Updated: May 10
I felt a bit like Sgt Wilson to Tottenham’s Cptn Mainwaring yesterday when, with impeccable timing, the club announced that it was pursuing a judicial review just hours before one of the most important games in our history. Talk about eye off the ball.
Apparently the club are indignant that questions they’ve asked about the process which saw West Ham awarded the Olympic Stadium on the back of stacks of public investment have not been answered. So they are taking Newham Council to court. So let’s see what we have here.
A private company is annoyed that public money has been given to another private company. It is also annoyed that questions it is asking about commercial details are not being answered, even though it responds to requests for details about its own commercial stance by saying they are commercially sensitive. So, at a time of unprecedented public sector austerity, it is going to pursue an expensive court case to push its demand for public money to be given to it.
I was told last night, as we discussed this in the pub before the game, that my trouble was I was considering the wider world. I’m usually told I’m not living in the real world, so this was an interesting criticism. But the reality is that this must be looked at in the wider context. And that wider context does not put Spurs in a very good light. The reason that is important is because there are politics at play in the stadium debate, although that’s something Spurs seem unaware of or unable to grasp.
Political backing is needed for Spurs to expand stadium capacity. And no politician is going to back the ‘right’ of a private company to get public money at the moment. Nor would I want them too. It is absolutely scandalous that West Ham have been given this boost. Just as it would have been equally scandalous if Spurs had. We are in a recession and Spurs need to wise up to what that means.
Spurs are also on shaky ground getting all hi-falutin about ‘public money’. It would be interesting to compare the total figure in this case to the total amount of money ENIC owner Joe Lewis would pay into the public coffers in tax should he not chose to live in the Bahamas. Some might say that a proportion of what he saved would cover the total Spurs are so exercised about.
But the main question here is why are Spurs doing this? The most logical, and I use that word loosely here, explanation seems to me to be that the club is trying to establish some fault in the process that saw West Ham gifted a stadium so that, if the Hammers go down and their occupancy of the stadium becomes financially unviable, Spurs can nip in again. But even if this were to happen, it is extremely likely that Leyton Orient would take the case to court, thus further prolonging the agony.
I have yet to hear a convincing argument about why the club’s current strategy – and I use that term loosely too – is beneficial for the club. We need to look at the quickest and most efficient way to expand capacity, not embroil ourselves in what could potentially be years of legal wrangling that gets us no closer to a new stadium.
That’s why I’m involved in the Supporting Our Future group, trying to get all parties to address practical and constructive measures rather than fight battles already lost and that can have no benefit for Spurs.
For let’s make no mistake, the battle for Stratford is lost. It was lost because Spurs did not understand the significance of legacy, despite having two of the leading members of the 2012 bid team that constructed the whole legacy concept on its side. Spurs were, rightly or wrongly, perceived to be the private company seeking to profit from public money and to betray the legacy commitment. So bungled was the club’s campaign that it allowed the ridiculous David Gold to pose as the saviour of Britain’s historic commitment to sport and freedom.
Tottenham Hotspur’s refusal to let this drop and move on is not only embarrassing and grubby, it is not helping the club to get the new stadium it needs. That must be the priority. Other stakeholders in the NDP project have indicated they are prepared to address and resolve outstanding issues and this is where the club’s attention should be focused.