My open letter to Daniel Levy seems to have hit the spot. It’s generated the highest traffic ever to this blog, with 3,761 page views yesterday and 64 comments so far. The numbers are starting to rack up again today too. Several of the Spurs community sites, most notably Harry Hotspur and Dear Mr Levy, have also kindly run the letter and have attracted hundreds of comments. And on the latest Spurs Show podcast, journalist Mihir Bose raised the same central question after host Mike Leigh read out key parts of the letter.
I’m not about to claim that’s overwhelming evidence of anything other than the low profile of this blog, but it does seem to have raised questions that quite a few people want answered. As there’s been so much debate, I wanted to respond to a few things.
Most of the debate has been pretty considered. But some of the later comments are a bit sharper, the majority being from people who think that asking legitimate questions amounts to an unacceptable attack on the club’s chairman. @Northspur in particular seems quite outraged, railing against “the barefaced cheek” of those who are perceived at ‘having a go’ at Daniel Levy. Some of the comments on other sites are far sharper. So let’s get something straight.
I can’t speak for the motivations of every poster, but I don’t detect much out and out Levy-bashing. My own position is this. I think that while Daniel Levy has been in charge some things have been done very well – control of the wage bill, avoiding huge levels of debt, the purchase of Van der Vaart – while other things haven’t – the director of football experiment, the training ground fiasco, the treatment of Martin Jol. No one gets everything right or wrong, but everyone should be judged on each thing they do. I would certainly much rather have Levy in charge than, for example, a Hicks, Gillet or Glazer.
Questions need answers
None of that detracts from the fact that the questions I posed need answering. It would, as a number of posters point out, be respectful to the fans. But it would also strengthen the club’s position. The view has been put forward that the latest statement is merely a clever negotiating stance, that there are things we cannot be expected to understand, wheels within wheels etc etc. I’m not sure that stacks up and here’s why.
Spurs are now portrayed as the people who want to knock down the stadium the taxpayers paid for, betray the legacy promise of the Olympic games and take advantage of publicly-provided infrastructure for their own ends. That is the result of the PR strategy, if indeed there is one, that the club has embarked upon. I don’t think that picture is accurate. There are many questions to be asked about the Olympic bid and about the West Ham bid. Those fact s are being obscured by the position the club has adopted.
If, as Mihir Bose suggests, Tottenham’s stance is motivated by a desire to prevent West Ham getting Stratford, it seems to have achieved the opposite. The West Ham bid is now backed by the athletics and Olympic establishment, and a large section of public opinion, as the option which would preserve the legacy and conserve the stadium. This despite the fact that West Ham would pull down much of the existing structure, despite the fact that this too is a private business benefitting from public money, and despite the fact that their fans don’t want to watch football from the other side of a running track.
The other thing that doesn’t add up up the ‘clever tactical ploy’ argument is that negotiating successfully depends on two things. The one that is most often quoted is ‘not showing all your cards’. And I’d agree with that. But there’s another, equally important, element. And that’s being able to convince people your position has substance. The problem for Spurs at the moment is that people are starting to ask ‘what exactly can we believe?’
The club said the NDP was viable. As one poster points out, we were even urged to write letters in support of it. Now it says it’s not. Without clear answers to the questions posed about why the NDP is now unviable and when it became unviable, it’s hard to give the claim any substance. And so people, whether they be fans or policy makers, are inclined not to believe it. Or at least to think there is more to the claim than meets the eye. The inconsistency of message – emotion is not important, passion is important; original homes are not important, original homes are important, etc – further undermines the effectiveness of any negotiating stance.
The sale debate
There’s also been some criticism of my final question, the one about the current board’s intention or lack of intention to sell the club. I addressed it in the comments thread of my post, but it’s worth doing again here for clarity. Of course I would not expect any commercial company to reveal its future strategy or to rule anything in or out indefinitely. That’s why I asked the question. Because Daniel Levy himself, speaking in a Radio Five Sportsweek interview that is still available on iPlayer, said that he had no interest in selling the club under any circumstances at all.
This is an extremely surprising statement to make, especially for someone who runs the club on behalf of an investment company. So I wanted to ask the question in order to give Daniel Levy the chance to be absolutely clear in what he was saying.
Of course, that question impacts on various rumours, theories, call them what you will, surrounding the club’s stance on the stadium and its business plan for the future.
The sad thing about all this is that I would much rather be spending the time looking forward to the rest of the league campaign and that mouthwatering tie at the San Siro. (There’s a great piece of tactical analysis by Jonathan Wilson in the latest World Soccer, by the way, which suggests AC Milan have cause to be worried). Instead, this whole affair is starting to overshadow our best season for years.
That’s a short term point, but it’s the long-term implications which are of concern. That’s why I hope that some answers to the questions I posed yesterday, questions being asked by more and more people, will be forthcoming.