Football’s Guide to How to be Incredibly Stupid

It never used to be like this.

In the olden days each season was pretty much the same as the season before.   There’d be two new clubs in the First Division (usually West Ham and Blackburn, if memory serves) and every other year we would have a new centre forward (probably Scottish).

If there had been a world cup through the summer then England would have done badly unless allowed to play every game at Wembley, and our failure would have been explained as being because of

a) foreign players who cheat

b) foreign refs who don’t know the rules.

Bloody foreigners. Without them we could win the world up every time.

But apart from the unchanging issue of the failure of England and the excuses given, these days its all different.   We now have a new routine and the rule is “you must always follow the routine”.   Players, clubs, journalists, and the FA rules by Sir Hardly Anyone all know the rules and play the game.

So clubs go bust, and chairman say they are “surprised” and “disappointed” by the Revenue and Customs action, and claim that they will pay the money owed as soon as they could find the jacket they left the envelope in contatining the wadge 50 euro notes they just brought into the country.

Clubs also announce the building of wonderful new stadia, and then clubs fail to build wonderful new stadia because of that pesky thing called planning permission (and the fact that they have lost their jacket containing the envelope with all those euros in it).

Take for example Tottenham Hotspur’s £400m new stadium.  Cheaper than Arsenal’s ground, more intimate than Arsenal’s ground, and opening in the summer of 2013.   Now if we pause for a second, we’ll see that it took Arsenal took 2 years six months to raise the money to build the Ems and something like 2 years six months to build it.

So if the Tiny Totts get out of their prams and everything goes according to plan on that time scale they will be ready to play on 2015.

Except for one thing.  The Ems was built on land that just had to be flattend and cleaned.  Not a nothing job but still not impossible.  The new Tiny Land (as it is to be named) is being built on an around the existing ground, with very little spare space anywhere to park a truck to take away the rubbish.

That’s a bit of a problem, because these days the police commanders and their colleagues on the council like space.  Lots of space.  All round the ground.   Space for people to move easily when the game ends.

That has been accommodated at the Ems because there was a lot of space beyond the ground, and those who want public transport generally head out in three directions (Arsenal, Finsbury Park, Highbury and Islington stations) and that separates the rush.  There are no underground stations at Tottenham.  You come out onto the High Road.

Now that is how it has been since the Tinies were in the Southern League, but it all seems to have come as a bit of a shock to the owners who claim to be “working through” the issues.

There is no planning consent yet, and without planning consent you can’t raise the money.  (Some Tiny Supporters are thinking that their man in the Bahamas might raise the dosh for them, but I think that is pushing it a bit.  He wants the new stadium and the Tinies in the Champs League so he can sell the club and cash in.  Putting his own money into the ground doesn’t really help him much.)

Here’s another way to be stupid.

If you want to wreck a football club, you separate the ownership of the club from the ownership of the ground.  Almost every club that has a separation of ownership ends up in trouble.   Crystal Palace is a fine example.  So is Southend, where apparently Sainsbury’s supermarket is keeping the club afloat as it (Southend Utd) tries to come out of administration, in order to be able to buy the land from the club at a knock down price, and then re-house Southend outside the town on a ground that is rented from Sainsbury’s.  It may be the only way out for Southend who are utterly bust, but it is surprising to see another team wanting to follow the model.

So when John Fry, chairman of Yeovil Town speaks on such a matter, we want to know what is going on.   Arsenal and Yeovil are very closely linked since it was agreed that every Arsenal player called Luke will play for Yeovil either on loan or permanently.  (Check the summer dealings if you don’t believe me).

But Mr Fry says,  “The professional advice received has indicated that it will be significantly easier to attract the appropriate investment if our property assets are separated from the football club.”

Yes that is true.   The trouble is that advice comes from men who have jackets with envelopes full of euros in their pockets – they take your land, kick you off it, and your club sinks into the mire.

But there is more…

Sheffield Wednesday are the latest club to have been issued with a winding-up order by Rev and Customs owing the taxman over half a million smackers.

The club statement is worth a further top up to the Untold Index all by itself.  Try this for size…

“Sheffield Wednesday would like to inform supporters that their club is not about to be wound up, nor is it about to enter into administration. We have been involved in dialogue with HMRC for a number of weeks. As such we have been somewhat surprised and disappointed by their decision to seek a winding up order at this time.”

OK guys, if you want to say something, at least try and write your own press release, not one copied from Cardiff City with the name of the club crossed out and your club’s name written in, in crayon.

“We will continue to work together to create the best environment possible for the club to move forward, including on-going dialogue with potential investors that will seek to secure the long term financial health of the club.”

Yeah yeah.

Einstein famously said that the best definition of insanity involved finding something that clearly doesn’t work, and then doing it again.  So I think that gives us a ranking of just about 10 out of 10 on the Untold Index of Footballing Insanity for the week.

Tony Attwood

Untold Arsenal: it’s all here

The campaign for a statue of Herbert Chapman at the Ems

Making the Arsenal – the story of Arsenal 100 years ago

12 Replies to “Football’s Guide to How to be Incredibly Stupid”

  1. Which bank would be desperate enough to give Spurs a loan? Can’t be good business.

  2. I think the years of sugar left Spuds in good shape and TBH daniel Levy seems to be reigning in Arry although he asked for 3 more signings and he thinks he will win the league LMAO.

    Football is just a mere reflection of the society we live in, the over spending culture whats that saying art imitates life and life imitates art. some people are going to have their homes repossessed for keeping up with the jones’

  3. Tony – Thanks as always for reminding us that football in England is a playground for some of the biggest contradictions in world football. Not only do we have thuggish football vs joga bonita, but English football is a laboratory for ” junk economics” currently being practiced in the UK and the US for that matter. Apart from Arsenal, which is rapidly paying down its debts and determined to live within its means, most other clubs have sold their souls to their creditors who ultimately see their real estate (the stadia) as the asset to squeeze the lifeblood out of the clubs. In the last year or so since I have followed your blog, the number of clubs that have gone bust and fallen into the hands of their creditors, has increased and there is no end in sight. Losing ownership of their ground to the creditor who eventually becomes the club’s landlord is simply financial death knell. To call this progress is junk economics. Period. End of story.

    (For those who are interested in what I mean by junk economics and its relationship to football, I suggest you check out economist Professor Michael Hudson. Here is a youtube link

  4. The Spud’s new ground is a pipe dream to keep the fans believing that Tottenham are a big club going places and competing with Arsenal. The comments about the new ground being more intimate than the Emirates were based on the supporters being closer to the pitch, sounds a great idea until you realise that under current planning laws new stadiums have to have emergency vehicle access hence the bloody great tunnel and running track area around the pitch on 3 sides. Also if you are a big club planning to build a new stadium would you not look at other clubs who have recently built new stadiums, especially ones just down the road and try to learn from any mistakes they made? Arsenal have admitted in hindsight they would have tried to get a bigger capacity so why are the Spud’s building one with a capacity of 5,000 less than the Emirates? It can’t be because they couldn’t fill it, after all they’re a huge club, biggest in London with the best supporters by a country mile.

  5. I laffd & laffd & laffd! Yet its such a shame that some supposedly normal people do not appreciate the Arsenal model!

  6. I’m sure Spurs will either get planning permission for where they are or buy some land elsewhere. Arsenal had planning permission issues with the Emirates stadium and it was an absolute age before the finance was raised.

    I’m sure the Arsenal shareholders who sold out to Kroenke or the big Uzbek did so with Arsenal in a new home and in the Champions League. So Mr Spurs is merely according to you looking to do what Arsenal shareholders did to a significant extent these past three years. It’s not a crime to say: ‘I took the club from A to B; now it is time for someone else to take it from B to C.’

    There’s nothing wrong with renting a stadium as long as it is from a reputable landlord. Are Manchester City Council fleecing MCFC? Don’t think so. They paid for the stadium and the refurb, City pay them a rent. Problem?? Only if the contract wasn’t written in a way which links the rent to the status of the club……..probably not a good idea to rent from a plc or a shark, though………..

    Other than that, what an admirable set of thoughts…

  7. No.

    “Rhys makes a fair point?”

    On a blog where the German model has been vaguely looked at, and admired.
    (Many teams rent their stadia in Germany).

    The answer, quite simply, without argument, is,


    He does not.
    No surprises there then.

    Maybe his judgement has been clouded by proximity to The Damned Utd.

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