Transforming yourself is important. You feel down, but you have to go out and play football or sell computers or write wonderful pieces of literature – so you have to reinvent yourself – and then those around you.
The master at this art is Mr Leavy at Tottenham Hotspur. The masters at not doing this are most Arsenal supporters.
Tottenham are now created as the Team of the Future who will win things this year, and march forward into a new stadium. Arsenal are the failures of the present, unable to mount a sustained challenge for anything, doomed to an eternity of nothingness.
If we just pause and compare Tottenham’s plans for a new 60,000 capacity ground, with Arsenal’s there are some interesting points to note.
Tottenham’s great achievements of the past few years are a League Cup win, and getting planning permission for a training ground. Oh and they also got into Europe 3 times, and sacked the managers who did it.
When Arsenal proposed the move to the Ems, they did so on the back of quite a bit of success (I won’t bore you with details of doubles and things) and quite a bit of research. For example, in order to prove that they could fill the Ems they played Euro games in Wembley for 2 years – and packed it with 75,000 supporters.
They got planning permission, and then worked with the local transport system to improve access to the ground.
They also worked on the basis that if they got 50,000 average to each home game, and played in the Champs League once in every four years, they could pay the mortgage.
Tottenham have not done this sort of work – no point using Wembley because they don’t play in the Champs League. No point building a “Champs League once every four years” in because they don’t ever play in the Champs League.
Arsenal paid for the ground on mortgage loans – like you and I pay for our houses. This is money at low fixed rates of interest. It is hard to get – and Arsenal only got the current deal after showing the lenders after one year that they could fill the ground for every game. So even with all Arsenal’s research and success they still had to play in front of full houses for a year, to get the terrific deal they now have.
And that was before the credit crunch. Mr Levy of course will have none of that – simply because he can’t have any of that – there is no cheap mortgage money around for something as speculative as a new Tottenham groud. His stadium will be paid for using “sponsorship” money.
So what about transport? Arsenal has 3 underground stations serving it – and still permission for the ground went down to the very last health and safety meeting. Tottenham meanwhile is a notoriously awful ground to get to. And remember planning permission will only be granted if the police and safety authorities think that 60,000 nutters can be moved in and out of the area safely.
But the question the finance people will ask is exactly the same as Arsenal. Will they get 60,000 for each game? Tottenham says yes, because they have a waiting list of 20,000 people for season tickets. I find that hard to believe, but let’s give them the benefit of that. I think I am right in saying that the current ground has 22,000 season tickets, so that would mean that they could sell about 35,000 seasons for the ground (some always vanish when it is time to pay up). But that would then leave them with no waiting list – so as fans drift away (for example after a poor season) they would not be selling out.
And then, how much of the remaining 25,000 would they sell each week?
A few years ago, during my divorce, I had to give up my season ticket as part of what we middle class divorcees like to call “financial restructuring”, and since then I’ve used my 2 silver memberships at Arsenal. But I went back on the season ticket waiting list in 2000, and I am still waiting. Even after much of the waiting list was removed by moving to the Ems I am still waiting.
I suspect that Tottenham in the EPL could get 40,000 a week, although in the Championship they would probably be closer to 30,000, dropping to 20,000 if it wasn’t going well or they were playing Barnsley.
And they are trying to do this in a very difficult market.
But what is so clever about it is that an away draw against a team whose supporters think they are having a naff season, and the announcement of an idea (the stadium is nothing more than that – the money is not in place, nor is the planning permission) is cleverly transformed into a reason to be cheerful. The fact is that the ground is unlikely ever to be built, because no one is likely to lend them the money, and the transport system in that part of London is awful.
But even if they did, they wouldn’t fill it, and so they wouldn’t be able to pay for it.
So they would go bust, and vanish from the horizon – possibly emerging as TH (2009) Ltd, with a 10 point deduction and no new stadium. I personally welcome this and so hope that they do build the new stadium as quickly as possible.
At Arsenal, total financial stability, the best ground in the country, sell-outs at every game, and a stunning young team results in moaning and groaning.
We, the Arsenal supporters, have done this. We’ve written our team down, claimed disaster, said its all over. Now the team themselves are doing it.
All that happened was that we drew with Tottenham.
That’s not disaster or the end of the world. It’s simply a draw with Tottenham. We’ve had them before and the world didn’t end. (At least I don’t think it did).