By Tony Attwood
For West Ham, it was a dream deal. A stadium built by the tax payer, given to the club on a tiny rent, in which the club didn’t have to pay most of the match day activities. And as a bonus, if the club’s status in the league declined so would the rent. For the first time in football history relegation would mean a financial bonus.
“The chairman of the LLDC, owners of the London Stadium, has resigned after an inquiry was opened into the soaring costs to the taxpayer to run the venue.” The Guardian
Yep – as I have pointed out before, new stadia can be pesky things and tend to bring relegation more often than enhanced success.
Which raises the question, what did Tottenham expect in going to Wembley to play their Champions League matches? And what do they think will happen next year when they will play all their “home” matches at Wembley.
Pochettino said, part way through the bad run in Europe this season, “You cannot blame Wembley. We need to show more. We need to put ourselves in front of the mirror and say: ‘Come on, we must improve.’ The first game at Wembley may have been an accident but to do it again, something must be wrong, and we need to find out what. We are in a bad moment and we need to be critical and honest.”
Unfortunately the bad moment at Wembley continued after that, but success at WHL this season and the wild celebrations at finishing above Arsenal for the first time since Eric Cantona assaulted a spectator at Crystal Palace, Blackburn Rovers won the league and George Graham was sacked as Arsenal manager has turned the media’s attention (that most fickle thing) away from the topic.
WHU have not done too well on the pitch or in other PR either. In January David Sullivan announced “Dimitri Payet will not be sold by West Ham in January, and Bilic said the same., whileWest Ham send begging letter to Premier League’s ‘big five’ in frantic search for January reinforcements”. Of course it might have been journalist make believe, but it is a long way from what the newspapers used to write about the loveable cockneys and their traditional home in the east end.
West Ham are currently 15th, seven points clear of relegation. Last season they finished 7th, 25 points above relegation.
So what does this mean for Tottenham? Well, they have positives and negatives coming up. Taking them in order…
They go to Wembley next season on a high. I suspect they will end up second this season, as we did last season. But while that was an occasion for lots of fun for us in the final game, it was also a moment for the aaa and their media chums to chime in with another round of “Second is not a trophy”. For Tottenham however it is a moment of joyous celebration.
But Wembley is now seen as a place where Tottenham have done very badly… here are their results
- Loss vs Man Utd, 2009 League Cup final
- Loss vs Portsmouth, 2010 FA Cup semi final
- Loss vs Chelsea, 2012 FA Cup semi final
- Loss vs Chelsea, 2015 League Cup final
- Loss vs Monaco, 2016 Champions League
- Loss vs Bayer Leverkusen, 2016 Champions League
- Win vs CKSA Moscow, 2016 Champions League
- Draw vs Gent, 2017 Europa League
- Loss vs Chelsea, 2017 FA Cup semi final
As I have said many times before, all runs end – but normally runs are not identified with a specific location. This one might just go on for much of the season. It will certainly be there in the players, management and some supporters’ minds and a couple of slip ups could batter confidence.
After a year away it is back to New WHL. The question then is finance. Arsenal, as we know, took years and years to pay off the cost of the Emirates; will Tottenham be able to do it more quickly?
Of course Tottenham don’t give away financial secrets, but the fact is the cost of the stadium rose from £350m to £700m (different figures appear in different reports but whichever ones you choose, it has been a big rise.) The Emirates Stadium and agreed public service improvements cost £390m and Arsenal made about £40m from selling off other property in the area it acquired along the way.
Even allowing for inflation and increased TV revenue that is still a big difference for Tottenham to pay off. And there is one hidden issue, although not everyone would agree with this. Arsenal, in my view, benefited by deliberately choosing a stadium design that had already been built once, for Benfica. Look at their stadium, and you can see the similarities in the four tier approach and the design of the roof to allow air circulation down to the grass.
Tottenham are working on a totally novel design, which of course might work, but it might have teething troubles and those can be a pain.
So, even if Tottenham have little or no negative impact in moving from Wembley to New WHL there are going to be financial constraints, unless money (which no one has yet talked about), is found to pay the debt without giving Tottenham double the sort of loans Arsenal had.
Of course Tottenham have been very good at making money from selling players, although last summer they did spend £69m on four players and recouped about £40m on sales. This was the first time since 2010/11 that expenditure on players exceeded income on sales. The key question is whether they have a source of funding that will allow such expenditure to continue while also paying for the stadium.
My guess, and it is only that based on the issues above, is that the Wembley year could see that unbeaten home record fall away quite quickly, but the away record (six wins, six draws, three defeats) might be maintained.
I suspect also that the vultures will circle looking for players who might be tempted away with deals that will appeal to Tottenham financially (a sort of Robin van Persie and Cesc Fabregas situation).
In the first year in New WHL there should be a recovery, but I suspect it will be to maintain a top four position. Will Tottenham supporters be as crass as some Arsenal fans and talk about Top Four not being a trophy? I suspect not, primarily because I think the media will stay onside with Tottenham and rather than criticise any lack of buying as a lack of determination to succeed, will instead praise the club for its level headed financial management and its new stadium.
I am of course most likely wrong, and undoubtedly there will be some who will wish to tell me this in advance. But it would be nice if any contrary views were laced with either evidence or logical argument.
Here’s the updated table of new builds. D3 = third tier etc.
|Riverside Stadium||Middlesbrough||1995||Relegated 1997|
|Britannia Stadium||Stoke City||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Reebok Stadium||Bolton Wanderers||1997||Relegated 1998|
|Pride Park Stadium||Derby County||1997||Relegated 2002|
|Stadium of Light||Sunderland||1997||Relegated 1997|
|Madejski Stadium||Reading||1998||Releg to D3 ’98|
|JJB Stadium||Wigan Athletic||1999||Won D3 2003|
|St Mary’s Stadium||Southampton||2001||Rel to D2 2005; D3 2009|
|KC Stadium||Hull City||2002||Prom from D3 2005|
|Walkers Stadium||Leicester City||2002||Relegated 2004|
|Etihad Stadium||Manchester City||2003||14th, 8th, 15th, 16th|
|Liberty Stadium||Swansea City||2005||Prom D4 2005|
|Emirates Stadium||Arsenal||2006||Top 4 to 2016; 2 Cups|
|Cardiff City Stadium||Cardiff City||2009||Won D2 2012|
|London Stadium||West Ham||2016||Down from 7th to 15th|
|Wembley?||Chelsea||2018||Same as Tottenham?|