Updated: May 10, 2020
Whatever your views on the rights and wrongs of the proposed move to Stratford, that argument is now over. What looks encouraging is that Spurs don’t seem to be carrying out the threat to engage in a legal challenge to the decision. So at least the club is out of the debate about the disgraceful use of public subsidy for private profit and all the many associated legal and practical problems that are sure to arise from the whole wretched business. Danny Kelly’s description of “David Gold in his Russian admiral’s coat standing with the board of West Ham in front of the stadium looking like the cast of Hustle” will stay with me for some time.
Attention now needs to focus on what practical steps Spurs can take. While the case that a bigger stadium would guarantee success was undoubtedly overplayed, the case that having a significantly smaller stadium than our rivals will not help us is pretty clear to all. So if we need a bigger stadium, what is the quickest and most cost-efficient way of getting there?
It would be good if there was an existing plan, that had been costed, that the fans supported and that had the various planning permissions in place to enable the club to move into a bigger stadium within three or four years. And luckily, we have one. It’s called the Northumberland Development Project. Only there’s one problem. This project, which remained outlined in the most glowing terms on the club’s website throughout the process of bidding for Stratford, has been quietly taken down from the club’s website.
It’s hard to get rid of the image of the little boy taking his ball home because the other lads won’t let him play centre forward here. We’ve still not been told why the NDP suddenly became “unviable” in Levy’s now infamous description. No doubt those always eager to argue how tactically astute our board are will jump in to point out the tactical genius of keeping an unviable project up as a viable proposition while bidding for something else, then withdrawing it when the alternative became no longer viable.
It is highly unlikely that a fresh scheme will be cheaper than the NDP – especially if the longer timescale of completing such a project is factored in. Therefore the most sensible, practical route for the club is to address the issue of how to make the NDP work. Haringey Council have indicated they are willing to get round the table, and local MP David Lammy also needs to step up to be as vociferous in helping achieve the NDP as he was in opposing the Stratford move. All this may involve certain egos being put aside, but no one – and certainly not one company – is bigger than the club.
The always thoughtful Spurs Simon makes some similar points on his website, and we spoke this morning about the need to push on with the NDP. There are a number of conversations going on among groups of Spurs fans with various skill sets looking at ways of making the NDP work, and it would benefit the club to tap into the skills that exist across its supporter base. This would, of course, involve a major cultural change from a board which has seemed to have trouble recognising that other people may actually know what they are talking about but, as I said, egos have to be put aside.
Such a link-up might also go some way towards repairing the trust which has been damaged in this whole affair. One of a number of glaring mistakes in the Stratford bid was the refusal to take on board supporter sentiment and the dismissal of any opposition or questioning as irrelevant. This combined with the club’s apparently contradictory statements on the NDP’s viability and the general evasiveness when it came to providing detail to severely reduce trust in the board in general and Levy in particular. This is serious not just because of the relationship between the fans and the club.
For the NDP to happen, or indeed any alternative project, there will need to be partners from the public and the private sectors who do business with the club. Those partners need to know that the club means what it says, and that what is true one day will not suddenly become untrue the next. Otherwise, they are not going to commit.
Maybe the inability to find anyone who will trust them is the reason why the club has stomped off with the NDP proposals. In which case it would be time for the board to resign – although of course as the people who own the vast majority of shares in the club they are answerable only to themselves. But it would seem, at least from the public statements by Haringey, that the major public sector partner is still willing to do business, and a club of Tottenham’s stature would still retain some allure for potential private sector clients.
So I’m adding my – relatively inconsequential – voice to those calling for the club to turn over a new leaf, to work with its fans on a more equal basis, to rebuild trust and confidence, to break the silence and to make the NDP work.