Monthly Archives: February 2016

Housekeeping Post: Recent links and upcoming blog-cation

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I’m off on holiday for a couple of weeks from tomorrow, so this blog will go quiet for a spell. I reserve the right to send bored tweets from various airports.

It turns out to be a perfectly timed break, with just a couple of tedious Europa League matches and a non-televised FA Cup tie while I’m away. I don’t feel I will be missing much.

Judging by the sounds my laptop is making, it too needs a bit of R&R, and possibly a massage (or a new hard-drive).

A few links from recent weeks to wrap up:

If financial minutiae is your thing, please do check out my deep dive on Premier League clubs and how they are run. Has been described as “esoteric but intriguing”.

For anyone interested in the rise of Chinese football, I did a feature over at The Set Pieces looking back at the state of the game when I used to live out there a decade ago. It’s very profane, but was great fun to write.

And for some stadium and NFL chat, I did a podcast over at Football and Football. It’s 45 minutes long, and we get into some good detail on the development, what it means for Spurs, and the NFL in London. Please do check it out, I think it’s an interesting listen and the host Ian Smith really knows his stuff (views on Shahid Khan aside).

Catch up in a couple of weeks.

Exhilarating, if excruciating, Etihad triumph takes Spurs into uncharted Premier League waters

mancityspurs2-1

If the rest of the season is going to be like those final few minutes against Manchester City, I’m not sure I’m going to cope.

I couldn’t watch as the match inched into injury time. I’m not kidding — I went and started peeling some potatoes, I was finding it that excruciating. I’m not good with tension.

It was probably just we well, given the need for Hugo Lloris to don his Superman cape once again and fly to the rescue, and how close David Silva came to turning home the rebound.

Spurs have stalked up the league, not unnoticed, but at least with Leicester City for cover. But going to the Etihad, looking a strong and motivated Manchester City team in the eye and not blinking, means any pretence that Spurs aren’t in with a serious shout of the winning the league is out of the window.

It can’t be stressed how unusual this is for Spurs fans.

As Martin Tyler said on commentary, Spurs have the led the league, in the Premier League era, for 33 days. In total. Manchester City have led for 100 days, this season alone.

My Spurs fandom began at around the same time as the Premier League kicked off in 1992/93. One of my earliest footballing memories as a little boy was reading the inaugural Sky Sports Premier League preview publication, which broke down each team’s chances and promoted Sky’s broadcasting revolution. I was young, but I remember the Spurs section mentioned how the fans would miss the “twinkling Geordie toes” of a certain Paul Gascoigne, but highlighted the signing of Darren Anderton as a reason for optimism in what could be a tricky season.

That was nearly a quarter of a century ago, and we’ve led the league for 33 days since. Yes, there have been moments when we have shone, and moments when we’ve been close, but I can’t recall ever feeling that it is “on” like it is now.

It has been 55 years since Spurs last won the league, so it isn’t just my generation and younger who may struggle to recall success. As Daniel Storey noted in an excellent piece last week, there is a long list of clubs that have won the league since Spurs:  Ipswich Town, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Leeds, Arsenal, Derby County, Nottingham Forest, Aston Villa, Blackburn Rovers and Chelsea.

We have a proud history, particularly as a Premier League ever-present, but this, right now, is on a different level.

It’s not technically in our hands, with Leicester two points clear. And how big is the North London derby going to be on March 5th? But we are way beyond the “daring to dream” stage, and we’re no longer looking down at 5th place. Spurs can win the league. Maybe we will, maybe we won’t. But it’s there for the taking.

We have had some impressive performances under Mauricio Pochettino, and to me this was right up there alongside the home wins against Arsenal and Chelsea. This wasn’t the Manchester City that failed to show up against Leicester. These guys wanted it.

Manuel Pellegrini changed his tactics to strengthen a porous midfield, Vincent Kompany returned to shore up the defence, and Sergio Aguero buzzed around like a wasp. Even Yaya Toure looked strong and imposing, not the shuffling old man he has been for stretches this campaign.

The teams went toe-to-toe, Manchester City playing with commitment and purpose. They looked like they believed they would win, like it was logical that, as the most star-studded team in England, if they played well no-one could stop them. But Spurs were obdurate and efficient, and City struggled to create.

There was luck — it wasn’t a penalty — but Man City hit back hard. It was our right flank that buckled — Walker was exposed, but more than any other player, the right-back’s passing, touch and composure deserted him as as City cranked up the pressure. With Walker you sense the huge mental effort being made to understand and execute his role in the system. Once Manchester City levelled, you thought there would only be one winner. What joy there is in being wrong.

The reactions at the end summed up where the two teams are. Spurs, once again, looked a picture of harmony in their celebrations. Man City looked stunned, as though they had no idea that they could play well and still lose. Dark thoughts must be swirling in some heads at the Etihad. Pellegrini looked and sounded furious — none of the famed “dignity” in his post-match comments.

After five wins in a row, it is frustrating that the Premier League must take a break, but so be it.

There will be calls for large-scale rotation in the Europa League, but we should know by now that this isn’t the Pochettino way. He believes in the recuperative powers of winning and training. He’ll do his full-back shuffle, and maybe switch an attacking midfielder. Same again in the FA Cup, where a replay is to be avoided.

If any player has proved the mastery that Pochettino has achieved in terms of creating a cohesive unit capable of fulfilling his tactical instructions, it is Kevin Wimmer. Wimmer barely had a kick in the first half of the season, but since Jan Vertonghen suffered a knee injury against Palace, Wimmer has slotted into the defence seamlessly.

Credit is of course due to Paul Mitchell and Rob MacKenzie for identifying the player, but it speaks to the tactical clarity of the Pochettino system that Wimmer can step in at such a crucial juncture.

On Sky, Jamie Carragher said that a Spurs title would be the biggest shock in Premier League history, and would go down as the greatest managerial achievement. It is hard to argue — Carragher doesn’t dish out praise to Spurs lightly.

After 24 years of failing to seriously challenge in the Premier League era, it’s understandable that we are all struggling to process what is happening at Spurs.

The first thing I need to do is figure out how to enjoy it, or at least endure it, because there are going to be a few more nail-biters to come this season.

Please follow me in Twitter for more articles and Spurs chat.

New stadium update: Mayoral approval, timeline, headcount and finance

Senior Spurs management, including Daniel Levy, met with the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust this week, and minutes published on Friday contained a number of interesting updates on the new stadium project.

TIMELINE

  • The major remaining bureaucratic hurdle is approval from the Mayor of London. This isn’t expected to be a problem, with Boris Johnson a supporter of the project. However, plans have not yet been submitted, with the club spending time “ensuring that every detail was correct”. Plans are expected to be with the mayor within a month.
  • Construction consultants Mace have been working on the project for six weeks, and were making detailed timetables. Completion is still aimed for August 2018.
  • The funding is not yet finalised as Mace is still conducting work in terms of costing the project. In the viability report, it was stated that the £200 million “bridge” portion of the finance may have been in place by the end of 2015, but it is not yet. I asked the club for more information on the finance, but it would not comment citing commercial sensitivity (which was fair enough).
  • The club is continuing to discuss a possible ground share at Wembley during the year the club will be away. The FA was “positively engaged” and any agreement will be communicated as soon as it is completed. There was no mention of Milton Keynes or other stadia, per the minutes.

 

STADIUM ORGANISATION

Levy made a couple of interesting comments in terms of how the club was approaching the stadium project.

Currently, there over 70 staff working on what is described as an  “extremely complex project with many variables.”

I recently wrote about headcount at Spurs and other Premier League clubs. It will be interesting to see if this increase is reflected in the next set of accounts, due to be published in March.

Levy also came out with a line that I expect we will hear a lot in the coming years whenever transfer spending is brought up

“DL reiterated that money remained available for transfers for the right players. THFC was effectively running two different businesses at present – the Football Club and the Stadium.”

I think this idea of two separate businesses, with the football side walled off with its own set budget, is helpful to visualise in the years, and debates, to come.

 

LONG-TERM SEATING “OPTIONS”

I recently did a US podcast on the stadium and was asked about the club selling “options” on long-term tickets, or debentures as they are known in the UK.

I wasn’t aware this was a serious possibility as a potential financing tool for the stadium, due to the challenges of ensuring existing season ticket holders get rewarded and that they are not required to fork out excessive sums. Cosmetically it seemed a stretch.

But a “Founder Member Scheme”, essentially debentures, has been previously been raised, and Spurs management said it had received some support in a recent fan survey. The club noted it was still at the “considering our options” stage.

This will be an interesting discussion point — one of several no doubt. Certainly, selling long-term options on seats is common practice in the US, and must appeal to the club as it seeks to complete the financing of the project. I think it is one of those things that is slightly alien to a British fan base, who are used to buying season tickets on an annual basis. It will be a good test of the club’s communication ability as, if priced correctly, this may actually be an appealing option for Spurs fans who have been attending for years and intend to do so long into the future.

 

AND FINALLY..

Minutes of meetings need not be boring, as the following exchange on ticket prices proved.

With some of the Trust leadership, from what I’ve picked up on my Twitter timeline at least, firmly of left-wing persuasion, and Daniel Levy a businessman who no doubt believes strongly in free market economics, I couldn’t help but laugh at this part:

DL said he questioned the principle of prices being set centrally, asking for an example of another industry where there was a central control over pricing. There was concern that once a precedent was set with away pricing, home pricing would be next and given THFC’s position with the stadium build, a ceiling on ticket revenue would be very harmful to financial modelling

DL also explained that he was concerned that away fans visiting WHL should pay less than home fans. There was a feeling home fans would be angered by away fans sitting across the divide from them having paid less money

KL pointed out that all away fans were home fans too and expressed her opinion that that argument had no proof or substance…

Zing!

 

PODCAST

For anyone interested in some hot stadium chat, I’ve done a podcast with the chaps from Football and Football.

You can listen to the show here (I start waffling 18 minutes in). And the full interview, in all its glory, is here.

Loads of interesting topics discussed, and also an incredible “it’s a small world” story. It turned out that the host, Ian Smith, and I knew each other — we used to watch NFL in the same crappy bar in Paris half a decade ago! To then stumble upon each other via my tiny little blog is bizarre in the extreme.

Thanks for reading — please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat. My previous piece on stadium finance is here.

The Winks Effect: Spurs appear to reduce number of youth loans

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The Sun via Google Images

Spurs midfield prospect Harry Winks recently turned 20, but in his career so far, he has played just 17 minutes of first-team action. Surely, you would think, the time has come for a loan?

During the January transfer window, Winks was linked with a temporary move, and a number of Championship clubs were reportedly interested.

But Mauricio Pochettino, per Sky Sports, was against letting squad players leave at a crucial part of the season, although Alex Pritchard was eventually allowed to join West Brom as he continues his recovery from ankle ligament surgery.

So Winks remains at Hotspur Way, a long way down the pecking order behind fellow academy graduates such as Tom Carroll and Nabil Bentaleb. He may see action in the Europa League if Pochettino shuffles his pack during a busy month, or if injuries strike, but more likely he will not. The emergency loan window, which allows for youth players to move to Football League clubs for periods of up to 93 days, remains open until March 24 and may yet allow him to get some first-team action elsewhere.

The Winks situation got me wondering whether the club has pulled back in terms of the numbers of young players being sent out on loan. I decided to take a look.

For the past eight seasons, I have gathered data for the total number of loans, those which are long-term in nature (spanning at least half a season, or two transfer windows), and those which are developmental in nature (so filtering out experienced players who for various reasons aren’t required but are not sold).*

loanlist

A few points

  • As you can see, the total number of loans so far this season is relatively low, and is highly unlikely to hit the levels of previous seasons even if several academy players do move on emergency loans in the next six weeks.
  • This season, only one of the loans in non-developmental — Federico Fazio. In previous seasons there have nearly always been three or four of these “unwanted” players. This is a good illustration of Pochettino having his squad just as he likes it, and also the club’s effectiveness in being able to move out unwanted players on permanent deals rather than having them hanging around.
  • The number of long-term loans is particularly low this season, even below the 2008/09 season. I wanted to look at this as, one imagines, an extended spell with a lower league team makes for a very different learning experience to just dipping in and out for the odd month.

The number of outgoing loans is certainly low this season. Is this a deliberate shift in how the club is seeking to develop young talent, or just a one-off situation? I will keep an eye on it, and I would welcome any comments or insight.

With social media, and the increasing number of youth games being streamed or broadcast, youth football is becoming a more prominent part of the daily Spurs discussion. Just in the past week, there were articles on both ESPN FC and Sky Sports analysing the talent coming through at Hotspur Way. Inevitably, this creates expectations, and causes frustrations if we don’t see these youngsters unleashed as soon as we would like. (I’m just as guilty as anyone, as this article I did early in the season on Josh Onomah proves…)

In Pochettino we have a head coach who is prepared to put faith in youngsters. This was evidenced in January when he opted against bringing in defensive cover in favour of promoting Cameron Carter-Vickers, or bidding for a defensive midfielder such as Victor Wanyama, and instead placing faith in Bentaleb despite his difficult season. From this perspective, you can understand that the number of youngsters out on loan may decline — they are required in the first-team squad.

Winks may well “need a loan”. Surely, there comes a point where you need to put what you learn in training into action, like a trainee pilot swapping the simulator for a real plane? Or, it may have been judged that he is better off developing at the club, for now. There could be reasons we don’t know about — a growth spurt, concerns over durability, a clear plan to phase in more minutes in the second half of the season.

Pochettino, and academy guru John McDermott, have earned patience and trust — even if these commodities are rare in the insta-everything world we inhabit. I look forward to seeing more of Winks in the future.

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

*This data comes from Wikipedia, for all bar the 15/16 and 11/12 seasons, when the entries are incomplete and I instead used Transfermarkt. I used Wikipedia because it makes further research such as loan length easier, rather than because it is necessarily the most authoritative source. Furthermore, classifying what is and isn’t developmental isn’t an exact science — at some point, Bongani Khumalo, say, went from being developmental to flotsam. You can insert your own Bongani jokes here. But certainly, these numbers offer useful guidance.

Deep Dive: An analysis of the size of Premier League clubs, and why Spurs and Aston Villa show bigger isn’t always better

Because I am a nerd, and because I am interested in the business of football, I recently found myself reading through Manchester United’s financial statements in search of information. I came across a startling statistic: The club employs 91 people in its media division alone.

While Manchester United have an in-house television station to run, that nevertheless struck me as a large number, particular given that in the previous year the figure was 69. United employ more media types than they do football players (79). In total, the club employs 869 people. This may be low for a global business with annual revenue of £395.2 million*, but it felt on the high side for a football club.

This set me off on a train of thought — how do Spurs, and indeed other Premier League clubs, stack up?

This research (I’m sure I’m not the first to look at this, and it was a deviation from what I had been originally looking for) threw up some interesting findings. The disparity in number of people on the payroll from club to club was high. Manchester United, the biggest employer, had more than six times as many as the smallest employer, Watford.

The “my club is bigger than yours” debate is deeply subjective, and normally becomes very silly, but at least here, in terms of pure headcount,  we can put a solid number on it, much like with revenue or stadium size.

Bigger doesn’t mean better — it just means bigger. But certainly, it felt that in certain instances these very basic numbers told a story.

I was expecting the headcount to closely mirror revenue — with Manchester United at the top, the traditional big five including Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool, Spurs in sixth as always, and the promoted clubs down the bottom.

But interestingly, there were a number of clear deviations from this. Sunderland, say, employ nearly 200 more people than Newcastle, while Aston Villa have 100 or so more people on the payroll than Spurs.

Just to warn you, if this sort of football minutiae doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, then stop reading right here. But it is interesting to me, and the research raised a number of questions I’d welcome further information on. The backdrop to this all is the TV money pouring in — one can only imagine how this will further transform the way Premier League clubs are structured and operate, for good and for bad.

I’ll go through the clubs in order of size of headcount, with the basic figures and some notes. All information (bar United, which is US-listed) is from the most recent club accounts posted on Companies House, and the standard method of calculation is the average number of people employed on a monthly basis (rather than, say, a headcount chosen on one random date during the accounting year). As you will see, every club breaks down the figures in a different way, with varying degrees of clarity. Revenue is via Swiss Ramble (it is the same as in the accounts, but I added this in late and didn’t want to go through every set again…).

 

1 Manchester United

Revenue £395.2 million

Capacity: 75.653

Football players — 79

Technical and Coaches — 92

Commercial — 138

Media — 91

Admin and other — 469

Total (or rather, as stated above, the average total) — 869

With its league-leading revenue and stadium, it is no surprise to see Man Utd with the highest headcount. But the margin it quite considerable — it has 188 more people than the closest challenger. MUTV has 100,000 subscribers in the UK, which seems quite impressive if true, and United bought out Sky’s stake in the venture in January 2013 — this may or may not have resulted in more people being added to the United payroll (the figure climbed from 69 in the previous year). But either way, 91 media types and 469 administrative staff: this feels a lot. It was reported recently, albeit in the Express, that the Glazers were seeking efficiencies that could result in as much as a 15 percent reduction in headcount in off-pitch departments. This will no doubt go down like a bucket of hot sick, especially while the absentee owners continue to shamelessly milk money from a club they never even put up the money to buy. But it would be hard to argue against the logic of reducing costs if United miss out on Champions League lucre for the second time in three seasons.

2 Chelsea

Revenue: £314.3 million

Capacity: 41,799

Playing staff, managers and coaches — 92

Admin and commercial — 589

Total — 681

Chelsea are second, and quite comfortably so. Chelsea’s commercial revenue soared the year before last, and is expected to climb again as the club has started to crank up its sponsorship effort. Also, you don’t typically associate efficiency with oligarch plaything, even if Chelsea have recently sought to be run profitably after the initial decade-long Roman Abramovich splurge.

But I found Chelsea’s numbers a head scratcher for a different reason: where is the army of loan players on its balance sheet?

The club lists just 92 playing staff, managers and coaches — far below Man Utd (171), Arsenal (147) and Liverpool (138). We know that Chelsea have more than 80 players registered, per the official Premier League list. Are there really just 12 coaches, at all levels and of all specialisms, at Chelsea? Currently, Chelsea have 34 players out on loan — and while it may be reasonable to expect the loan club to contribute to their wages, you’d surely expect them to remain on Chelsea’s books as Chelsea still hold their registrations. Furthermore, in many cases, Chelsea surely subsidize the arrangements in the name of development. I’m not suggesting anything fishy, I’m just genuinely curious about what has happened to them — are they shifted into the “admin and commercial” group if they go out on long-term loan? I’d welcome any thoughts.

3 Manchester City

Revenue: £351.8 million

Capacity: 55,097

Football staff — 249

Commercial/admin — 338

Total — 587

When looking at City, I first plugged “Manchester City” into Companies House beta search and “Manchester City Limited” came up. The numbers seemed rather modest — a total headcount of 314 (comprising 112 football staff, and 202 commercial and admin staff). I then checked “City Football Group”, and lo, a different set of numbers appeared. I’m guessing the higher number is a more accurate reflection of City’s transformation from popular if underachieving northwest football club to vacuous global sporting mega brand. Manchester City have built a vast new training complex, which must have increased headcount, but as they are technically tenants of the Etihad Stadium, they may not have quite as many ground staff on the books.

4 Liverpool

Revenue: £255.6 million

Capacity: 44,742

Players, managers and coaches — 138

Ground and maintenance staff — 51

Admin, commercial and other — 378

Total — 567

Sneaking into the top four are Liverpool. I found the name “Liverpool Football Club and Athletic Grounds Limited”, trading since 1892, rather endearing. But then I saw “UKSV Holdings Company”, which was much less endearing. Weirdly, these two sets of accounts are just a tiny bit different — there is a disparity of £156,000 in revenue (UKSV was higher), and the average total of employees was slightly different (UKSV had 570). I’d welcome an explanation for this — I’m sure it is straightforward. Probably not the biggest issue for Liverpool fans at the moment, I’ll admit.

5 Arsenal

Revenue: £329.3 million

Capacity: 60,260

Playing staff — 67

Training staff — 80

Admin — 304

Ground staff — 97

Total — 548

Arsenal have a very clear breakdown of their staff. Interesting is the number of ground staff — I imagine this is something that will increase at Spurs once the new stadium is up. Arsenal have traditionally lagged a little in commercial revenue compared to clubs higher on this list — their admin and commercial team is slightly smaller than Manchester City (who don’t have all that much work to do given where their so-called sponsorship money is coming from), and way smaller than Chelsea. There is probably a calculation that could be done, using revenue, stadium capacity and headcount, that would give a sensible number for “efficiency”. I’d imagine Arsenal, and Spurs, would score highly on this. As for Stan Kroenke, I’m just going to leave this here.

6 Aston Villa

Revenue: £116.9 million

Capacity: 42,660

Directors, players, football management and coaches — 173

Commercial, merchandising and operational — 232

Maintenance and admin — 91

Total — 496

When all those new managers say “Aston Villa is a big club” — presumably it is because they have just walked through the club offices and seen the army of personnel at their disposal. What on earth do these 496 people all do? Villa has a weird structure — it is essentially split in three. Showcasing all the imagination that has gotten the club into the position it is, these parts are called “Aston Villa Limited”, “Aston Villa FC Limited” and “Aston Villa Football Club Limited”. It gets a bit confusing, especially trying to account for the directors. With relegation looking a racing certainty, things will surely change at Villa in the near future. There’s no pleasure in this — I’ve been laid off before and it sucks beyond belief — but the revenue drop-off after relegation is brutal and ultimately a business, no matter how deeply tied to the community, has to live within its means.

7 Sunderland

Revenue: £104.4 million

Capacity: 48,707

Admin/Operation — 391

Football — 89

Total — 480

Another club that would appear “bloated”. Is it just a coincidence that two of the most underachieving clubs are so high on this list? Sunderland and Villa have been so similar in how they have flirted with the abyss for several years, that sense of institutional drift afflicting both performances on the pitch, and the feelings of the fans looking on. There is not much that is good about being relegated, as you can be stuck down there an awfully long time. But if Sunderland and Villa are able to regain upward momentum, and bounce back quickly, they could at least emerge from the experience leaner and more efficient clubs.

8 Bournemouth

Revenue (figures before promotion): £10.1 million

Capacity: 11,464

Playing staff and admin — 96

School of excellence — 53

Match day and hospitality — 240*

Total — 389

Bournemouth are way out of position here, as they alone include what predominantly will be part-time match day staff among their total headcount. Excluding these and Bournemouth are near the bottom as you’d expect of a club with the smallest ground in the league, playing in the top flight for the first time. There are 96 playing and admin staff, with a further 53 players and staff in the academy. I’ll keep Bournemouth here as rules are rules, but they should really be lower. While I’m on the subject, there’s no better time to say this: I love what Eddie Howe is doing there, and desperately hope they stay up.

9 Spurs

Revenue: £180.5 million

Capacity: 36,284

Players and football admin — 188

Admin — 125

Retail and distribution – 67

Total — 380

Much like in terms of revenues, and awesomeness, Spurs are in a league of their own when it comes to headcount. Spurs have 100 fewer staff than the club above (excluding Bournemouth), and 70 more than the club below. Daniel Levy runs a tight ship: this is known. But, I would note, this feels a good illustration of this relatively tight management, even if it is less clickbaity than stories of low-ball transfer offers and never-ending contract talks.

While the club has been in a holding pattern from a matchday and commercial revenue standpoint in recent years, awaiting the stadium project to progress, the number of people on the payroll doesn’t appear to have crept up off the pitch to quite such an extent as it may have done elsewhere. In 2006, the club had revenues of  £74.1 million and 222 staff. In 2011, revenues were £163.5 million and there were 315 staff. Where have those 65 extra come from in the past four years? There are 16 more in retail, 20 more in administrative roles, but 29 more on the football side — subjective, but that feels like a decent balance in terms of allocating resources with on-field performance the priority.

I’d add though, Spurs are one of the more complicated clubs in terms of structure. It’s sort of a Russian, or rather Bahamian, Doll, where one thing contains another. So I may have missed a few people.

10 Swansea

Revenue: £103.9 million

Capacity: 20,909

Football — 222

Admin — 17

Commercial — 59

Media — 9

Total — 307

I was surprised to see Swansea so high — I thought they would be lower down as a club that, until five years ago, wasn’t a top-flight operator and has a very small stadium. But they have clearly fattened out — not that they appear to be benefitting this season with relegation a real risk. You just sense a loss of momentum at Swansea in the last 18 months. Once they were whiter-than-white with their attractive footballing philosophy, their climb up from League Two and their fan-ownership model. But now it is like they have been corrupted by the excesses of the Premier League: losing identity through the acquisition of “mercenary” players with little connection to the club, curious decisions over managers, and failure to build on success such as through expanding the stadium or improving the production line of young players. Meanwhile, the “bright young thing” mantle has been taken by Bournemouth. I hope Swansea find a way to turn it around as it is still a great story, even if it has faltered.

11 Newcastle

Revenue: £129.7 million

Capacity: 52,338

Playing squad, Academy, team management and support — 133

Commercial — 54

Administration — 42

Ground, facility and maintenance — 59

Total — 288

12 Norwich City

Revenue (before promotion): £52.2 million

Capacity: 27,010

Directors — 7

Football — 119

Other — 149

Total — 275

13 Everton

Revenue: £125.6 million

Capacity: 39,571

Playing, trading and management — 98

Youth Academy — 38

Marketing and media — 32

Management and admin — 71

Maintenance, Security, Pitch and Ground Safety — 35

Total — 274

14 Stoke City

Revenue: £99.6 million

Capacity: 27,740

Players (incl scholars) — 69

Other — 203

Total — 272

15 Southampton

Revenue: £113.7 million

Capacity: 32,505

Admin — 79

Football — 191

Total — 270

16 West Ham

Revenue: £120.7 million

Capacity: 33,345

Players, team management and training — 93

Commercial and admin — 164

Total — 258

For the positions 11 to 16, there is a very tight spread of just 30 employees, so the order is quite unimportant. A few points:

  • Newcastle’s headcount is low given size of stadium, in particular. This may in large part be a legacy of the club’s previous relegation in 2009, when 150 staff, or a third of the “off-pitch” workforce, were laid off. Newcastle haven’t increased headcount considerably since returning to the top flight. Should it really require 192 more people to run Sunderland than Newcastle? 
  • Everton are also quite lean, with a nice specific breakdown that helps fans see where the money goes. Everton are about to get stripped for parts in the transfer market, and you sense some tough years are ahead unless they can pull some rabbits out of the hat in terms of academy products, transfer bargains or new investment. It sounds like new money may well be coming in, with reports (I may actually have heard it on commentary the other day) that surveyors have been busy around Goodison Park seeing if they can somehow add capacity or more revenue-tastic facilities. I’ve always considered Everton a fellow Premier League “traveller” along with Spurs, and I’ll be sad if they start looking downwards, like Newcastle and Villa have been doing, rather than up.
  • Stoke and Southampton “seem” very similar size clubs, although you can see Southampton outstrip Stoke in revenue and stadium size. Not much else to say — this is the middle of the Premier League mid-table.
  • Presumably West Ham are due for an expansion in headcount with all the Olympic Stadium money rolling in, particularly in commercial departments. As they are just tenants, they won’t have have to worry about ground staff and such like (Manchester City are also tenants at the Etihad). As an occasional UK taxpayer, I think the arrangement stinks — but you can’t deny that West Ham have struck an incredible deal for themselves and are upwardly mobile.
  • Norwich seem a bit flabby here in comparison to the others, given their status as a “yo-yo” club. Presumably new chairman Ed Balls will apply his economic nouss to streamline things — though his record in his political career doesn’t necessarily bode well, depending on your view of things.

17 Leicester City

Revenue (last accounts were before promotion): £31.2 million

Capacity: 32,312

Players — 42

Administration — 146

Total — 188

18 WBA

Revenue: £86.8 million

Capacity: 26,856

First team players and coaching — 40

Scholars — 22

Youth coaching — 21

Admin and Commercial — 49

Ground Staff 17

Total — 159

19 Crystal Palace

Revenue: £102.5 million

Capacity: 25,073

Players, managers and coaches — 88

Admin and commercial — 54

Total — 142

20 Watford

Revenue (before promotion): £18.39 million

Capacity: 21,909

Players — 52

Coaching — 46

Commercial — 24

Admin — 9

Ground staff — 7

Total — 138

A few notes on these bottom four

  • Leicester’s last published accounts are for the season ending in their promotion, so things are going to be very different in the upcoming set, and next year’s. Boy oh boy. They had just 42 players on professional contracts, including professional youth teamers — one imagines this figure will increase greatly. Leicester have hit the jackpot, so it will be fascinating to see how they go about spending it in the coming years. “We spent a lot of money on Brazilian strikers, massive bonuses and agents. We wasted the rest.”  
  • West Brom and Crystal Palace both appear to be quite tightly run. In part, West Brom’s books will be looking shiny as Jeremy Peace tries to sell the club — it’ll be interesting to see who escapes The Hawthorns first, him or Saido Berahino. Meanwhile, Palace are just five years out of administration. Some US money is being pumped into the club, so things may be changing there. I don’t know if Emmanuel Adebayor will count as one person, or if his entourage will be included on the payroll too.
  • Watford….meh.

 

In conclusion

So, that’s the list. Certainly, from a Spurs perspective, it will be interesting to see how the headcount creeps up as the stadium project proceeds. And it really will — there will be full time staff required with the stadium being a 365 day per year venue for things like conferences and events, let alone NFL matches. Likewise, the club will need to keep expanding its commercial team to try to bring in the deals to help it compete.

But size isn’t everything — I’d hate Spurs to become a flabby, inefficient organisation. As the old saying goes, when you need something done, ask a busy person. Certainly, it will be all hands to the pump through a critical phase of stadium construction and some financial constraints on the playing side. These are incredibly exciting times to be a Spurs fan.

I found this research interesting, and instructive, but I’m cautious not to draw too many conclusions. You just have to look at the Premier League table right now to see that, in terms of the most important performance indicator of them all — the league table — there are many different ways to build a successful club.

Thanks for reading. I welcome any comments or suggestions, particular on the areas outlined above where I would like more information. Please don’t hesitate to comment, send me an email or hit me up on Twitter.

 

* United earn about £455,000 per employee. Three randomly chosen comparisons: shirt sponsor GM (Chevrolet) earns about £496,000, kit supplier Adidas £187,000, training gear sponsor Deutsche Post (DHL) is £80,000

Man Utd may want Pochettino, but he wouldn’t want them

Earlier this week, BBC sports presenter Dan Walker stirred the pot with a claim that Manchester United were eyeing up Mauricio Pochettino for the Old Trafford manager’s job.

It was vague phrasing — “three knowledgeable people have suggested” — but nonetheless plenty of people in the Spurs Twittersphere took the bait.

Personally, I don’t think Spurs fans should be at all perturbed. Even if United offered Pochettino the job, I’m pretty certain he would turn it down.

Manchester United fans may argue, “money always talks” and “you can’t turn down United because they are the biggest club in England”, but I don’t think that will be enough. Not this time.

Here’s why:

If Pochettino is seeking a pay increase, Spurs are still a wealthy club and can pay Pochettino what he wants. At this point, he has the whip hand in any financial negotiations. Yes, money matters to everyone, but it matters to varying degrees to different individuals — Pochettino, for example, doesn’t even have an agent.

United are a bigger club in terms of revenues, brand and stadium size. But Spurs are building what will be the most spectacular and revenue-tastic stadium in the league. A top four finish, if we stay the course, should give the commercial revenue and global fan base a healthy boost. As it stands, United will not qualify for next season’s Champions League.

Pochettino had to spend an extremely difficult and risky 12 months “flushing the toilet”, in Gary Neville’s phrase, at Spurs. But now, he has the team just as he wants it — young, hungry, together. This Spurs team has just as good a chance of winning titles in the next five years as United.

Meanwhile, Pochettino is involved at all levels — watching the youth teams (his son is in one of them), and working closely with academy guru John McDermott (who has just rejected United). The likes of Harry Kane, Dele Alli and Eric Dier are seeing their careers taking off at Spurs — they don’t need to move to United to become stars, they already are. Same with Pochettino.

Meanwhile, United have carpetbagging owners, a decaying youth structure, a CEO with no football background, and a global fan base with no patience for the poor results and performances that a thorough rebuilding job would entail.

Pochettino isn’t stupid. He won’t stay out of loyalty, he’ll stay out of ambition.

The argument gets made that Pochettino walked out on Southampton for Spurs, and will do the same again. But that ignores key differences: the man who appointed him at Southampton, Nicola Cortese, had already left the club, while the team was about to be stripped of its best talent. Because he was ambitious, staying at Southampton in all probability meant, at best, staying the same. That’s not the situation at Spurs.

Spurs will only shake the impression of being a selling club when we stop selling our best players. There is no shortcut to this, just years and years of saying “no” to the likes of United until we are in a position to turn the tables and make bids for their stars.

We are going to get offers for the likes of Kane and Alli — big offers — but right now, Spurs have never had less incentive to sell. We don’t need income from player sales to make the stadium project work. What we need is a good team that is going to mean sold-out crowds and packed corporate boxes once it is complete.

If I was a United fan, I’d be thanking my lucky stars that Jose Mourinho is available. He will, through fair means or foul, ensure the United team is motivated and competitive for the next 2.5 seasons, buying time for the behind the scenes rebuilding that is so evidently needed at Old Trafford in the wake of the Fergie era.

Man Utd would be crazy not to appoint Mourinho, but one can only wonder at the thought process going on at senior levels of that club. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they tried to hire Pochettino, but right now, I’d be shocked if he said “yes”.

Thanks for reading, please give me a follow on Twitter for more articles and Spurs chat.

Are Spurs fans starting to hate Arsenal less?

arsenalfans

In Tuesday afternoon’s Football 365 mailbox, an anonymous Arsenal fan made an unusual confession:

“I’m one of at least twenty or so Arsenal fans I know personally who are genuinely happy for Spurs – a really good club, properly run/managed, good young players, great football and with a silent majority of good fans and some fantastic players.”

The letter continued in this vain, and as I read it, it struck a chord.

I wrote about the shifting North London rivalry before the derby in November, and it seemed this fan was expressing something I’ve been feeling for a while now. Simply put: I think I’m starting to hate Arsenal less.

I know this isn’t something we are supposed to ever admit to, but I’m genuinely curious to know if any other Spurs fans think the same way.

Of course, the reflex reaction to such a suggestion will be along the lines of “fuck no, you closet Gooner” — but read what I have to say. You don’t have to acknowledge it if you don’t want to, but be honest now, deep down, are you feeling something similar too?

Now, this sentiment is suspended around North London derbies. In the words of Namond from The Wire, all Spurs fans are ready to saddle up come with it.  But I’m talking about all those other weeks, all that time spent thinking way too much about football, all those hours spent on Twitter or Reddit or actually, what’s the expression, talking to people.

We still take joy in Arsenal losing. But there is less need for this schadenfreude with our results and performances so good. It hurts when we see Arsenal above us (OK, so they aren’t at this very moment) in the table or winning things, but just a little less now it finally appears we are going places. It should be depressing seeing Arsenal landing global megastars like Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez, but it isn’t really as we know Arsenal fans would far rather have a Harry Kane of their own.

Part of this changing sentiment is due to our changing fortunes. But there is more to it than that. For starters, there is plenty of dislike to spread around in the Premier League as it stands today,

Take Manchester City, once a fellow traveller with an even stronger nihilistic streak than we ever had, now transformed into a vacuous global mega brand toadying to the whims of an Abu Dhabi sheikh with nothing better to occupy his money or time. Then there is Manchester United, flinging money about in grotesque fashion without an original thought in whoever is supposed to be running the club’s head.

Worse, though, are Chelsea and West Ham. Chelsea have long been odious — that dirty Russian money, Jose Mourinho setting the tone of the club either in body or in spirit, everything about John Terry. But West Ham, whose Olympic Stadium deal with the British taxpayer is the type of hardcore shafting normally reserved for Sullivan and Gold’s publishing days, are coming up hard on the rails.

The rivalries with Chelsea and West Ham have always been asymmetric — they’ve hated us more than we hate them, if only because we need to save something special for Arsenal. But now, I wonder if this is starting to change just a little.

At this point you may try to argue that part of the dynamic is that Arsenal fans lack passion — this is certainly a charge that gets leveled at them. I disagree with this assessment of Goonerism: they may lack songs, but there is still plenty of passion.

It is just that the passion is expressed in often hilarious ways. Arsenal Fan TV is unparalleled, despite the efforts of others to piggyback off it. Things like this happen when Arsenal fans appear on radio phone-in shows, repeatedly. This guy exists. Even Arsene Wenger has taken to mocking the fans over their obsession with online polls.

Can you imagine what it must be like supporting Arsenal with Piers Moron’s attention-seeking tweets reverberating around your timeline every match? You can mock Goonerism, but it is hard to hate it because it is just too funny. And it is far less offensive than what passes for banter elsewhere.

Much of the Arsenal outpourings are centered on Wenger, and as Spurs fans we can at least understand where these feelings are coming from. Where Arsenal have Wenger, we have Daniel Levy. There is something similar about these two men — such obsessives, and so blinkered, dominating their respective clubs for so long. We understand that internal conflict that Wenger creates — the frustration that he may be holding the club back, the fear of what may have happened without him. It’s a sort of footballing Stockholm Syndrome we know all too well as Spurs fans.

There are similarities between how the clubs are going about their business beyond these two individuals. Like Arsenal, Spurs are having to self-fund a vast stadium project — no taxpayer freebies for us, or vanity investment from our resident oligarch. We are both doing things the hard way off the pitch, and the right way on it with two of the most prolific academies (even if Arsenal have struggled to generate first-team calibre talent in recent years) and a commitment to attacking football. Compared to what is happening elsewhere, again it is hard to hate.

We need to start finishing above Arsenal, mind. On Tuesday night, while I understand the reflexive sentiment, there was something a little embarrassing about all those league tables being tweeted about showing Spurs ahead on goal difference. Like the Gooners can’t respond with any final table from the past 20 years and win that argument.

I’m not counting any chickens this season, especially with Santi Cazorla and Francis Coquelin returning soon. St Totteringham’s Day may well come again, but it won’t grate as much as it used to.

For me, the nadir will always be that moment Arsenal’s soon-to-be “Invincibles” celebrated winning the title at White Hart Lane in 2004. There will be never be a more sickening moment than that, and Arsenal fans will always have it over us. The only thing that will change it is Harry Kane and Co doing the same at The Emirates.

But memories fade. Thierry Henry is now an embarrassingly bad pundit on Sky Sports, Patrick Viera has taken Abu Dhabi City’s oil money, Sol Campbell is still Sol Campbell and Ashley Cole is still Ashley Cole. Twelve years on and Arsenal haven’t won a title since.

Arsenal and Spurs — we’re cats and dogs. We’ll always be mortal enemies, but that doesn’t mean we are constantly at each other’s throats, or that our interests don’t occasionally overlap.

The way things stand, I’m hating Arsenal less at the moment. Just a little, but nonetheless it is noticeable. There’s nothing to say it won’t come roaring back.

I know this is dangerous territory, even giving voice to it, but it’s something I’ve been feeling lately and this is my blog. Be honest now, isn’t there a little part of you that feels the same way?

Thanks for reading, I welcome any thoughts either below the comment line or through Twitter.