By SC member minesadouble
Of course, it would be wrong to be naive about ENIC and Levy’s motivation. Equally, it would be unfair to accuse them of reckless greed. There are numerous so-called ‘investors’ in football who have risked (and sometimes destroyed) clubs purely in the hope of personally making a fast buck. The primary duty of a football club chairman / owner is never to risk the club. Technically, like any company, a football club belongs to its shareholders, and its directors have statutory obligations to the shareholders, creditors, employees, etc. But, morally, a football club is different to virtually every other commercial enterprise. It ‘belongs’ to its community and its fans. As many of us say; owners, directors, managers and players, all come and go. We are the only true constant.
In my opinion, Levy has made some mistakes (who hasn’t). We can argue about the manager-go-round, the treatment of Jol, the sacking of Harry, the failure to invest during January transfer windows, etc. We can even debate the rise in Levy’s remuneration from £250,000 p.a. in 2004 to currently around £2 million p.a. (still less than the likes of Gazidis, Gill and Cook earn or earned).
But what I don’t think we can do is accuse Levy of is either (i) trying to make a quick buck or (ii) taking undue risks with our club. And Joe Lewis may not have been an Abramovich or Al Mubarak but then he hasn’t been a Glazer or Gillett & Hicks either. The Bale money was reinvested not transferred to the Bahamas.
The fact is that Levy has to try and operate a commercial business in an industry that often defies commercial logic. The new FFP rules are designed to help Spurs compete with the likes of Man City and Chelsea (deeper pockets) but they actually make it harder for us to compete with United and Arsenal (higher revenues that comply with FFP rules). Spurs have basically been playing catch up since the early 1990s when the Sky money moved the goalposts but Alan Sugar got burned by Carlos Kickaball. The Nineties were our ‘lost decade’.
In 2013, Spurs revenues were £147 million, split into Match Receipts (£34m), TV & Media (£57m) and everything else in Commercial Activities (£56m). Our match receipts are much lower than United and Arsenal and are (I think) the lowest of the Top 6. Like all the Top 6, we basically play to capacity crowds in the PL every fortnight, so our annual Match Receipt revenues at WHL can only really change according to price inflation and cup success.
Although Spurs have gained from the inexorable rise in TV revenues, they do nothing to close the gap between us and other members of the Top 6, who receive slightly more. Our sponsorship revenues (shirts etc.) are rising but we still lag behind the big United and Liverpool commercial deals.
In the future, a new stadium combined with our waiting list for season tickets should enable us to compete on more equal footing (obviously, in the meantime CL qualification and successful cups runs will help too!). But for now, the unavoidable truth is that Levy only really has profitable player trading at his disposal to ‘defy financial gravity’. There is no magic wand.
And this, I believe, is the heart of the problem. Some fans want us to spend millions that we simply don’t have. We don’t generate the cash to splurge on marquee signings (and wages) and we don’t have a sugar daddy to put the money in (even if FFP rules allowed). Of course, there isn’t an absolute ‘shopping list number’ that has to be stuck to. If Schneiderlin had been available at a sensible price, we’d have bought him, but the money would have had to be found from somewhere else, now, or at least next January. And I don’t have time, even in this long article, to get into player salaries, staff costs ratios to turnover, contract amortisation, debt repayments, and the intricacies of the FFP rules. Maybe another day? Suffice to say that these are all complex factors that us fans don’t need to understand in detail but Levy and the board have to.
I will end by saying that I’m neither a staunch Levy-cheerleader nor a fierce Levy-out critic. But I do have some idea what it’s like to sit in a ‘hot seat’ and I think we could have done a lot worse. Heck, my brother’s a Leeds fan! Just go back to that list of 2006 players one more time. Now picture in your mind, say, Crouchy scoring to beat Man City 1-0 in May 2010, or Bale ordering Maicon a taxi, or our shiny new training Centre on Hotspur Way. On reflection, we have made a great deal of progress over the past decade. And I think Levy deserves his fair share of the credit.