Updated: May 10, 2020
The club has responded to my open letter. In the response, the club states that confidentiality agreements prevent it from responding in detail. But it offers me the chance to discuss those points directly – once the decision is taken. I’m told the club will be back in contact as soon as it can. A reply is a reply, so I’ve written back to thank the club. But the questions remain unanswered, and some latest developments underline the problems with the club’s stance.
Offering to discuss something after it has been decided rather defeats the object of that discussion. I have pointed this out, and also said that it’s not a private, direct discussion I’m looking for, but for the club to provide its fans with public, open, transparent and unambiguous answers to the questions many want answered. I do not think I’m so important that I should be granted a private audience. And there is another important reason why those answers should not be given in a private meeting.
The We Are N17 pressure group has released a statement detailing a meeting it held with Daniel Levy and club communications director Donna Cullen. That document makes very interesting reading, especially the part in which, according to the We Are N17 notes, Daniel Levy said that the NDP had not been viable for some time. The group say their reaction to this news was “rather incredulous”. They asked when it had been determined the NDP was unviable, and were told by Donna Cullen that it was an accumulation of factors which began when English Heritage made “demands” about spending associated with the project.
The English Heritage demands have been known about for some time. So the group expressed surprise that an unviable project had been continued with. Daniel Levy said that the NDP had to be retained as an option, but could not explain to We Are N17 how something that was not viable could be an option. It is surely a contradiction in terms. So the group put forward the view that the club’s communications with fans had been misleading. The notes say: “The club did not really argue this point and DC said ‘it suited their purpose’ when asked about the content of the statements released thus far”.
Subsequent to that statement being posted, the group’s website posted the following. “THFC have asked us to amend an aspect of the statement released yesterday as they believe we have mis-quoted/mis-understood an aspect of the discussion. Donna Cullen’s comment regarding what suited the club’s purpose was not in relation to the club’s communications to fans which they confirm were accurate at the time of publication and instead the comment related to proceeding with the planning application for the NDP; although we perceived those communications to be misleading the club does not agree with this view.”
It seems that quite a lot of what the club says is misconstrued or misunderstood. And so it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that the effectiveness and clarity of what the club says and the way it says it might need to be examined. It certainly strengthens the case for public, open, transparent and unambiguous answers to be provided. That way there would be no room for misinterpretation. It would seem straightforward for the club to say how it was misconstrued by saying clearly what it did say. So far, it has merely said it was misconstrued.
One question keeps cropping up as being right at the heart of this whole affair. And that is, when did the NDP become unviable and for what reason? The truth is that a significant proportion of fans do feel misled because something we were told was viable, which we were consulted on and bought into, which we were asked to lobby politicians in support of, appears to have been deemed unviable at the same time. And it does not do to use “commercial confidentiality” every time difficult questions are asked or detail required. The onus is on the club to tell us why something we had all bought into is no longer a goer. It is even more imperative in the case of a football club moving from its traditional home, precisely because of the passion, emotion, tradition and history that the club now says we should cast aside – in sharp contrast to the many times when it has used these very things to rally us and, more to the point, market to us.
There is, whether the club wants to admit it or not, a problem of trust here. A significant proportion of fans feel misled. And so we are wondering exactly what we can and can’t believe. I would argue that this is important for two reasons. One is a basic one about respect between club and fans. The other is a more practical one. Doubting what Spurs say and examining every statement to see if there are any loopholes or possible other interpretations takes a lot of time and energy. And so that time and energy is not spent on the very many questions that are raised by the West Ham bid for the OS and the original promises made in order to secure the Games themselves. Tactically, that does neither Spurs or the wider communities concerned here very much good.