I’ve been looking at what’s being said about the new Spurs stadium. “The transport infrastructure here is already in place, with four stations and up to 144 buses an hour serving the stadium area. Together with planned and proposed service improvements and new investment to be made by the Club, they deliver enough capacity for the increased number of supporters visiting the new stadium…
“The changes made directly reflect the Club’s desire to find the very best solution for the Club… The new stadium location and designs ensure that the Club is able to remain here even during construction, maintaining the economic benefits the Club and its visitors bring to the area.
“The Club recognises the importance of remembering our history as a part of the new plans…”
Outlining the benefits
Those are the club’s words. Words which are still on the official website outlining the benefits of the new stadium. There are some other words on the website too. Words written in the name of Daniel Levy in one of the open letters he’s so fond of. Those words say, “I must once again repeat the concerns we have about the viability and deliverability of the NDP… No progress has been made with the remaining land owners and this is a potentially costly issue. As such, we have yet to conclude the site assembly…”
You can read the letter in full at the link I’ve provided. What’s clear from the letter is that the move to Stratford is the club’s preferred option. We knew as much because of all the unattributed briefings in the press and the statements to that effect from people closely connected with the club. Even though the “official position” was that “we are keeping our options open”. If you were in any doubt, consider Levy’s closing remarks. “You could say that the one choice we do have , is the choice between standing still or moving forward.”
The way the arguments are set, it’s clear that Stratford is the “moving forward” option. So a number of questions arise from this.
The most obvious is ‘When did the plans to redevelop the current stadium go from being “the very best solution to the club” to “standing still”?’ We’ve heard much, for example, about the transport problems making the scheme unviable. So why did the club say “The transport infrastructure here is already in place”. Were they wrong then, or are they wrong now?
If you read through those plans for the current site to be redeveloped – they are still on the official site, presumably because we are keeping our option to stand still open – you can’t fail to be impressed with how thorough and well-argued they are. But now, apparently, we are supposed to forget all that, because it wasn’t right.
The problem with this whole affair, which threatens to get increasingly bitter, is that the present board at the club seem to have a major problem when it comes to levelling with people. What seems to have happened is this. The club developed a scheme to redevelop the current stadium. They were all set to go ahead when another scheme came up. That scheme is either cheaper, or it offers greater commercial benefit in future.
Either of those arguments, if put forward straightforwardly, would have convinced the vast majority of fans. Even ones like me who think that our current location is an integral part of the club we have supported since long before ENIC was ever heard of. But the people who brought you ‘We’re backing Martin Jol’ seem incapable of doing anything on the level. And so we are left with the current situation in which the club’s u-turn is not a u-turn, and the reasons for this change in position which is not really a change in position are not clear. In short, it is impossible to take anything the club says on this at face value.
There may be good reason for this. And that reason means confronting another concept that the current owners would rather we didn’t. That the interests of the club and the interests of its owners are always the same. It’s possible the Stratford scheme is more attractive because it offers greater potential for naming rights and commercial partnerships which mean the club can be sold at a higher price. That may or may not benefit the club, but it will certainly benefit the current owners.
Let’s be clear here. I am not for a moment accusing anyone of telling lies. What I am saying is that the amount of spin being spun makes it very hard to take anything at face value. And I happen to believe it is important to say either what can be taken at face value, or say nothing at all.
The more the club does not answer the many, many outstanding questions about its change of position, the more the suspicion will grow that it is not levelling with us because it knows the vast majority would disagree with what it is doing. Although I’ll concede one other mystery is why they would even be bothered what people think. They own the club. They can do what they like with it. They have marginalised supporter groups and one line in Levy’s “open” letter really nails their attitude. “Should we be selected as the preferred bidder, we shall engage with and fully consult our supporters.” That’s as close to saying “When the decision has been taken we’ll tell you” as you can get without using the actual words.
And still more questions
There are a whole host more unanswered questions. Are the “extra” costs of the NDP the club alludes to really “extra” – meaning more than originally envisaged – or are the costs at Stratford less? It’s an important difference. How likely is it that Spurs would finance refurbing the athletics stadium at Crystal Palace park, and we we want them to? How long will it take to change the planning permission for Stratford which currently allows for a limited number of events at a 25,000 seater stadium after the games? If it’s going to take until at least 2016 to move in at Stratford, at least two years longer than it would take to move to the new stadium in Tottenham, how does that impact on our ability to compete with clubs drawing bigger gates?
There are plenty more questions. But even if they were answered, there’s another problem. How far can we believe what the club says? The answer could be one thing this week, and another next.
Some people have said to me that Levy and co can’t be entirely transparent because you can never reveal your hand when negotiating. But if we are to believe that this is all part of some tactical masterplan, where has it got the club? We’ve managed to turn a significant section of the club’s support, most public opinion, the whole of UK Athletics and a large portion of the international sporting establishment against us. The partners in a scheme we may yet have to return to to develop our existing stadium have had it royally stuck to them, making them far less likely to be co-operative should we need to work with them.
In short, we have isolated ourselves and put all our eggs in one basket. The only chink of light is that, should our bid for Stratford be turned down, Levy and co will have no trouble at all issuing another open letter saying that the scheme which we originally said was great, then said was unviable, is now in fact great. I guess there’s some PR genius in there somewhere.