By SC member minesadouble
So we all know how this story unfolds (up to now, anyway). To an extent, Levy pulls it off. We defy the odds and qualify for the CL twice (only to be denied once by Chelsea’s win). Levy somehow continues to juggle further improvement into our first team squad such that names like Van der Vaart, Modric and Bale replace the likes of Michael Brown and Andy Reid on lilywhite shirts. Whereas in 2006, our qualification for the secondary European competition had been a celebratory benchmark, it has since become an annual expectation that we will come at least fifth in the PL. This achievement of course brings with it the double-edged sword of mid-week European games, but sadly with nothing like the revenues (or music) that mid-week CL football provides.
But fate had another curveball to pitch at us: Manchester City. In 2006, Levy only had to focus on overhauling one of Sky’s Top 4 to reach fourth place. Leaving Everton and perhaps Villa or Newcastle aside, the structural gap down to the mid-table PL clubs was huge. But the Abu Dhabi purchase of Man City and the millions invested since has made our challenge twice as hard. Instead of overtaking just one club, Spurs now have to focus on beating two out of five (richer) clubs, just to achieve 4th place.
In the past seven years, Spurs revenues have grown from £74 million in 2006 to £103m (2007), £115m (2008), £113m (2009), £120m (2010), £163m (2011), £144m (2012) to £147 million in 2013. But in spite of this impressive growth, the absolute earnings gap between Spurs and our main rivals has remained daunting. For example, in 2011 when Spurs made a record £163 million (our CL year), the average of United, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool (without CL) was £246 million in the same year, basically still a very similar gap to 2006. Financially, our club has had 'to run hard just to stay standing still'. But as well as the above, money has had to be found to move ahead with two less visible but arguably even more important projects than either our playing squad or temporary league position.
As Levy wrote back in 2006: “The Club’s two most demanding challenges off the field have been its two longer term capital projects: the development of our Academy (and the new First Team facilities) and the Stadium.”
Seven years on, well over £100 million has been spent opening our Training Centre (£60 million) and the NDP (£35 million-plus on professional fees alone), leaving aside the time spent on the abortive Olympic Stadium bid. Although the club generates a lot of cash from its operations (tickets, TV, merchandise) it hasn’t been enough (after costs) to cover new players signed and property purchases. The shortfall has had to be bridged by making profits on sales of players, plus additional loans and shares.
The only comparable situation to ours has happened down the road, namely at the Emirates. I don’t want to write about Arsenal here but it is no coincidence that they are the other major PL club whose fans moan about transfer policy louder than ours. Football clubs are not, actually, big businesses by most standards, and they’re certainly not very profitable ones. For businesses the size of Arsenal and Spurs to take on major building projects costing hundreds of millions is a huge, high-risk undertaking. In poker terms, it is not too far from going “all in.” To be continued in Part Three.