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.
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
@ztranche 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.