danny Rose and Erik Lamela missed substantially more.

By nature of how good Spurs were in 2016/17, improvements in 2017/18 are likely to be more incremental in nature: we’re highly unlikely to improve by 16 points again. But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t clear areas for improvement:

  • Spurs won just 9 away games, joint lowest among the top six
  • Spurs won just two points in away games against other top six sides
  • Spurs won only 10 points out of a possible 21 in October and November, during the Champions League group stages
  • Spurs failed to advance from their Champions League group, and embarrassed themselves in the Europa League

There was also the issue of the lack of silverware — it is nine seasons and counting since the last trophy, which is far too long.

But winning silverware is harder to plan for: Spurs reached the FA Cup semi-final, played well, and somehow conceded four to an utterly ruthless Chelsea. This is now seven FA Cup semi-final defeats in a row — which is a record, and a freakish level of futility. The aim must be to continue to build a squad for which reaching the latter stages of the FA Cup is an expectation, rather than a hope. The hope comes later — namely hoping that Nemanja Matic doesn’t wonderblast it into the top corner from 30 yards, and that whatever other agonies we have endured over the years don’t repeat themselves.

The areas the Tottenham hierarchy will identify as having scope for improvement will be away performance, especially in “big” games, and better balancing of domestic and European schedules.

In particular, you suspect improved away form is essential: going unbeaten at home is unusual and unlikely to be repeated. It’s going to be tedious, next season, when every home setback gets put down to Spurs not adjusting to Wembley: Spurs won 53 out of 57 points at home in 2016/17, a level accumulation that we wouldn’t repeat if we were still at White Hart Lane. It’s as freakish as the run of FA Cup semi-final defeats.

The goal will be to pick up more additional points in away games than we drop in home games.

All sounds simple, no? But here’s the hard part: how exactly are Spurs going to do this?

Here are some ideas.

Sort out the mess on the right flank

Let’s be frank: the right wing position (or whatever the correct term is for the roaming/backtracking/creative equivalent in Pochball) was a garbage fire in 2016/17. Moussa Sissoko started just eight Premier League games, and totalled 901 minutes, contributing zero goals and three assists. Erik Lamela appeared in nine league games, scoring once and assisting once, before missing the rest of the season with a hip injury. GK Nkoudou played 47 minutes of league action in total, and his sole contribution was to not look quite as appalling as Clinton N’Jie.

After the 6-1 demolition of Leicester, Sky Sports pundit Jamie Carragher offered a well-measured diagnosis of Tottenham’s needs — or rather need — this summer, identifying the difference a quality and pacey wideman, such as Sadio Mane, could make. The signing of Sissoko, and gambles on N’Jie and Nkoudou, suggest Pochettino agrees. These three all failed in their first campaigns to show they are the answer, and all may be sold rather than be given more time to prove their worth. They’ve been so bad it’s not clear they’ve earned another shot, unlike, say, Vincent Janssen, who has at least hinted at some modest footballing ability. It is unclear if OM have already activated their option to make N’Jie’s loan move permanent.

However, there are questions of whether this need for pace and ball-carrying ability is really required. Simply put, if Spurs signed a player such as Wilfried Zaha (who is likely staying with Palace anyway, but he’s just an example), would he be used? In big away games, sure, it would be nice to have a player like this — but you rather suspect, when push comes to shove, this player is likely to be benched in favour of an additional midfielder such as Harry Winks as Pochettino seeks to assert control. There is also the question of Son Heung-min — he may not be a ball-carrier like Zaha, but he’s fast, direct and scores loads.

You rather suspect, the decision on what to do in this position will be made at the same time as the decision on what to do with Lamela. If Lamela moves on, this opens the door for a more creative type of player; if Lamela stays and returns to fitness, expect Spurs to look for pace and dribbling ability.  Either way, Spurs are pretty much upgrading from nothing in this position — the only way is up.

Deepen the philosophy

After the Leicester game, Pochettino spoke about his philosophy and how, after three years, it was now deeply ingrained. The 2016/17 campaign saw significant development with the addition of a back three as a tactical alternative to the back four used in his first two seasons. However, this new tactical approach came after the mediocre early October form that saw consecutive draws against West Brom, Bournemouth and Leicester.

As James Yorke noted in his round-up of the season, Spurs continued to play the same basic Pochball as the previous season: dominating the ball, conceding few and taking a ton of shots. There are questions, though, about whether Spurs ran “hot”.

This year they shaved a couple of shots per game off their defensive end, got the breaks at both ends and happily rode the positive variance all the way up to second place. That’s maybe frustrating, and Pochettino knows it, judging by his reluctant acceptance of praise that has come his way.

It certainly sounds like there is some scope for improvement here, in terms of creating better shots, not just taking even more of them: a bit more nuance in the passing and movement, so that every match isn’t just a case of trying to batter the opposition into submission. Some of the football in 2016/17 was sensational — the first half at home against West Brom was perhaps the purest example of Pochball, utterly breathtaking. The goal will be to find that level of performance more often. It won’t happen every game, but it doesn’t need to: it just needs to happen a little more often.

The other thing Spurs should do, in addition to fine-tuning the tactical approach, is to deepen the culture.

Pochettino has assembled a tremendous team in terms of talent, but there is a togetherness to the camp, and a connection between players and fans, that can’t be matched. It’s hard to put a number on the value of homegrown players, but we can all feel that it exists.

With top six rivals all likely to spend between £100m and £200m this summer, Spurs may feel the pressure to also “show their ambition” in the transfer market — whatever the hell the pundits mean by that. Are the current Spurs players really going to walk away if Spurs don’t sign people to replace them? Whatever it means, Spurs should resist and keep the pathways to the first team open, as both Levy and Pochettino have stressed they will continue to to.

The emergence of Harry Winks was the latest example of this process working. After biding his time and learning to play the Pochettino way, Winks’ opportunity finally came this season — and he seized it with both hands. He proved a calm midfield presence, trusted to provide control in key games. Before injury struck, Winks was moving into England senior contention and appears set to be a mainstay in the Spurs midfield for years to come. He is a boyhood Spurs fan who is now living his dream: you simply can’t buy that. It helps Spurs achieve a unity of purpose that all the money in the world can’t match.

So who is the next cab off the rank? Many fans will say Marcus Edwards, or hope that Josh Onomah kicks on after appearing to stall somewhat, but most likely it is Cameron Carter-Vickers. Spurs shouldn’t bother replacing Kevin Wimmer: between Ben Davies and CCV, his minutes are more than covered plus absences for Alderweireld too. If CCV does emerge, this could also have the knock-on effect of allowing Eric Dier to play more games in midfield, or just fewer games overall given the huge workload he shoulders.

While Spurs are integrating young players who’ve had a year or more learning the system in training, other top clubs will continue to introduce three or four major new signings each season and hope they work out. Spurs don’t need to do that: if we can add one homegrown player to the mix each year, that’s the sort of incremental, organic improvement to an already-strong squad that will lead to titles. We’re already good! We just need to keep getting even better.

Throw off the shackles in Europe

Pochettino has done very little wrong in his time at Spurs, but the one area he has consistently struggled to find improvement is in European competition. In three years, there has hardly been a single European performance of note, and crashing out to Gent — or was it Genk? — in February summed up the malaise.

There’s something off about the performances in Europe. Spurs look tense, constrained, unnatural — the press is mechanical, there is a lack of movement, we barely create good chances and look shaky at the back. Spurs look like a team that fears failure, rather than sees Europe as an opportunity to shine.

Instead of amping up the pressure to perform better, you wonder if Pochettino may be better reducing it: more rotation, more attacking line-ups, and unashamedly offensive tactics. Just go for it — dare I say it, like ‘Arry did in that excellent European campaign — and get the opposition out of the players’ heads.

There was something about the performance against Leicester — Spurs revelled in the freedom of playing without pressure, and the movement was a joy. Can Pochettino and his team capture that spirit? It may have consequences for the league, too. Less inhibition in Europe may make that gruelling October/November period less of an ordeal, and maybe turn one or two draws into wins. Remember, it’s just incremental improvement we need.

Avoiding key injuries and better scheduling that ends the draining clustering of London derbies would also help, but that’s beyond Spurs’ control.

Improve the options off the bench

There were a number of occasions this season — Sunderland and Manchester United away jump out — when Pochettino looked to his bench for help in vain.

Quite simply, Spurs got virtually nothing in direct production from substitutes all season long. Spurs substitutes scored four times, and created six assists in total. Of those, three of the goals were by Son, who also assisted twice.

Some caveats: Spurs have had a long injury list, meaning the bench was often weaker than it should have been. Think back to the Autumn when Kane, Dembele and Alderweireld all missed time — take Costa, Kante and David Luiz out of the Chelsea team, and you can bet they would have dropped a few points as well. Furthermore, given the strong performances, particularly at home, Spurs didn’t “need” to go to the bench all that often. Spurs subs played an average of 42.5 minutes, well below the average of 51.6 minutes in the Premier League. The two teams with the lowest average number of substitute minutes? Chelsea (34.7) and Liverpool (37.6) — not being in Europe helps.

But, there were still moments, without doubt, when a stronger bench may have helped Spurs. Again, we’re looking for incremental improvement. In 2017, when you are a Spurs fan and you’re still thinking “I wish Jermain Defoe was on the bench and not playing for Sunderland”, it’s fair to suggest we lacked a bit of punch.

Transfer blueprint

I was going to write a separate piece on transfer strategy, but time is limited. It’s all a crapshoot anyway — who knows what will happen over the next two months. Here’s what I would do, if I was in charge and was being (almost) sensible about who is leaving and potentially coming in:

OUT

Kyle Walker (£40m), Kevin Wimmer (£15m), Moussa Sissoko (£20m), GK Nkoudou (£5m); plus loanees Clinton N’Jie (£5m), Nabil Bentaleb (£18m) and Fede Fazio (£2.5m)
Total: £105.5m

IN

Ryan Sessegnon (£15m), Dani Alves (£0), Gylfi Sigurdsson (£28m), Christian Pulisic (£40m)
Total: £83m

By the time you factor in the £20m we’ll lose on Sissoko, Nkoudou and N’Jie, that’s about breaking even: Net spend is for wimps.

Good thing I’m not in charge, huh?

Thanks for reading. Comments welcome. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

Sky Sports and the problem with Spurs

redknapp henry spurs

Ten minutes after the final whistle on Sunday — with Spurs sealing 2nd place for the first time in the Premier League era and completing an unbeaten home campaign, four dozen footballing legends ready to lead a grand farewell to one of the English football’s most famous old stages, and thousands of fans invading the pitch behind them — the conversation in the Sky Sports studio turned, inevitably, to the summer transfer window and whether Spurs would be able to keep stars such as Dele Alli.

Did it not cross the mind of the Sky host, Dave Jones, that this may not be the most relevant debate to be having, right now? Did it not cross his mind that, just maybe, tens of thousands of Spurs fans not fortunate enough to be at White Hart Lane on this historic occasion may be tuning in to soak in the atmosphere, celebrate a superb season, and bid goodbye to an old friend? Sure, it is perfectly reasonable to discuss the future of this Spurs team, the year away at Wembley, and the context of the success, achieved on a vastly smaller budget than the other occupants of the Premier League’s top six. But could it not wait, at least, for one sodding hour?

Even the best of TV hosts, which Dave Jones certainly isn’t, would struggle to wring a coherent thought on Spurs — or really anything — from Thierry Henry, while Jamie Redknapp is a malign and charmless presence, who cannot make it through two sentences without undermining Spurs.

“But can they keep hold of their players? But what if a big, big club comes calling? They should be smashing down the chairman’s door demanding a pay rise!”

Only Graeme Souness, a former Spurs apprentice who has fallen hard for Dele Alli and the strong, tough team Mauricio Pochettino has crafted, offered any semblance of a Spurs perspective on this huge day, But throw Souey a bloodied conversational rag — Spurs in the transfer market — and he’ll dive in two footed. Fortunately, the diggers were waiting to move in and Mauricio Pochettino was standing by in the tunnel, so this segment of the debate eventually came to a conclusion.

Sky’s coverage of Spurs has, to put it mildly, started to grate.

It wasn’t all that good to begin with, and hit a particular low in the run-in last season, with Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea and formerly of Arsenal being granted an undeserved platform to goad his upcoming opponents during one of Tottenham’s string of Monday night matches. But against West Ham, when both lead commentator Martin Tyler and presenter Rachel Riley (who is she?) took it upon themselves to suggest Spurs were bottlers as a nine-match winning streak came to an end during a fourth London derby in three weeks, what little patience was left evaporated.

The problem Sky have, or more accurately the problem we have with Sky, is that their roster of pundits and commentators isn’t built for Spurs being good.

For one season of fluke competence, Spurs being good was fine: a Leicester-lite surprise, who didn’t warrant further attention. But with Spurs showing all the signs of a sustained period of competence, Sky’s lack of a Spurs “voice” has become overwhelmingly apparent. Sending Thierry Henry, of all people, to the White Hart Lane finale was preposterous.

Spurs were selected for live TV coverage 18 times in 2014/15 and 21 times in 2015/16. This season, the final number will be 25. Of these, Sky will show 19 — so exactly half of Tottenham’s total games are being broadcast by Sky. Unless performances drop off significantly at Wembley, a similar number of Spurs games will be shown by Sky next season, in particularly given the lack of the Jose vs Pep narrative that drove a lot of live match selections in the first quarter of this season.

As the number of appearances has increased, the role of Spurs has changed. Spurs, up until now, were shown home and away against Sky’s chosen elite — a handy yardstick and almost certainly an entertaining game. Throw in a couple of London derbies, a goal-fest or two against Everton, something embarrassing against Newcastle and a whipping of Aston Villa, and that was Spurs on TV: repeat for 25 years. It didn’t require any thought, and certainly didn’t require any special treatment.

But now, Sky are aware that the situation is changing and they aren’t equipped to deal with it. Sky have some fine pundits such as Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher, while Frank Lampard is as smart and articulate an ex footballer as there is. But there simply isn’t a Spurs voice in the building — someone capable of offering a counter-opinion when the conversation gets tedious, someone who understands the spirit of the club, and can explain to viewers the transformation that Pochettino is leading.

Excruciatingly, the solution has been to play up the Spurs credentials of Jamie Redknapp. Ahead of the North London derby, Martin Tyler grandly welcomed “former Spurs captain Jamie Redknapp” to the coverage. Once I’d finished vomiting, I had to look it up. Redknapp was indeed selected as captain in 2003/04 by Glenn Hoddle, but played only 17 games that season — and made just 49 appearances for the club in total. That’s five more than Edgar Davids made, but Redknapp wasn’t invited to the legends parade while the Pitbull was: at least Jamie could get a lift home with his dad.

Redknapp, as Tyler himself said on commentary earlier in the season, is a Liverpool fan — and there is nothing wrong with that after making more than 200 appearances for the Anfield club. Just don’t pretend to be something you aren’t: give me honest admissions of bias over false claims of balance, any day of the week.

Does any of this matter? Most of the time, not at all. At half-time, most viewers do the washing up or take the dog out; at full-time, most of us finish watching at the final whistle and do something else. But just occasionally, like on Sunday, as a fan you want to savour every moment, drink in the atmosphere as though you were there. And this is when you realise just how abysmal Sky’s coverage of Spurs is.

It seems that Sky — and many other media outlets — are stuck on repeat. After every victory, the question is whether Spurs can keep hold of our star players; after every dropped point, the question is whether Spurs lack mental fortitude. We won nine goddam games in a row, and Martin Tyler — the most experienced commentator and the voice of the Premier League — was accusing us of throwing away the title.

Is it any wonder Spurs fans feel we’re not getting the credit we deserve? Spurs are playing magnificent football, setting club records and keeping title races alive long after all the other “big” clubs have given up; we’ve got a vibrant young squad that is providing more players for the England team than anyone else; we’re doing it on a tight budget, using homegrown players, while building a world-class stadium with virtually no support from the public purse. Spurs should be a model, lauded for doing things “the right way”; instead, after every fucking game, we’re treated to Jamie Redknapp diminishing our achievements and trying to break us up.

I’m no Sky basher, as those who follow me on Twitter know. I think Sky’s sporting coverage is world class, and its football coverage is far better than BT Sport’s dumbed down approach. It’s just unlucky, really, that Sky are so shit when it comes to covering Spurs.

I know Sky don’t care. Liverpool and Man United are all that matters, in terms of the subscription model. We all regret the decision to give Thierry Henry such a prominent role, Sky Sports management included — only four years and £16m left on his contract, lads.

But, as they plan for the new season, I desperately hope Sky at least consider adding one Spurs voice to their line-up. If Crouchy or Robbo hang up their boots this summer, they’d be a welcome addition, or perhaps Matt Le Tissier, Saints legend and boyhood Spurs fan, could be given be a more prominent role.

To be honest, though, empty chairs and a couple more betting adverts would provide more insight into Spurs than Henry and Redknapp Jnr.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

The Spurs Report wrap-up — links and articles

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A quick post with links to articles written since the start of 2017.

As usual, it’s been a mix of stadium/money articles and pieces on the football itself.

Thanks to those who shared these articles and made comments, there is always some fascinating stuff below the line, particularly on stadium pieces. If you’ve not yet read any of the articles yet, please dig in.

I don’t have anything particular in the pipeline, and I’m currently focusing on some non-Spurs writing. Mostly though, I just want to enjoy the end of this superb season, whatever happens.

I’ll be tweeting away as ever, please follow me on @spurs_report

Charles

Stadium and money stuff

Building a brighter future, on and off the pitch: Analysis of THFC’s accounts for the 2016 financial year

Examining the rising costs of Tottenham’s £800m stadium

Can Spurs afford to finish 5th?

Spurs, Chelsea and two very different stadiums

Football stuff

Super Jan takes it to the next level

Spurs need to rediscover transfer mojo

Tom Carroll, the last of the loan rangers

A new generation of Spurs fans craves FA Cup glory

Building a brighter future, on and off the pitch: Analysis of THFC’s accounts for the 2016 financial year

By Charles Richards / @spurs_report

(Update 21/04: Per ESPNFC, the £10m figure identified in this piece as a potential upfront NFL contribution to the stadium project has been confirmed. The mysterious £45m in accruals and deferred income remains in question. Answers on a postcard!)

Tottenham Hotspur’s newly published accounts for the 2016 financial year show a club in transition, still hamstrung by the constraints of White Hart Lane but moving clearly towards the altogether grander future that beckons.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has described the club, in its current state, as essentially two businesses — a football club, and a stadium development. This appears to be a useful mechanism for digesting the swathes of information contained in this annual insight into Tottenham’s finances.

In this analysis, I’ll focus on the football first, and then talk about the stadium. I’ll also talk about the NFL partnership — and ask whether the financial terms have finally been revealed.

For those new to this blog, I wrote a similar analysis last year. You can read my recent piece on stadium costs here, and my analysis of club spending through the construction phase here.

The club’s statement with the key figures is here, and you can find the full accounts in the Investor Relations section of the club website. Bear in mind, the accounts cover the 2015/16 season only — they end on June 30, 2016 and anything that has happened since then will be included in next year’s edition.

ON THE PITCH

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Cost controls

Spurs achieved something rare in 2015/16, particularly in the inflationary environment of the Premier League: the club lowered football costs and improved on-field performance.

However, if Spurs were hoping for any credit for finishing third in the Premier League on a budget dwarfed by the five wealthier clubs, this was dashed by Leicester’s remarkable title win and the limp finish.

What Spurs achieved in 2015/16 was highly impressive. While Leicester have fallen back to earth and mounted a title defence even limper than Chelsea’s in the previous season, Spurs have kicked on another gear since. There is a sustainability to what Mauricio Pochettino, Daniel Levy and others in the Spurs brainstrust have built, and that’s why the mood among Spurs fans is so positive. We see it, even if others don’t.

Once again, these accounts show Daniel Levy’s tight grip on the club’s finances. Net profit increased from £9.4m to £33.0m.

Spurs managed to reduce wages slightly, from £100.8m to £100.04m. Revenue, meanwhile, increased from £196.4m to £209.8m, an increase of 6.8%. As a result, wage to turnover ratio dropped from 51.4% to 47.4%. This continues the sharp downward trend — in FY 2014 it stood at 55.6%.

How did Spurs achieve this? A look at transfer activity and new contracts in the period shows how:

PLAYERS OUT: Paulinho, Holtby, Capoue, Kaboul, Stambouli, Chirches, Soldado, Lennon, Adebayor

PLAYERS IN: Wimmer, Trippier, N’Jie, Alderweireld, Son

NEW CONTRACTS: Dembele, Onomah (x2), Winks (x2), Alli, Dier, CCV, McGee, Pritchard, Bentaleb

Spurs managed to get rid of a lot of high earners — including a lot of flotsam from the failed Bale money splurge — while of the new signings, only Alderweireld and Son commanded “big” wages.

Meanwhile, Dembele was the only senior player to sign a new deal in the period — the rest were part of the “contract escalator” Spurs have in place for young players to increase their earnings as their role grows. Both Alli and Dier, for example, have signed new contracts in the current financial year, and will soon join the very top earners.

Crucially, with the old Premier League deal in its final season, Spurs were able to hold off on pay rises for all other senior players. This prevented “double dipping” — players seeking new contracts, then demanding another new one the next year citing soaring revenues.

Here are the players who have signed new contracts in FY 2017 so far: Lloris, Kane, Dier, Eriksen, Rose, Walker, Alli, Vertonghen, Winks, CCV, Wimmer, Carroll and Vorm.

That’s a lot of new deals — probably in the region of £15-20m of additional salary, by my estimates. But with Premier League TV income jumping by around £40m next season, it’s the perfect time to do it.

Looking at the ins and outs, you may be wondering why wages didn’t decrease further. Without transparency on player contracts, it’s hard to know — there may well have been some Champions League-related bonuses that kicked in.

Meanwhile, transfer spending ticked down. The “net spend” picture is confusing from accounts: the accounts reported a £27.1m profit from the “disposal of intangible assets”, but this isn’t a true picture of player trading.

I prefer to look at amortisation, the measure of the cost of new signings spread over the length of their contracts and reported on annual basis. A full explanation is in the notes of this story, but in the simplest way: If Spurs sign a player for £10m on a five-year contract, that equals £2m in annual amortisation cost.

For Spurs, amortisation dropped from from £38.6m to £31.8m, thanks to a large number of expensive failures leaving the club and mostly cheap replacements coming in.

If you combine wages and amortisation, you get a good measure of “real football spend” — how much clubs are actually investing in their playing squads. For Spurs, this decreased from £139.4m to £131.8m.

Here’s how Spurs compare with selected other clubs:

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As you can see, not only is the gap between Spurs and the wealthier five clubs growing, the gap between Spurs and the clubs below is narrowing. Spurs, simply put, are defying gravity — and no club better demonstrates the value of homegrown talent.

Revenue roadblocks

Revenue was a mixed picture, and further underscored what by now barely needs stating — Spurs need a bigger stadium and new sponsorship deals.

Matchday revenue was essentially flat, down from £41.2m to £40.8m, while commercial revenue dipped from £59.9m to £58.6m. If there is one area that will disappoint, it is the latter.

Spurs are stuck in the tail-end of the Under Armour kit deal (expiring at the end of the 2016/17 season) and are midway through the AIA deal, which ends in 2018/19. With each year, these deals grow less competitive. But success on the pitch failed to boost merchandise sales (which declined slightly from £12.3m to £12.0m). Lack of Cup success also hit commercial and matchday income.

As far as I can tell, Spurs did not sign any major new sponsorship deals in FY 2016. The partnership with Kumho Tyres started in FY 2017, and certainly, just comparing the “Partners” section of the club website compared with similar sections for other clubs, and you can see that Spurs are far less active.

Does it matter, given how tacky this stuff gets? Ultimately, if Subway want to offer £2.5m a year to be official sandwich partner, that’s the easiest money a football club will ever make. There’s significant room for growth in this area.

The bulk of the revenue growth came thanks to the increase in Europa League prize money. Previously an irritation, the Europa League is far more valuable now. Prize money increased from £4.7m to £15.5m due to the largesse of BT Sport. That’s a lot of money for not very many viewers, but Spurs aren’t complaining.

Premier League revenue also increased thanks to improved on-field performance. 21 games were selected for UK broadcast, compared with 18 in the previous season — under the old TV deal, each extra selection above the minimum 10 was worth around £750,000, while performance-based prize money jumped by around £2.5m for finishing 3rd compared with 5th.

In a previous piece, I noted a development whereby revenue and spending, previously moving in concert, were starting to diverge.

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As you can see, this divergence was amplified in FY 2016. I like this chart as I think it tells a story, of Spurs shifting from the “wheeler dealer” mentality to a more sustainable approach as the club enters the stadium build phase.

In the coming three years, this trend is only going to increase. Next year, Premier League revenue should increase to around £140m, while the brief Champions League campaign should bring in around £35m. In the following year, pending the official announcement, Spurs will have much higher gate receipts due to playing home games at Wembley. The financial year after that, we’ll be into the new stadium.

These are exciting times for Spurs: it feels like things are falling into place. We’ve got the right manager, the best core of players in years, and a boardroom focused — almost to the point of obsession — with delivering a world-class stadium. It’s going to be fascinating to see how we manage to screw this up.

OFF THE PITCH

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Stadium developments

Arguably the most important disclosure in the annual report concerned the stadium: the borrowing has officially started.

The first £200m portion of the bank finance Spurs have sought is in place, £100m of which was drawn as of June 2016. Interestingly, this facility was entered into on December 10 — six days before Spurs secured planning permission for the new stadium from Haringey council.

This is the “bridge” portion of the £350m loan Spurs will seek to cover a chunk of the construction costs. There has been public posturing over the finance of the project amid negotiations on public sector contributions and infrastructure delivery, but the annual report shows that financing is moving forward broadly as the club said it would in the planning process.

This £200m facility cost £855,000 in arrangement fees, but we don’t yet know the annual finance cost. The first £100m is repayable in December 2017 — or to put it another way, in December this year it will be refinanced into a bigger and longer-term facility. It may be that Spurs are able to borrow more than the planned £350m, given the increasing revenue and rising construction costs.

Overall, spending on the project has increased from £59m to £115.3m, per the club.

Meanwhile, two other unusual items, a long way down the accounts, caught my eye.

The first was a payment of exactly £10m, received from “a company, which is not a related party, as a contribution towards future construction expenses related to the Northumberland Development Project.”

Who is this money from? Public sector contributions have been a matter of contention, and do not extend to the stadium itself — certainly no agreement was reached before June 2016. If it were Tavistock Group — Uncle Joe — injecting money, it would be listed as a related party contribution.

The second, found in the non-current liabilities section, was a disclosure of £45m, again an exact amount, in “accruals and deferred income”. In 2015, the club recorded £0 in the same category, likewise in 2013 and 2014.

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Deferred income is income received for services that will take place beyond the period covered in the balance sheet. Season ticket income and payments received for commercial deals that stretch beyond the reporting period are listed in the current liabilities section.

While it has been reported that Spurs have agreed a deal with Nike as the next kit supplier, this has yet to be officially announced, and certainly wasn’t announced during the previous accounting period.

So what is it?

While no major new sponsorship deals were announced during the period, there was one major new commercial partnership: the 10-year, 20-game NFL deal. If there was a payment, it would be reported in these accounts — with stadium completion date yet to be confirmed, it would be deferred income.

No financial terms were announced, but it seems likely that Spurs would seek money “up front” from the NFL to at the very least cover the additional costs of installing NFL facilities within the stadium. Likewise, expect Spurs to see at least a portion of naming rights income up front to help with cash flow when a deal is agreed, and advance ticket sales income.

A concern has grown among some Spurs fans that the NFL may be “using” Spurs, in the same way the organisation brazenly exploits local taxpayers in the USA. But, in reality, trying to gauge the additional costs incurred by the NFL elements is hard.

Once the project stalled amid the legal dispute with Archway, the stadium design was always going to be tweaked so that Spurs could get as much into the site as possible. To make it a true NFL stadium, additional work had to be carried out to basement areas, plus there was the need to reconfigure the interior to allow for enlarged locker rooms and media facilities. The sliding pitch sums up how tricky it is to put a value on the NFL additions: it is a new and expensive piece of technology that, while useful to Spurs when hosting concerts and other sporting events, feels like an extravagance too far if there were no NFL contribution.

So can we now put a price on this partnership? A one-off £10m payment, plus a 10-year, £45m hosting arrangement that has been paid up front. In total, a £55m ($69m) contribution to the £800m or so total cost.

It certainly sounds reasonable, and realistic. For the NFL, it gives them the stadium they desire in London for future growth plans. For Spurs it is money that can be used to turn the stadium into the world-class venue the club has always hankered to build.

I can’t confirm this — any journalists looking for a story could do worse than run this up the flagpole — but it certainly seems possible. Certainly, there have been suggestions that the NFL is putting money into the stadium — including recently by MMQB journalist Albert Breer.

I welcome any other suggestions on where this £10m construction cost and £45m in deferred income may have come from. But my hunch says NFL.

Other business

Away from the stadium, Spurs are continuing to invest in the training centre with construction of a new player accommodation facility. The £16m loan facility for the training centre was expanded to £25m, at a cost of £265,000.

Spurs being Spurs, there is a commercial element to this. In addition to providing accommodation for the first team and youth teams, and players visiting for medicals ahead of signing, the facility will also be used by other teams. An agreement is in place with England to use it before games at Wembley — all those times England train at Hotspur Way isn’t an ad hoc arrangement — while it is also available to European sides ahead of midweek matches against other London sides. Both Barcelona and AC Milan even provided letters of support in the planning process.

The planning agreement makes clear this isn’t a hotel, but no doubt visiting teams and England will pay handsomely for the privilege. Speculation that NFL teams may use the facility is wide of the mark — at 45-rooms, it is simply too small.

There are a couple of other lines of note.

The first is exceptional items of £9.6m in “commercial and employment contract costs”. In the previous year, £6.5m was reported in “redundancy costs and onerous employment contracts”.

My assumption was that at least a part of last year’s exceptional items referred to Emmanuel Adebayor, who at some stage stopped being a footballer. More likely any payoff was included in this set of accounts. But as for commercial costs, it is hard to understand what that may be. £9.6m out of £209.8m total revenue is not an inconsiderable sum, and I’d welcome any suggestions. If there is an inference from the new description, I’m missing it.

Second is £500,000 paid by Spurs to Melix Financial Services, another Tavistock Group company, for “commercial advice on global sponsorship opportunities”. Melix, like much of Tavistock (the investment umbrella for Joe Lewis of which Spurs is just one part), is Bahamas registered — but beyond that, there is no public profile. If you Google the name, you’ll get a few links to a late 2000s Romanian property scandal, and that’s about it.

There may be a perfectly reasonable explanation, but it beats me. Answers on a postcard – preferably with a nice picture of the Bahamas on it.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat. Comments welcome, either below or to spursreport at gmx.co.uk.

Super Jan takes it to the next level

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When Spurs threatened to come apart at the seams in the dismal 2013/14 campaign, few players’ reputations suffered as much among fans as Jan Vertonghen’s.

Hugo Lloris was a picture of quiet misery, emerging every now and then to pick the ball out of the back of the net before disappearing back behind his sad puppy eyes to daydreams of life in Paris, Madrid, or wherever he could be sure Tim Sherwood wouldn’t be managing next.

But stuck in central defence in a team with no shape or cohesion, and sometimes shunted out to left back due to the shortcomings in the squad that had been assembled out of the wreckage of the Gareth Bale transfer, Vertonghen was more exposed.

Vertonghen’s form, excellent in his first campaign after joining from Ajax, declined. In the 4-0 rout at Stamford Bridge — the fifth time Spurs had conceded three or more goals in a game that season — an atrocious error from Vertonghen was the spark that lit the collapse.

Vertonghen is no stoic, and as the season unravelled, the Belgian was unable to contain his unhappiness: the legend of “Grumpy Jan” was born.

There is a prickliness to the Belgian, and an impression grew that he was someone who saw himself as a man apart. Vertonghen has the misfortune of being an intelligent man in an environment where intelligence — and it truly is a fucking mystery why English football is so shit — is treated with suspicion.

Despite a tradition of ball-playing centrebacks, and more patience with the odd defensive slip than most fanbases, a view developed among the Spurs faithful that Jan may not quite be the fighter that Spurs needed at the back. Too quick to moan, too many aerial challenges lost, too easily brushed aside; beautiful with the ball, but not quite to be trusted. He was a quality player stooping to the level of those around him, rather than a leader who would singlehandledly pick the others up.

Utter bollocks, of course.

It turns out, the problem with Vertonghen wasn’t so much him as it was all the other defenders he was forced to play with, as well as the midfielders in front of him, and the squad-wide absence of discipline, unity and tactics.

In hindsight, it’s hardly surprising that Vertonghen’s form should improve when he went from playing alongside Younes Kaboul and Federico Fazio, and behind Ryan Mason and Nabil Bentaleb, to playing alongside Toby Alderweireld in a defence protected by Eric Dier and then Victor Wanyama.

Unfortunately for Jan, his connection with the past robbed him of much of the credit he was due in Tottenham’s excellent 2015/16 campaign. There wasn’t a mention of Vertonghen in any season reviews, despite him being a core part of the league’s joint-stingiest (and comfortably most improved) defence.

For Spurs fans, Vertonghen’s performances weren’t a surprise, rather a reaffirmation of a longstanding belief — that Vertonghen, when in form, is a superb footballer and one of the best defenders in the Premier League. This was the level expected of Vertonghen when he joined from Ajax, which he initially delivered before being caught up in the ebbs and flows to come.

The surprise with Vertonghen came this season. Already looking like a defender in his prime, at the age of 29 and with a new contract in hand, Vertonghen has found another level to go up.

This improvement coincided with Mauricio Pochettino’s switch to three at a back — and in Vertonghen there is one of the purest fits of player to system you will ever see. Vertonghen fits the left-sided centreback role like leather trousers on a WAG — it’s like he was born into it. The role accentuates all of his skills — his ability to carry and play the ball, his ability to read the play — while minimising his aerial and physical short-comings. Already one of the best defenders in the Premier League, this season Jan has stepped up to being one of the best in Europe — try to name a better left-sided defender than Vertonghen, right now. It’s very hard to think of any.

From Grumpy Jan, we now have Happy Jan — a player in the perfect tactical situation, with best mate Mousa Dembele on hand for marathon games of Monopoly between matches.

Does this mean any credit is coming Vertonghen’s way? Unlikely. Praise for Tottenham’s sustained defensive excellence must be divided up among the whole unit — defenders, midfielders and manager — and understandably much of the credit will go to the jaw-droppingly good Alderweireld. When the clickbaitists write their Top Tens and the ex-pros have their Teams of the Week ghost-written, Vertonghen’s name won’t be seen. When the transfer rumours are made up to fill click quotas when international games are on, it’ll be Toby, or Kyle, or Hugo who are linked with “big-money moves” elsewhere.

But at this point, that’s just the way it is for Jan.

Much more important than what the pundits and the elite Twitterati think, Spurs fans understand the step that Vertonghen has taken this season. The reception for Jan is one of the warmest in the stadium before matches, and everyone watching knows how utterly integral he is. The crowd lifts when he is on the ball, and the team clicks.

And that’s all I wanted to say: Jan, we noticed how good you’ve been. And we love it. If you think the noise for Vincent Janssen’s open-play goal was loud, just you wait til you score. The roof will come off — so best do it this season otherwise it’ll be really bloody expensive when we’re at Wembley or New White Hart Lane.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

Examining the rising costs of Tottenham’s £800m stadium

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“Brexit to blame as Spurs stadium costs double”, screamed the headlines this week, as it emerged the cost of the club’s new home has increased to an estimated £800m.

The eye-watering figure sparked concern among fans over the impact of the project on the club’s long-term financial future. In this piece, I will look at the £800m figure and the reasons why costs have increased so sharply.

Revised cost estimates

First the background: the new £800m estimate was revealed by chairman Daniel Levy in board-to-board minutes published by the THST, always one of the best sources of information on the project:

DL stated that the funds would come from different sources and that the cost of the stadium was now estimated circa £800m

In an email response to a question from a fan about why the stadium cost had seemingly doubled from the initial £400m estimate, chief executive Donna-Maria Cullen expanded further.

It is worth remembering that the original cost quoted for the stadium was some 7 years ago. This new ‘estimated’ figure relates predominantly to the stadium with some elements of substructure for the other builds particularly the Tottenham Experience. Brexit has added a straight 20% on costs for foreign goods due to the exchange rate, overtime working and increased construction costs similarly. Revised basement works also added to the cost. We are constantly managing costs and will continue to do so throughout the process along with funding plans to ensure the viability of the scheme.

Credit must go to Cullen for communicating directly with fans and attempting to ease concerns over the stadium’s viability.

As Cullen notes, this stadium project has been a long time in coming. A new stadium was first mooted in 2007, and planning permission for the old, 56,000 capacity design was gained in September 2010. The project then drifted for five years amid CPO litigation and interest in the Olympic Stadium site, before enhanced plans were approved in December 2015.

Understandably, the project cost has increased sharply over this period — it has become a bigger, and higher specification, stadium.

The first public estimate for the current version of the stadium came in December 2015. At a fan forum, Levy estimated the cost at £500m. This was in line with the financial Viability Report, which put the estimated bill for the whole scheme — this includes the housing and hotel component — at between £675m and £750m.

This £500m figure is a reasonable baseline — so if and when stadium costs hit £1bn, then we can talk about it doubling.

Explaining the jump

That said, £500m to £800m remains one heck of a jump — £300m is an awful lot of money: it is ten Moussa Sissokos, or 20 times the amount West Ham contributed to the Olympic Stadium rebuild.

In her email, Cullen outlined four key factors beyond the cost increase: the weakening of the pound due to Brexit, overtime working, increased construction costs and revised basement works.

Overtime costs are easily explained — go on the live webcams, and you’ll see workers on site for 18 hours a day, seven days a week. The timeline is phenomenally tight, with Spurs needing to complete work to a sufficient degree to ensure only one season is played at a reduced capacity WHL, and only one season at Wembley. Very soon, the club is going to have to make the decision on whether to knock down White Hart Lane — understandably, both club and contractors Mace will be want to be as far ahead at possible before crossing this point of no return.

On construction costs, the story of the club purchasing cranes is a good example of how costs can rise when the clock is ticking. The club couldn’t afford to wait for leased cranes, so instead bought new ones and will seek to recoup some money after work is finished.

Revised basement works appear to refer to changes to the design that were approved in 2015, prior to full planning permission being granted. The revised plans include more car parking and storage space, seemingly with the NFL groundshare in mind.

The final issue is the weakening of the pound, forcing up the price of imported equipment and goods.

A look at the five-year £/euro exchange rate highlights the problem Spurs have had. In early 2015, just as Spurs were at the peak stage of modelling stadium finances and cost planning, the pound strengthened considerably. For about a year, it hung there, and pretty much as the stadium was approved in December, it started to fall.

Screenshot 2017-03-07 at 6.53.42 PM

Cullen blamed Brexit — and without doubt, Brexit gave the pound a kicking. But the pound was already falling well beforehand — and if you look at the 10-year trend, we’re kind of back where we were for much of 2009 to 2013. The timing is unfortunate — Spursy? — but the club is far from alone in being caught unawares by Brexit.

In terms of magnitude of impact and the 20 percent cost increase on imported goods, it’s hard to gauge without knowing more about where materials for the scheme are coming from. We could be talking millions, or tens of millions. But either way, currency fluctuations have impacted the budget: on the plus side, the weak pound should help exports of crap squad players to the eurozone and China this summer.

Nice things cost money

Does this add up to £300m? In all probability, no. There’s one other factor that — inevitability — has led to an increase in the final costs of the stadium: the fit-out.

When the £500m project figure was first estimated, there was inevitably going to be a lot of uncertainty about internal fittings — how much do tunnel clubs, cheese rooms, sky lounges and state-of-the-art beer bumps actually cost? There is bound to be guesswork for these bespoke elements — it’s not like Levy is heading down to Ikea armed with a pre-budgeted shopping list and club credit card.

Through the build phase, Spurs have been tweaking plans for the internals of the stadium. In responses to questions I posed in the summer, it was clear that issues like in-stadium technology were very much a work in progress. It was reported that Levy was travelling around London skyscrapers inspecting lift fittings to ensure the right specification for the stadium.

This story about the Minnesota Vikings and their spectacular new stadium illustrates how costs can shift. It was decided, during construction, that another 400 in-stadium screens were required (and money was duly extracted from taxpayers), while expensive-sounding network infrastructure had to be developed to cater for increasing demands for stadium wifi. Meanwhile, stadium builders are continuously learning — during the build of the US Bank Stadium, it became clear that the new 49ers home, the Levi’s Stadium, was not sufficiently catering to fan demands for instant replay — so the Vikings increased the number and quality of in-house cameras. You can imagine Spurs doing something similar — the introduction of video-refereeing will mean fans will need to see more to understand the game. These changes are part of the future proofing of the stadium design, but potentially cost a lot of money.

Shifting financial situation

While costs have been rising, so too have club revenues.

In the 2015 financial year, club revenues stood at £196m. Figures for for FY 2016 will be released soon — they should show revenues climbing to around £210-215m, per my estimates. But from here, the increase will be sharp — FY 2017 will see the new Premier League TV deal accounted for, and should send revenues close to £275m. In the following year, revenues could potentially increase further if Spurs are able to play in front of a sold-out Wembley week-in, week-out. You get the picture.

The amount Spurs can borrow is tied to income. Initially, it was reported Spurs would borrow £350m from banks — in reality, there may be the potential now to borrow more.

In an email lambasting lack of action by local authorities that *mysteriously* found its way onto the front page of the Evening Standard, Levy mentioned the financing had not yet been finalized — in all reality, at least some portion must be in place given the scale of construction so far. It was reported that of the initial funding package, the first £200m would be loaned up front — it may be that this “bridge” part is in place, but Spurs are looking to tap more than £150m in the second phase. This is speculation, but rising costs and income, combined with recent public comments, suggests this may be a potential scenario.

In addition to Spurs earning more, as the project has progressed, the club will have gained greater clarity on feasibility of generating additional revenue. While two of the 16 non-Spurs major events are locked out by the NFL, no doubt conversations are underway in terms of other events, given the stadium is due to open in just 18 months. I have previously speculated that AEG may be involved in organising these events — a Twitter exchange with the head of AEG’s new rugby division did little to deter me from this view.

With greater clarity on how the stadium is going to be used, Spurs may be more confident in pushing the boat out on internal fit-out — more expensive sound systems, better resolution screens, or whatever it is.

In terms of other financing sources, nothing is yet confirmed on naming rights, while advanced premium ticket sales have begun — the club reported about 50 percent of premium packages are now sold. Pinches of salt no doubt required. There is some indication that Joe Lewis recently put a certain amount of money into the club — £20m or so — but this can’t be confirmed. I’m personally dying to know if the NFL is putting money in up front. But either way, with more than £100m spent on property/site prep/design and legal costs, at least £350m coming from banks, and naming rights/advance sales to roll in, Spurs are well on the way to £800m regardless.

Final thought

Given the context of the £800m figure — revealed while relations with authorities over the White Hart Lane station development are strained and amid ongoing dialogue on affordable housing — some caution is advised.

But taking the £800m figure at face value, it doesn’t appear an unrealistic amount for Spurs to spend. The club will have a lot of debt, but increasing revenues to service it. If you look at costs of recent stadiums in the US, £800m is still quite modest — the Vikings stadium cost $1.2bn, while the new Falcons stadium in Atlanta will cost around $1.6bn.

The next few weeks promises to be the most stressful of the entire project.

Brent Council’s decision on Wembley, due March 23, has a multi-million pound impact on Spurs — being able to play in front of 90,000 rather than 51,000 next season will make a huge difference to the club’s bottom line.

Meanwhile, the club has to make the agonizing decision on whether to knock down White Hart Lane. Any delays after this happens — for example during the demolition and excavation of the old ground — could leave Spurs homeless and at the mercy of the FA, who have another tenant — with a lot more money — lined up to take Wembley once we’ve moved out.

Just because costs are increasingly sharply, doesn’t mean they are spiraling out of control. It’s a high-wire act — but if Spurs can pull it off, the rewards are huge.

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