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The Spurs Report: Final Call

I’m calling time on The Spurs Report, and moving my writing to Medium.

It’s been a good run — with 117 posts over two and a half years, ranging from in-depth stadium reporting and financial analysis to rants about Jamie Redknapp. In total, there have been more than 332,000 views from 260,000 visitors — a drop in the ocean compared to bigger websites, but not bad for a tiny little blog way out on its own on the fringes of the Spurs internet community.

However, I’m now keen to focus on other things. I’ll still be writing about Spurs — with a focus on the business side of the club — but by moving my writing to my personal page on Medium, it will enable me to push out into other topics as well.

I will remain busy on Twitter, and look forward to keeping in touch with many of my regular readers on there. For those wanting to get in touch, my email is

I’ll keep this blog up — it’s a useful reference tool, and costs nothing. There’s loads in the archives — categories include the new stadium and the club’s finances.

If I’m proud of one piece above all, it’s the long read on Mauricio Pochettino from July 2016. We’re in great hands.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this blog — it’s been a blast.


Analysis: Is the stadium stopping Spurs from spending?

nasdaq730aAfter ringing the opening bell at the Nasdaq Stock Exchange in New York, Daniel Levy was in a punchy mood during a Q&A with investors as part of Tottenham’s pre-season tour to the USA.

In a near hour-long session, the Spurs chairman lashed out at overspending by rival Premier League clubs, and defiantly backed his prudent approach to managing the club’s finances. However, for fans still awaiting the first new signing of the summer, his comments on the club’s transfer policy caused eyebrows to be raised.

Denying that the new £800m stadium was stopping Spurs from bringing in fresh blood, Levy stated: “It’s not impacting us on transfers at the moment as we’re not yet in a place where we’ve found the player we definitely want but can’t afford.”

For a club that finished seven points behind Premier League winners Chelsea, crashed out in the Champions League group stage and failed for a ninth season in a row to win any silverware, it seemed dreadfully complacent.

There was a huge amount to admire in what Levy said about his vision for the club: backing local talent, earning success and not buying it, investing in infrastructure with the long-term future of the club in mind. However, the comment on transfers seemed an odd one as soon as it was uttered, and certainly makes the chairman a hostage to fortune.

Mauricio Pochettino’s subsequent Baldrick-esque reassurance to fans — “We have a plan!” — did little to ease the concern that Spurs are missing an opportunity to strengthen. A brutal dismantling by Manchester City in Nashville only heightened fears.

I wanted to look in a little more depth at Tottenham’s approach to transfers, and in particular try to gauge what impact the stadium is having on the club’s transfer spending.

For those interested in learning more about the club’s finances, I have written in detail about stadium funding through the construction phase, naming rights, rising construction costs and club accounts. Dig in, and do join me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.

The three-phase transfer approach

If you look at the past two summers, Spurs have followed a similar three-phase strategy in their approach to transfers.

In phase one, “essential business” is done. In 2015, Kevin Wimmer, Kieran Trippier and Toby Alderweireld came in early. In 2016, it was Victor Wanyama and Vincent Janssen.

In phase two, there is a long selling period, as Spurs try to maximise returns on those leaving the club (for example Ryan Mason, Nacer Chadli and Kyle Walker).

In phase three, there is a final purchasing period as the club goes bargain hunting and filling squad holes in the final weeks of the window (Son Heung-min, Georges-Kevin Nkoudou, Moussa Sissoko and so on).

This summer, Spurs have skipped straight to phase two. This early spending wasn’t just about filling glaring needs — but also spoke to the club’s approach to the market. Tottenham’s strength has never been in outspending rivals, out-scouting or out-analysing — it has been about having quality market intelligence. Knowing, say, that Trippier had a £3.5m release clause, or that Wanyama wasn’t re-signing his contract and wanted to reunite with Poch. This year, for whatever reason, that sort of bargain was never available. You suspect Spurs hoped Everton would opt to dump Ross Barkley quickly rather than see his situation fester with his contract winding down, but Everton have chosen for various reasons to cling on. There are also no immediate positional needs — a right back will be needed, but Trippier is first-choice for the time being so Spurs can afford to shop around.

Is this an ideal strategy? Of course not, given the number of potentially useful players who get snapped up before Spurs come into the second purchasing phase, and the poor returns on those bought late in the window.

Is this a logical strategy for a club that is also trying to finance a stadium? It would seem so.

Ring-fenced vs sell-to-buy

Levy has previously spoken about the transfer budget being “ring-fenced” — essentially, a portion of club funds are set aside for transfer activity with the aim of ensuring Spurs have a competitive team when the new stadium opens. However, how much exactly is ring-fenced is another question entirely.

Trying to think on a practical level, Spurs must be facing huge cash management challenges at the moment, ensuring the stadium continues to advance at the required rate. Even with the £25m credit facility agreed as part of the stadium funding package, Spurs can’t afford to take any chances: there’s virtually no room for manoeuvre on the timeframe. Think back to the story where Spurs purchased cranes for the site as they weren’t able to wait for rental cranes to become available.

There’s a lot of talk about net spend over the course of the season, as the numbers are remarkable. Since the Abu Dhabi takeover in August 2008, Manchester City have a net spend of £970m, while in the same period, Spurs have made a net transfer profit of £60m.

But I want to drill down a bit further to see to see the cash management in action: is there a “ring-fenced” amount Spurs can spend, or actually are Spurs in a situation where we must sell to buy, in order to avoid going into the red and ensure maximum available funds for stadium construction.

The chart below shows all transfers since the start of the 2014/15 season, in chronological order. For deadline day, I’ve gone by time the deal was announced on the club website — deadline day in September 2014 was a busy one. The line shows the cumulative balance — so exactly how much is in the transfer kitty, using June 2014 as the starting point. The values are what’s on Wikipedia — it’s not perfect, but it’s just what was closest to hand.

Spurs transfers June 14 to August 17

A few things to point out:

1. Spurs have only dipped into the red three times, and barely. The first was on deadline day in Sept 2014, so this was for a matter of hours and it is a technicality. The second was after signing Vincent Janssen last summer. Can you recall the haggling over that deal, dragging on for weeks? Spurs simply didn’t want to spend the extra four or five million AZ were demanding — this deal pushed Spurs £4.4m into the red, until Alex Pritchard was sold to Norwich. The final dip was for Moussa Sissoko — however, this was widely reported to be an installment-based deal, so you can see why this so appealed to Levy. A £30m player, available for £6m initially — perfect for a club managing cash flow, just a shame he is crap.

2. Think back to Georges-Kevin Nkoudou and last summer’s barbershop ITK. It was rumoured he was on his way to London in mid-July, but his transfer wasn’t announced until the end of August. All sorts of reasons were floated — Marseille were being taken over, Clinton N’Jie may have been stalling on a return to France — but was Tottenham’s cash flow also an issue? Having dipped into the red to complete the Janssen deal, it took Spurs until late August to offload Pritchard, Yedlin, Chadli and Mason, while Nkoudou languished in a hotel.

3. You can see the bursts of activity — a few players are sold, a couple come in, a few more leave, and it continues. Up until Man City took a liking to Kyle Walker, the amount in the kitty never got about £36.4m. Now, Spurs have, by this very rough measure, £74.4m.

So, there’s plenty in the kitty if Pochettino wants to spend. You hope, “ringfenced” means this accumulated transfer wealth is separate from the stadium funding and is entirely for squad strengthening (on transfer fees or wages), rather than getting rolled into construction.

Ongoing risk factors

image (12)

Spurs have now secured the main bank finance for the stadium — a £350m loan package, with £25m credit facility and a £50m contingency fund provided by Tavistock Group, the ultimate owners of the club. Coupled with the £240m already poured into the project and funds from advanced hospitality sales, Spurs are in a good place.

However, there are two main risk factors remaining with the stadium. First, a naming rights partner has not yet been found. This leaves a hole — perhaps as high as £300m, although that amount always seemed optimistic — in the project finances. Second, while construction is ongoing, there is the risk of cost overruns. It was reported that during the demolition of the South Stand, an issue with gas pipes delayed work briefly — these little things can add up. It certainly looks like Spurs are going full bore at the moment, judging by the webcams, but if the timetable starts slipping, more money may have to be put in than was originally planned.

In this context, it is understandable that Spurs remain cautious on transfer activity for the foreseeable future. The hope is that, once naming rights are secured and the stadium is completed, Spurs can start to move more aggressively. That may not be January, but perhaps by next summer, the constraints will ease and Spurs can focus more on securing targets they want, when they want them.

Wages to turnover

Of course, transfer fees are just one part of the picture — another issue is wages. There is concern among some Spurs fans about the club being uncompetitive in wages, risking the departures of key players and limiting arrivals. Personally, I’m not quite as concerned. Of course, Manchester City will be able to offer more than Spurs can offer — but Spurs could double the wages of everyone at the club, and that would still be the case.

Here is a look at how wage growth has moved versus revenue from financial year 2005 to 2016, the last published. As you can see, wage growth has stalled, while revenue has continued to slowly climb.

Revenue vs Wages 05 to 16

Next season, revenue is going to go through the roof — simply adding in known amounts for Premier League and Champions League revenue distribution, Spurs revenue should jump to nearly £280m. And it will climb again in the next year with both new Nike and AIA deals kicking in.

In short, Spurs have plenty of money to increase the wage bill — if the club wants to. The wage bill is artificially low at the moment — in FY 2016, a lot of high earners came off the books, such as Paulinho, Soldado and so on. In the past year, there have been more than a dozen contract renewals, so the wage bill should jump somewhat. It currently stands at £100m — if Spurs were to maintain the same 47.4% wage to turnover ratio, that would mean a wage bill of £133m or thereabouts. What isn’t known is the amount of bonuses that are paid out — there may be Champions League kickers and the like. The next accounts may give us more insight.

Spurs being strict on wages isn’t just about Daniel Levy and the stadium — it’s also about Pochettino maintaining the harmonious environment in the squad. It’s frustrating during the transfer window, but so long as Spurs continue to move firmly on offering key players new deals to ensure the core of the team is in place once the new stadium opens, then most fans will be happy enough.

There are lots of other factors that have an impact on how Spurs act in the transfer market — relationships with certain agents, a weak scouting department and failure to embrace analytics, the broader context of the Premier League’s financial situation, the focus on youth, a starting XI that is hard to improve, the personalities of Pochettino and Levy, and so on.

The stadium is undoubtedly a huge constraint, but it’s not an excuse. The key to the success of the stadium will be ensuring it is full — and the best way to ensure that is by having a successful, appealing team. I’m pretty sure Levy and Co know this. There is money in the kitty, and room on the wage bill — now it’s just a case of finding those players who will realistically join and will be able to push us over the line.

Thanks for reading. 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


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


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

Waiting for the revolution to happen: Analysis of THFC’s financial results for the 2014/15 season

ACF Fiorentina v Tottenham Hotspur FC - UEFA Europa League Round of 32

Where are they now? Spurs 2014/15 vintage. Via Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur on Thursday published its accounts covering the 2014/15 campaign, and there are a number of points of interest for fans.

In the previous set of accounts, the club recorded a stonking £80 million pre-tax profit, in large part due to the sale of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid. This year’s financial statement marks a return to normalcy — Spurs is a fundamentally profitable football club, as the pre-tax profit of £12 million shows.

While healthy, the accounts reflect the transitional season the club had on the pitch in the 2014/15 campaign. It was yet another new dawn for Spurs, with Mauricio Pochettino taking charge after the debacle of the Tim Sherwood appointment.

For the first half of the season, it appeared like it could be another false dawn — once again, the big names in the squad, including some of those purchased with the Bale money, failed to contribute as much as they should. But then, things started to change — Pochettino turned to youth, Harry Kane emerged, we beat Chelsea 5-3, and the future of the club fundamentally changed.

With the accounts ending in June 2015, the good times are yet to show on the bottom line. Future statements will be boosted by our strong league campaign in 2015/16, Champions League football and whatever else is in store for this Tottenham 2.0 that has emerged.

This accounts speak to how far the club has come since last summer. It seems such a long time ago, doesn’t it? All that angst over the lack of a defensive midfielder, players like Erik Lamela and Mousa Dembele seemingly on the way out, a shortage of striking options (OK, so not everything has changed).

Meanwhile, flat match-day revenues and commercial income far behind the likes of Liverpool and Arsenal are a reminder of how far we still have to go. A season-ticket waiting list of 50,000 illustrates just how desperate the club is to get the new stadium built.

Below are a few notes from the accounts. I welcome feedback and any insight you can give me on some of the more technical aspects.


Revenue — AIA deal kicks in

Spurs revenue

The club has changed the way it accounts for revenues, making UEFA prize money a separate category and altering what is allocated as commercial income and match-day income. I’m sure there were good reasons for doing this, but it makes comparisons — both with previous years and to other clubs — harder.

Commercial revenue grew from £43.3 million to £59.9 million, in large part due to the start of the shirt sponsorship deal with AIA. This deal is reportedly worth £16 million per year, and runs for five seasons. Merchandising revenue grew from £11 million to £12.3 million.

Match-day revenues were £41.2 million, down slightly from £42.4 million in 2014. Premier League match-day revenues were £22.3 million — in 2014 they were £22.4 million. With season ticket prices frozen and White Hart Lane almost always sold out in the Premier League, this segment will remain flat until Spurs complete the new stadium.

Champions League qualification may allow the club to take in a little more on the gate — but that won’t show up until the accounts after next (so in two years).

The share of the Premier League TV pot was up by £1 million as we finished fifth, as opposed to sixth. Next season, that share should be considerably higher — we will be shown more on UK TV due to our involvement in the title race, which means more in “facility fees”, and our performance-related payment will be higher as we should finish at least third. The new Premier League TV deal kicks in next season, so again this won’t show up until the accounts published in two years time.

In both commercial terms, and match-day terms, Spurs remain an absolute mile behind some competitors. Liverpool, for example, reported commercial income of £116.4 million in their last accounts — approaching double what Spurs achieved. Liverpool’s matchday revenue was also considerably higher, at £59 million, compared to our £41.9 million.

We are punching above our weight, massively.


Player trading — a return to pragmatism

There was an “after the Lord Mayor’s Show” feel to the club’s transfer activity after the Gareth Bale sale and Franco Baldini’s trolley dash the previous year.

It many ways, it was a return to the “pragmatic player trading” that Daniel Levy has adopted throughout his tenure in charge of the club. Spurs hunted for value in the market, and sought to extract top rates when selling players.

The hunt for value is hard, and there will be hits and misses: it turned out Federico Fazio was cheaper than Mateo Musacchio for a reason, likewise Benji Stambouli vis-a-vis Morgan Schneiderlin. But there were also huge successes: Dele Alli and Eric Dier cost around £9 million combined, value for the bromance alone.

Outgoing, Spurs managed to bring in good fees for the likes of Jake Livermore, Michael Dawson, Kyle Naughton, Sandro and Zeki Fryers (Palace no doubt regret that one).

There is no detail on the deal that saw Michel Vorm and Ben Davies move to Spurs from Swansea, with Gylfi Sigurdsson and a certain amount of cash going the other way. FC Utrecht have referred Swansea to the Court of Arbitration for Sport over this deal, arguing they were due a sell-on fee.

Profit on player sales (or, disposal of intangible assets, as it is termed) was nominally £21.2 million, compared with £104 million in 2014. This figure isn’t however particularly helpful due to the way clubs account for transfers — I’ll explain this in detail at the bottom for those who are interested.


Wages — Keeping close controlSpurs wages

The amount spent on wages was virtually flat in the past year, at £100.8 million compared with £100.4 million in 2014.

With revenues up, this means Spurs spent 51.4 percent of its turnover on wages, down from 55.6 percent. This is the lowest it has been since 2008, when it dipped down to 46.1 percent. This “wages-to-turnover” ratio is an indicator of how efficiently a club (or any business) is run.

I will be interested to see how the wage bill develops in the next accounts. Per the post balance sheet events, a lot of high earners — Emmanuel Adebayor, Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Aaron Lennon — will soon come off the books. The replacements have generally been younger, and therefore cheaper.

Wages-to-turnover is also an important number in the context of the financing for the new stadium.

In the Viability Report for the scheme, produced by KPMG, the club appears to set a target for wages-to-turnover of 45 percent. (It actually states “player costs”, which I read to be wages but not transfers). If the club can get below this, the “internal rate of return” — a measure for rate of return for investors — could increase.

How realistic is this? In 2008, Spurs came very close with wages-to-turnover of 46.1 percent — but since then, wages for Premier League footballers have soared. For Arsenal, the only other club to have gone through a similarly large stadium project, one imagines a similar target was in place. In 2007, the first year at the Emirates, their wages-to-turnover was 51 percent. This dipped to 49 percent in 2008, and 46 percent in 2009. But since then it has increased — it hit 64 percent in 2013, the last year of the “old” TV deal.

Next year, I’d expect Spurs’ wage bill to be lower, improving the ratio further. The following year, the next TV deal kicks and we should have Champions League football, so greater revenues offer more scope for wage rises and the addition of big contracts to the books. We may alse be playing in a bigger stadium, although any additional income may be offset by rent for either Wembley or the Olympic Stadium. The year after that, we (hopefully) will be in the new stadium, with far higher matchday revenue.

Nonetheless, a wages-to-turnover ratio of 45 percent is very low — most Premier League clubs are between 55 and 65 percent.

This isn’t to say Spurs will fall into the sea and disappear if the club doesn’t hit the 45 percent target — it’s just one number. But it is something to keep in mind, particularly during transfer windows when the clamour to add to the squad is at its strongest. There will be funds, and room in the budget, to add quality and make sure our rising stars are paid what they deserve. But there will be limits.


Stadium and staff — A holding pattern

In the previous financial year, the club spent £19 million on the new stadium scheme, bringing total spending to £59 million. The money was spent on professional fees and “enabling works” — preparing the site for construction.

A lot has happened since June 30th, and one imagines the next accounts will show a considerably higher spend. The club secured planning permission from Haringey Council in December, and is pushing ahead with groundworks while the project crawls through the approvals process.

Daniel Levy recently stated that the club was now functioning as essentially two businesses — the football club, and the stadium project. He also noted that there were now around 70 people working full-time on the stadium side.

The headcount does not fully reflect this. Staff employed has increased from 380 to 399 (this is measured as the average number of employees through the year). Administrative staff have increased by eight, commercial staff by seven, while football staff was up by four. The “stadium” team may have been expanded since June 30, or involves existing staff.

I recently wrote in some detail about headcounts at Premier League clubs — it appeared to offer another useful, if crude, gauge of how efficient some clubs were (or weren’t).

For example, Aston Villa’s headcount rose from 496 to 535 in the past year, and its wage bill rose 21 percent. Spurs kept its headcount below 400, and even though the number of staff did increase by 19, the wage bill remained flat. Spurs is a tight ship, in comparison to a lot of Premier League clubs.

It should be noted, one area where remuneration did increase was in the boardroom. The amount paid to directors rose from £3.60 million to £4.33 million. Daniel Levy (assuredly the highest paid director) saw his pay packet increase from £2.17 million to £2.61 million. In the world of executive pay, the only way is up.


One-off costs — higher than expected redundancy pay-outs

One area that has puzzled me is the amount paid out in “redundancy costs and onerous employment contracts”.

In the previous year, in which Andre Villas-Boas and his backroom staff was sacked, the amount paid out was £4.66 million. This year, the amount has risen to to £6.49 million.

“Tactics” Tim Sherwood would have been due a payout when he was replaced six months into an 18 month contract. The club also paid off the remainder of Benoit Assou-Ekotto’s contract. But I can’t see how that adds up to £6.49 million.

In the notes explaining why costs had risen from £154.1 million to £162.4 million, one of the reasons stated was “recognition of onerous contracts”. This is interesting phrasing, due to the fact that it didn’t state redundancy costs.

One wonders if, as well as Assou-Ekotto, some of the other players who were frozen out were treated as “onerous” — perhaps Emmanuel Adebayor? I would have expected Adebayor’s pay-off to be included in the next accounts as he left the club in September 2015, but perhaps the club had already begun the process of writing him off as an asset (as well as a footballer) before the end of June 2015, essentially taking the hit early in a profitable year.

I’d welcome any explanations for this — it may well be that I’m missing something obvious.

Some other notes

  • The club has net debt of £20.3 million. In the prior year, it had net cash of £3.2 million. This figure is going to look quaint in years to come, with borrowing of at least £350 million lined up for the stadium
  • There has been no significant change in ownership of the club. ENIC has marginally increased its stake, from 85.46 percent to 85.55 percent. As far as I am aware, the next largest shareholder remains Lord Ashcroft, who those interested in British politics will know…
  • The section explaining how costs rose from £154.1 million to £162.4 million contained another interesting comment. As well as “recognition of onerous contracts” and “underlying growth of the club as we move towards the new stadium”, it also points to “post-season tour costs”. I for one would be interested to know how much this post-season tour brought in revenue-wise, or whether it is part of the AIA sponsorship deal. It all felt very unnecessary, footballing wise.

Thanks for reading, comments welcome. A note on player trading is below, Please follow me on Twitter for more Spurs chat.


A guide to player trading in Premier League club accounts

When a player is sold, the full amount is booked immediately. But when a player is bought, that expenditure is spread over the length of a contract — this is known as amortisation.

So for example, take Paulinho: he was bought for £17 million and signed a four-year contract. Spurs sold him two years later for around £10 million.

Instead of booking a £17 million cost when they purchased Paulinho, Spurs will write down that £17 million over the length of his contract — so in Paulinho’s case, £4.25 million per year for four years.

In accounting terms, the “value” of Paulinho will decrease by that same amount through the course of his four-year contract. In his first year, his value in the accounts is £12.75 million (so £17 million less one year of amortisation), in his second year, its is £8.5 million. In his third year, it is £4.25 million, and zero in the final year.

When a club calculates profit from a player sale, it deducts the remaining value in accounts from the cash sale amount.

So when Spurs sold Paulinho after two years for £10 million, in cash terms Spurs have lost £7 million on the initial £17 million fee. But in accounting terms, you deduct the remaining value in accounts — in Paulinho’s case, £8.5 million — from the £10 million sale fee, and Spurs have actually made a profit of £1.5 million.

If that makes your head spin, join the club. But making £1.5 million is so much more fun that losing £7 million, so there we have it.

(Thanks to @sumeer1000 for checking my figures. As he points out, you also need to factor in agent fees, so Spurs may actually have capitalised more than £17 million. For more on this, read any of Swiss Ramble’s analysis of Premier League accounts — it is a repeated point of emphasis.)

The next accounts will make for interesting reading — four of the seven Bale money signings were sold, all for cash losses. However, with the magic of amortisation, all bar Roberto Soldado should show (agent fees permitting) an accounting profit. The profit on player sales may be somewhat higher than expected next season, even though, in cash terms, Spurs’ net spend has basically been zero.

The curious history of the inaugural Premier League shirt sponsors

In the course of researching a piece on Spurs, I found myself looking through a list of Premier League clubs from the inaugural season in 1992/93.

Wikipedia also helpfully listed the shirt sponsors for this seminal vintage of English football. At first glance, it struck me as an interesting list from a historical point of view — a real statement of where we were as a nation and economy more than two decades ago. Likewise, with seven online gambling sponsors and seven sponsors of various types from Asia and the Middle East, the 2015/16 batch probably tells us a lot about where things stand now in England, too.

Just like some of the clubs — Wimbledon and Oldham Athletic, anyone? — the sponsors have suffered divergent fates since their logos adorned the shirts of the new English footballing elite of 1992/93. So where are they now? I decided to take a bit of time and have a look, for no particular reason other than that I can.


From Daily Mail via Google Images

Arsenal — JVC

The Japanese TV and VHS pioneer was one of the longest running shirt sponsors, their red logo emblazoning Gunners shirts for 18 years. In 2008, JVC merged with home appliance maker Kenwood to form JVC Kenwood. The JVC brand remains alive, but has never quite hit the heights (insert Arsenal joke here).

Aston Villa — Mita Copiers

Mita Copiers was a brand of Mita Industrial, a Japanese photocopier manufacturer. Mita Industrial was acquired by Kyocera in 2000, and the Mita brand no longer exists. Kyocera sponsored Reading FC for three years from 2005 to 2008, during which time no doubt photocopier sales soared in the Berkshire area.

Blackburn Rovers — McEwan’s Lager

A once popular Scottish lager whose ups and downs and changes in ownership in some ways mirror Blackburn Rovers. The McEwan’s brand was sold by Scottish and Newcastle to Heineken, and with customer tastes shifting away from cheap lagers, McEwan’s Lager was discontinued in 2003. The McEwan’s brand has subsequently been sold again, to Wells & Youngs, and is on the up again, but talk of a McEwan’s Lager comeback has come to nothing.

Chelsea — Commodore International

A computer pioneer whose Commodore and Amiga machines were the starting point for many gamers. Commodore was overtaken and left in the dust by Microsoft, Apple and others. It filed for bankruptcy in 1994.

Coventry City — Peugeot

A French auto maker that is part of PSA Peugeot Citroën. The Peugeot 205 was one of the biggest sellers in Europe the late 1980s and early 1990s. Peugeot had a major factory at Ryton, outside Coventry, where it produced the 309, 405, 306 and 205 types. The factory was shut down in 2007. Top Gear did a piece on Peugeot, and, um, it wasn’t great.

Crystal Palace — Tulip Computers

A Dutch computer company that manufactured the Tulip PC. The Tulip PC was simply a copy of the IBM PC, and unsurprisingly IBM sued. The case, per Wikipedia, was settled in 1989. Tulip acquired the Commodore brand name in 1997, sold it, and then tried to by it back on the cheap a year later. Tulip changed its named to Nedfield, but went bust a year later.

Everton — NEC

An information technology and electronics manufacturer, part of Japan’s Sumitomo conglomerate. Employs more than 100,000 people worldwide.

Ipswich Town — Fisons

A pharmaceutical, scientific instruments and horticultural chemicals company headquartered in Ipswich. It was acquired by Rhone-Poulenc in 1995. Rhone-Poulenc merged with Hoechst in 1999 to form Aventis. Aventis mergerd with Sanofi-Synthélabo in 2004, and became Sanofi in 2011. The freehold of the former Fisons headquarters site, closed in 1995 and empty since, has recently been sold to a developer.

Leeds United — Admiral

A British sportswear brand that, despite ups and downs as new entrants such as Umbro and Adidas added competition, continued to supply English and overseas teams through the 1990s. Moved into cricket in the 2000s, supplying the England team. Nowadays supplies the West Indies cricket team, and some football teams including AFC Wimbledon. Very much second division in sportswear terms — much like Leeds.

Liverpool — Carslberg

A Danish brewer that has, per its own statistics, a 14.2% share of the UK beer market. Employs more than 40,000 people worldwide.

Manchester City — Brother

A Japanese electrical equipment manufacturer, most notably of printers. Sponsored Manchester City for 10 years until 1999. Employs more than 30,000 people worldwide.

Manchester United — Sharp

A Japanese consumer electronics manufacturer. Sponsor of Manchester United from 1983 to 2000 and whose logo will always be associated by Red Devils fans with the rise of United under Sir Alex Ferguson and the treble winning team of 1998/99. Revenues of $28 billion in 2014.

Middlesbrough —  Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI)

Formerly Britain’s largest chemical manufacturer, it was acquired by Dutch multinational AkzoNobel in 2008. Parts of ICI were then sold off to Germany’s Henkel corporation, and the ICI brand ceased to exist. ICI had two key manufacturing sites in the Middlesbrough area — at Billington and Wilton — and former parts of ICI continue to operate at these sites.

Norwich City — Norwich and Peterborough

A building society founded in 1860. It was merged with Yorkshire Building Society in 2011 and ceased independent trading. N&P at the time of the merger was the ninth largest building society in the UK, but became undone with its decision to sell Keydata Investment Services products. Keydata collapsed leaving investors out of pocket to the tune of hundreds of millions of pounds, and its founder was fined a record £75m by the Financial Conduct Authority.

Nottingham Forest — Shipstones (home)

A brand of beer brewed by James Shipstone & Sons in Nottingham. Production at the brewery ended in 1991, but the brand was continued for several more years. The Shipstones brand was brought by a beer enthusiast in 2013, and is making a comeback in the Nottingham area. Labbats, Canada’s largest brewer and part of the Anheuser-Busch InBev empire, sponsored the away shirt.

Oldham Athletic — JD Sports

A sports retailer founded in Bury. Per its corporate website, has 800 stores “across a number of retail fascias” — or to put it in English, owns a number of high street brands in addition to JD Sports, such as Size? and Blacks.

Queens Park Rangers — Classic FM

A national radio station for classical music founded by GWR and launched in 1992. Now part of Global Radio and still going strong — but hasn’t sponsored any more football teams. QPR was brought by music executive Chris Wright in 1995 — his Chrysalis Radio group would eventually be sold and become Global Radio. I’m not sure it really connects, but it’s all a bit circuitous, perhaps as one would expect for a club nicknamed The Hoops.

Sheffield United — Laver

Arnold Laver is a timber company. While manufacturing has moved out to Mosborough, Arnold Laver’s headquarters remains on Brammall Lane next to Sheffield United’s stadium. Arnold Laver were the main sponsor of Sheffield United from 1985 to 1995, and Arnold Laver himself was a director for 30 years. The South Stand at Brammall Lane used to be the Laver Stand.

Sheffield Wednesday — Sanderson

A Sheffield-based software company that provides solutions to retail and manufacturing businesses. Its founder, Paul Thompson, became a director and largest shareholder of West Brom before selling his stake. He also became involved at Southampton, which also took the Sanderson sponsorship. Sanderson was followed as Sheffield Wednesday’s shirt sponsor by Chupa Chups.

Southampton — Draper Tools

A family-run tools business based in Chandler’s Ford, Hampshire (which is also where the headquarters of DIY giant B&Q is located). Draper Tools sponsored Southampton from 1984 to 1993, taking over from the now defunct Air Florida. Draper Tools is going strong under its third generation of Draper ownership.

Tottenham Hotspur — Holsten

A brewer originally from Hamburg in Germany. Its most famous brand is its pale lager, Holsten Pilsener. Holsten was acquired by Carlsberg in 2004. Holsten sponsored Spurs from 1983 to 1995, and again from 1999 until 2002. Still going, but never really hit the big-time — insert Spurs joke here (for the sake of balance at least).

Wimbledon — No sponsor

It wouldn’t be long before there was no club, or possibly two, depending on your view of these things. For readers of cached versions of this blog in 2045, MK Dons was where the great Dele Alli started out before being bought by Spurs for a bargain £5 million in 2014.


So, an interesting list. Much like today, there were a fair number of Asian sponsors, but mostly Japanese in reflection of the strength of corporate Japan at the time. Out of the 20 sponsors, eight no longer exist (or like, Shipstones, are fundamentally different businesses). In 23 years time, let’s see how many of the online gambling companies and forex/accounting software providers on the current Premier League shirts are still going strong.

For what it’s worth, of the original Premier League teams, 11 are no longer in the Premier League. A further four (Palace, Manchester City, Norwich and Southampton) have experienced relegation. So quite a high attrition rate, and puts the longevity of Arsenal, Aston Villa, Everton, Liverpool, Manchester United and Spurs into context.

Thanks for reading. Please follow me on Twitter for more random musings on Spurs.

Random musings on Spurs and football in general: A curious combination of Jurgen Klopp, Nigel Owens and Andros Townsend

Unlike the previous international break, which came indecently early in the season, I’ve rather enjoyed this one.

It’s helped by there being Rugby World Cup to tuck into, which has proved a feast of sporting goodness, the woeful England performance excluded. Also, with Spurs performing well and quietly progressing up the table, there is none of the usual excessive rumination that can come with a long break between Premier League matches.

I’ve had a few random thoughts in the past few days, covering Andros Townsend and England, Premier League refs and Spurs fixtures. I’ll post them up here, rather than try to force them into longer but ill-fitting blog posts.

A potentially weird run ahead for Spurs

Must Spurs fans agree that it is a little unlucky to be first up against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool. While it will take time for his methods to embed, I’m sure the players will be bang up for it. That said, Brendan Rodgers was always successful at translating his grudge against Spurs for being looked over in favour of AVB into strong performances, so I can’t see that it will be any worse. A tricky Saturday lunchtime kick off awaits.

But looking ahead at the fixture list, and the managers under pressure, there seems more than a chance that Klopp won’t be the first debutant manager Mauricio Pochettino ends up facing.

In three games time, we face Aston Villa at White Hart Lane on November 2. Judging by the leaking coming from Tim Sherwood, and the subsequent leaking coming from the club about David Moyes, Tactics Tim’s time may be almost up. It is hard to have much sympathy — he seems an unpleasant individual who isn’t as good a manager as he thinks. It feels like Sherwood is one bad result from the sack, and with Moyes also near an exit from Sociedad, could Villa be trotting out at White Hart Lane with a new manager and a fired up squad?

Too soon? Maybe. But there is more.

On December 5, we travel to West Brom. If you have had the misfortune of watching West Brom this season, it is impossible not to notice that they absolutely stink. Instead of the pumped-up Pulis-ball we saw in the early Stoke years and at Crystal Palace, West Brom are playing dreadful stuff, and incompetently. They are conceding a ton of goals, not scoring many, and the midfield looks devoid of any creativity. West Brom have been quietly dysfunctional for a while now, with Jeremy Peace a sort of poor man’s Daniel Levy, jumping from strategy to strategy and just about getting away with it. But they are right in the thick of it this season, and Pulis doesn’t look like he is enjoying life at the Hawthorns at all. Unless they find a way of tightening up in the next six weeks, I would not be surprised if Pulis walked or Peace pushed him out in favour of someone more willing to go along with whatever strategy the club currently applies in the transfer market.

We follow that match with a visit from Newcastle. Newcastle, and it pains me to say this as they’ve always been my second-favourite Premier League team, are horrific and there has been little or nothing from Steve McClaren to suggest he is the man to turn it around. You’d think Brendan or again someone like Moyes — someone with a chip on their shoulder and a desire to make a difference, rather than someone like the ex-England man who knows his best days are behind him — need to take over that club and get a grip of it. But Mike Ashley is stubborn and will probably give McClaren a bit of time to turn things around, not least as he is so soon into a long-term contract. I’d say though, if Newcastle are still in the bottom three by mid-December, a managerial change would hardly be a massive surprise.

So, it’s all a bit hypothetical, but these things are fun to play out. I suspect Klopp won’t be the sole beneficiary of the New Manager Bounce against Spurs this season.


Time to mic up Premier League refs

One of my favourite parts of the Rugby World Cup has been the ability to hear referees interact with players and other officials.

The highlight was the brilliant Nigel Owens, the most Welsh-sounding person alive, telling off Scotland’s Stuart Hogg at St James’s Park for diving — “Dive like that again and come back in two weeks to play. Watch it”. The Scottish fullback, who’d thrown himself to the ground and knew it, trotted back to his position shaking his head like a naughty schoolboy.

In the Namibia v Georgia match, a slugfest down at Exeter in which two teams high on brutality but low on skill went at it in the most physical fashion, the referee was nevertheless respected when he intervened. “Sorry sir, thank you sir”, the hulking Georgian number 8 responded in almost comic style, like a modern Oliver Twist addressing Mr Bumble.

While the TMO in rugby can slow down the game and be a bit tedious, the ability to hear the referee clears up any doubts about the decision-making process, and invariably it shows the referees in a good light. Keeping across 30 players on the rugby field is almost impossible, but the referees have done a superb job and are respected among players and media.

In cricket, not everyone took to the use of technology when it came in, and the obscure nature of the game initially made the implementation a bit tricky. Adding, say, Hawkeye technology to track the ball, but then ignoring the precise track for a greyer area of “umpire’s call” was a touch weird and caused much chuntering. This summer, for the first time, the interaction between on-field and TV umpires was made public, and it changed the minds of even the most ardent critics on TV and radio. While the decisions themselves remained open to debate, just like in rugby the decision-making process was crystal clear, and showed the umpires to be expertly following procedures and making as accurate judgements as possible with the human eye.

When goalline technology finally came in to the Premier League last season, I thought this would open the floodgates to increasing use of technology. But there seems virtually no demand from media or fans for more technology, despite almost every match feature a blown offside call, perceived inconsistency over yellow cards, or dubious penalty decisions. I guess football’s governing body, which should be leading the roll-out of new technologies, is a bit side-tracked at the moment. Amazingly, even in the Champions League, the supposed pinnacle of club football, there isn’t goalline technology.

To me, the sight of two linesmen crab-stepping up and down the touchline and waving a flag seems totally anachronistic. It is technically impossible to call offside correctly in most cases, as you can’t look in two places at once. Linesmen seem like cyborgs at time, so devoid are they of personality, but actual cyborgs would be better. Using technology to decide offside would be more accurate and would free up the linesmen to actually be assistant referees and improve the all-round officiating. However, I appreciate it will take time to test the technology and ensure it functions properly — for example how to pick up who touched the ball last and whether offside applies or not. But we are almost there.

In the meantime, one thing the FA could do immediately is turn on the microphones so that we can hear the refs make their decision. At the moment, all decisions are seen in a vacuum and so often don’t appear to make much sense. But if you heard a referee, say, warn a player on a yellow card that he was one more foul from being sent off, it would make the perceived leniency crystal clear. Instead of a ref being seen to be inconsistent about the awarding of yellows, he will be shown to be in control of the situation and the players, and also displaying the sort of common sense in trying to keep the contest 11 vs 11 rather than fundamentally altering a game over what me be a rather trivial infringement.

Likewise, when a ref books a player for diving it can seem arbitrary, like the ref who carded Falcao for his dive against Southampton. If we heard the ref’s thinking — “you went down before the contact, throwing yourself into the goalkeeper in a dangerous way, that is a yellow card”, or whatever it was — we would be much more informed, and while we can disagree with the decision, we at least know the logic behind the decision. I don’t like the idea of referees being forced out before hostile media and grilled about each decision, which feels like the direction we are going in.

Of course, people will say in football this live chat would be impossible to broadcast due to the language, but is that really true? Players may eff and blind at the moment, but most will clear it up if they know what they are saying is being heard by kids. And those who don’t will soon learn when they start to be fined or suspended. If the mics pick up a bit of rough language during the action, so be it — it happens in rugby and the commentators apologize and everyone moves on.

I find the current arguments over individual decisions very boring, and there are far more interesting aspects of the game that could be analysed on Match of the Day. There will always be marginal decisions, for example in offside, but if there is a clear and transparent protocol, and effective technology, then we can accept them better and move on. Jose Mourinho will have to find another excuse in future rants.


Andros for England

Andros for England

From Google Images

Roy Hodgson has used 33 players in qualifying for Euro 2016, which seems an awful lot to me. Sure, there will be injuries, and Roy did just go 10 out of 10, but I can’t help thinking this enormous rotation is over complicating what should be a fairly simple selection for the tournament itself.

Let’s face it, the standard of international football isn’t all that high. The pace is generally very slow compared with the Premier League or other top leagues, and teams without that many “good” players can nonetheless be very competitive. While teams with transcendent talent levels like the recent Spanish team may come along once in a while and dominate, normally big tournaments are contested by the most organised and disciplined teams. This can produce surprise winners — like Denmark or Greece — or worthy winners like Germany at the last World Cup. These teams won because they were the best teams, not because they had the best 11 players or best 23-man squads. If that seems like a statement of the obvious, then why do we seem to constantly be engaged in a process of testing out young players and blooding them, when we could just be cementing a core unit and giving it the time it needs to perfectly understand and execute Roy’s game plan?

Take Andros Townsend. He may be blinking useless for Spurs (on the rare occasion that he even gets a game), but he has consistently produced the goods for England. For whatever reason, his ability to run with the ball from deep and take shots works against international defences, and good ones too like Italy. I suspect the pace of the Premier League negates this advantage, but you won’t see much gegenpressing in France next summer. Still, as he is struggling at club level, he may well miss out even though there appears little relationship between his performances for Spurs and England.

Then take Michael Carrick. He has played 33 times for England, and rarely has he dominated the midfield and set the tempo like he has done for years at Manchester United. Again, it may be something to do with the pace of the football, but he just doesn’t look nearly as effective. But, with concerns over the lack of a natural defensive midfield option, he looks likely to get another shot. He is 34 now — so I think we can safely so that what we’ve seen is what we’ll get in international terms.

You would have thought, after years and years and years of seeing Stevie Gerrard and Frank Lampard try but fail to effectively form a midfield combo for England, despite being the best two midfielders in the Premier League, we would have learned to differentiate between club performances and country performances, and accept that the most effective England XI may not be the strongest XI on paper.

So I hope Roy doesn’t experiment with tactics or personnel in the matches between now and the Euros. I want to see the same team, playing the same way, so that when we all rock up in France, England will know exactly what they are doing and are ready to execute when it matters.

(I sent this in to F365 as a letter)