New stadium levels playing field for Spurs, but is no silver bullet



The Standard via Google Images

After eight long years, many false dawns, and a marathon late-night session of the Haringey Council planning sub committee, Spurs finally have the green light to build a new stadium at White Hart Lane.

The design is spectacular and it promises to be a world-class home for Spurs fans, home being the operative word when so many clubs are forced to the peripheries of their communities and beyond in the search for space to grow.

The project is also a touch mad: building and operating a 61,080 seater arena in a densely populated and poorly connected part of London is going to be immensely challenging.

Daniel Levy has described the new stadium as a “game changer”, vaulting Spurs into the top tier of the Premier League. But there is a big difference between “game changer” and “silver bullet.” In the Premier League arms race, a new stadium is just the minimum requirement for what Spurs will need to compete in the long-term.

Football finance blog The Swiss Ramble is an essential read and his figures show just how far Spurs have slipped behind the Manchester clubs, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool in the money stakes.

While all Premier League clubs have shared in the ever-growing broadcasting pot, match-day (tickets, corporate boxes, pies) and commercial (sponsorships, merchandise, etc) revenues vary hugely.

In the 2013/14 financial year, the last reported, Spurs’ match-day revenues stood at £44 million, and commercial revenues were £42 million. Combined, this is less than Spurs received in TV money (£95 million).

As the table below, taken from The Swiss Ramble, shows, this is puny compared to our “rivals”. Rivals seems barely appropriate — the other five are in a different league.

swiss ramble

While Liverpool struggle in match-day revenues (although this will soon change), from a commercial standpoint you see what they mean when they say they are a “big” club. They are finding a way to turn all those fans out in Asia and elsewhere into gold.

From Arsenal, you see just how stark is the disparity in match-day revenues. At £100 million, Arsenal more than doubled what Spurs brought in. Commercially, Arsenal also far outstripped Spurs even if they have ground to make up on the rest*.

For what it’s worth, I don’t particularly trust the figures from Chelsea or Manchester City as these were done at a time both were engineering a way around Financial Fair Play rules. But this just shows the lengths the owners of these clubs will go in the spending stakes — as I wrote recently, I’m not sure I even want Spurs to try to compete with that.

Moves by other clubs on stadia have added urgency to Spurs’ need to get the construction started at White Hart Lane.

Manchester City are expanding their stadium, which is up to 54,500 and will eventually reach 61,000 (presumably once they’ve rounded up enough fans to fill it). An expanded Anfield will host 54,000 from next season, as will the Olympic Stadium if West Ham manage to sell it out. Newcastle still hit close to their 52,400 capacity most home matches despite the misery of Mike Ashley’s reign. Chelsea have announced their own grandiose plans for a new stadium at Stamford Bridge with a capacity of 60,000 although huge planning tests await.

This is why Levy has been so hell-bent on pushing ahead with an enhanced stadium even as TV income has soared relative to other sources of revenue — it’s not about Spurs getting ahead, it’s about making sure we don’t fall even further behind.

I don’t know the precise estimates, but it would be reasonable to expect the new Spurs stadium to at least double match-day revenues — 25,000 extra tickets per game, greatly enhanced corporate facilities, and much better in-stadium revenue-generation. But even if this were to go as planned, add this extra revenue into the 2013/14 numbers, and Spurs would still be below Liverpool, let alone Arsenal.

Spurs lag in two key areas, Champions League TV money and commercial revenue. These two have a chicken and egg quality: If we can qualify for the Champions League on a regular basis, we’ll start attracting top-line sponsorship deals. But we need the sponsorship deals to sign the players needed to crack the Top Four regularly. How do you break that logjam?

Arsenal, loathe as we are to admit it, are the best example for Spurs. While Manchester United and Liverpool have huge advantages stemming from sustained periods of dominance, and Manchester City and Chelsea bought their way into the spotlight, Arsenal did it the hard way. They built a successful team in the late 90s and early 00s, played exciting football, and had superstar appeal in Thierry Henry. This in turn led to an increasing fanbase.

While the “Invincibles” generation of new Arsenal fans have gone to the dark side, permanently, there is nothing to stop Spurs from doing the same thing and winning over the next bunch of kids coming through, whether they be in London, New York or Kuala Lumpur. Harry Kane may not have the sultry “va va vroom” appeal of a certain Frenchman, but he is hugely likeable (I’ll let others use the term “marketable”) in his own way.

Spurs fans are optimistic now because we can finally see a “plan”. We’ve got world-class training facilities, and a youth set-up that seems to be bristling with talent. We have a core of young players who the fans can identify with, and who appear to have the talent to compete with anyone. Added to this, it appears the massive hole in the ground at White Hart Lane is finally going to be filled in and transformed into a world-class stadium.

But for the rest? It’ll take luck, patience and good management — three things that, until recently, have been in short supply at Spurs.

I’m excited to see the new stadium rise up from the ground. But let’s not get carried away just yet.

*Update at 12.30pm: Thanks to Twitter user  for raising issue of naming rights. As I was writing this, I just was factoring that in as just an offset of what Spurs would need to finance the project. Of course, this will be booked as commercial revenue — depending on what we could get, this will narrow gap on Arsenal. I’d venture £30 million a year though is v optimistic. This would still stand us a long way behind Liverpool and United, who don’t even have naming rights deals — so my broader point stands.


8 thoughts on “New stadium levels playing field for Spurs, but is no silver bullet


    well what a one sided view….using outdated research and figures..
    whilst yes you focus on tv deals match day revenue and commercial gain i really think you forget the nfl sponsorship the aia deal and the rest…the new stadium is an increase in seating giving us more match day revenue


  2. thespursreport Post author

    The figures I use are the most recent available. Other clubs have published 2014/15 financials, but not Spurs, so using 2013/14 is the only way to make a like-for-like comparison.

    But the rest, you are welcome to take issue with!

    I’ve made some comments on Twitter (@spurs_report) about NFL deal


  3. James

    Should probably also point out regarding Arsenal’s commercial income that the 13/14 figures don’t include their new Emirates and Puma deals, which began in the 14/15 season. Those two deals alone are worth an extra £47m per season to Arsenal, so in reality their commercial income is likely to be at least £125m now.

    Chelsea’s new Yokohama Tyres deal with add an extra £22m per season to their figures too, though at least from next season that will be more than offset by the loss of Champions League income.


    1. thespursreport Post author

      Thanks for that — really interesting information about value of Emirates and Puma deals. I was working off the 2013/14 figures for comparison purposes.

      Swiss Ramble (citing Deloitte) put Arsenal’s commercial revenue for 2014/15 at £103.3 million, so quite a big jump. I’ll be interested to see if Spurs have managed to increase much at all in the past year, but it seems unlikely. We’re tied in to the AIA deal for another 3.5 years, I believe.


      1. James

        Yes, 2019 I believe it ends.

        As you say, regular Champions League qualification is the crucial factor. With that, we become much more attractive for players, both in terms of signings and keeping hold of what we have, as well as being able to attract higher value commercial deals across the board.

        Without regular top 4 finishes, the stadium becomes more about building just to stay still, rather than moving forwards, so hopefully we can be the ones to take advantage of Chelsea’s decline.


  4. thespursreport Post author

    I tried to work a Chelsea relegation jibe into this piece, but couldn’t quite bring myself to tempt fate.

    From the financials, you see what a huge blow it was to Spurs when we were denied Champs League entry by Chelsea. That’s what I meant when I said we were unlucky — it really was brutal how it worked out


  5. Pingback: Tottenham Hotspur ‘Who are You?’: a Newcastle-friendly, SAFC-unfriendly affair | Salut! Sunderland

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