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It’s all about the Money, Money, Money.

4 Aug

You may (or probably don’t) know that by day, I am an Independent Financial Adviser. That means I have a decent grasp of money and that I think about it a lot. On the flip-side, because I deal with people’s personal circumstances (call me if you need some help or advice, I’m very good! ;-p) I’m no expert on the finances of a multi-million pound business, whether that’s football or anything else, but I do have to know something about how businesses work.

Whilst I can’t tell you much that isn’t already in the public domain, perhaps I can offer a collection of my views which may help decipher the current frustrating situation Tottenham Hotspur finds itself in.

Between a rock and a hard place

This is really the phrase which describes it all for me. We’re just too good and too big to consider accepting mid-table obscurity. A decent run in the champions league together with the fact that ever since Martin Jol managed the club we have been genuine top 4 prospects, even though, more often than not the final hurdle has been the hardest to overcome.

But football has changed. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that 20 years ago, a team making the progress we have done would continue on the same path. Throughout the 90s, despite the awful signings we made, we signed players and spent money. During the Premier League era, until Man City came along we were the 3rd highest net spenders in all the land. What a shame it is that we couldn’t find the right people to spend that money or the consistency of leadership to build a team. Beginning with Frank Arnesen’s overhaul of the squad and the progressive development from that time, we’ve continued to move forwards. It’s no co-incidence that we achieved 4th in a season with no European football and despite the pain of not achieving that feat last season, the fact we achieved 5th with the burden of Champion’s League games weighing down on the squad’s fitness and mental strength is genuinely something to be proud of, although it doesn’t feel like progress.

This season we face a Europa League campaign in which we can use the players who simply weren’t sharp last season together with youngsters who are in desperate need of top level first team action to aid their development. This season will be the litmus test for players like Jake Livermore and Andros Townsend, a chance for quick progress for youngsters like Harry Kane and the opportunity to build fitness, form and a renewed career for players like David Bentley and Jermaine Jenas (if they want it and are still at the club).

Anyway, back to finances. So what’s different today? In a word (or two), Manchester City. Without their presence in the top 4, Tottenham would more than likely have taken 4th spot for a second year running, evidencing the progress which has been made. Not only this, player prices would not be spiralling out of control at quite the same rate, making at least some of these players more attainable whilst the draw of a club consolidating its top 4 reputation would be yet stronger.

So there we have it, between the rock of our own ambition and the hard place of artificial finance introduced to Manchester City and Chelsea, we have reached an impasse.

So what can be done?

In reality, very little. We will have to accept that now Manchester City have grabbed that Champions League spot, even those players like perhaps Sergio Aguero will see a club which not only offers the money but also elite competition. Unless the wealthy benefactors leave, this is a club which is going to be consistently at the top of English Football.

Obviously, the notion of dropping our own ambition is a no-go, otherwise what are we even here for?

We could end up with a wealthy backer of our own. This is probably rather unlikely though. There is a well worn story that Roman Abramovic called on Daniel Levy before eventually pitching up at Stamford Bridge. In fact, he was apparently only initially keen on Spurs and had a romantic notion about football, which involved buying a traditional but not expensive club which he could take to success. Levy gave him short shrift and a high price and Abramovic being a shrewd operator himself, looked to the relatively successful but financially troubled West London club in blue and picked up a bargain. Why am I mentioning this? Because Levy simply isn’t interested in selling his club at anything other a high premium, having worked and invested to get the club to this stage.

Do we even want wealthy owners? I don’t! I don’t want the plastic fans that come along with it, I don’t want to be told the only reason we won a trophy is because Sheikh Oilyboots has bought it for us and knowing no matter what I say about our history and tradition that it’s actually true.

Oh and who can forget building a bigger stadium? Well Arsenal have proven it’s no quick fix, but over the long term it is of benefit. I’m most certainly not going to get into the Stratford debate though, that’s as artificial as a Sheikh to me, in fact, it’s worse, without providing anywhere near as much benefit.

We ultimately need to speculate to accumulate and now is the time to take some risks lest we be left behind again (we’ve only just started to fix the damage done by being left behind under Alan Sugar’s tenure. Dennis Bergkamp for £6m anyone?) But with things already racing away in favour of the oil baron’s we need to be shrewd. I actually think Daniel Levy is trying to achieve this and if we can leave egos at the door we might actually sign some players. Maybe.

But to be quite honest, we’re hamstrung. You can’t have morals and money in this day and age.

Financial Fair Play

This should be our salvation. Basically the purpose of this rule is to make clubs, at least financially, operate in line with their size. In many ways this is a bad thing, it means that the big stay big and the small stay small. In the olden days, this would change like the wind. Yes there were rich and poor clubs, but you wouldn’t need the second richest man in the world in order to help you. A local business-man would come along and run a club and on occasion do a very good job. As a result you’d end up with teams like Nottingham Forest winning the European Cup. Now though, even Brian Clough in his prime couldn’t manage that feat without a billion pounds behind him (no exaggeration). So we have to accept then, that the current order of things gets ‘locked in’ in order to prevent further distortion of an already un-even playing field. Ok, I will accept that, probably because my club are well run, a big(ish) name and profitable, but we all support the changes that suit us. I would even argue that a smaller club, with good management could exceed expectations, then, if it maintains that higher level will inevitably attract new fans and, over the fullness of time become a larger and richer club… (when I say the fullness of time, I concede that would be a long time).

So, why won’t these rules benefit us? They will, if they are implemented as advertised and policed in the same fashion. Of course the problem is they will not be implemented as we’ve been led to believe, because they are worded just about ambiguously enough to mean that UEFA can punish Fulham in 5 years time for financial doping if Al Fayed decides to put some of his wealth in, in order to make an example of the club. But can also completely ignore the completely ridiculous sponsorship deal struck by Manchester City with an airline owned by the same family, which does not make a profit and which couldn’t possibly derive £400m worth of commercial benefit from sponsoring Manchester City’s stadium.

Let’s be frank here. UEFA’s money-spinner is the Champion’s League. The clubs with the best, most recognisable and marketable players are those UEFA needs in this competition. There is absolutely no way that the rules will not be bent in order to allow the participation of Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid and all the other big guns regardless of their financial circumstances. Daniel Levy told me we’re the only Premier League club that meets these rules, that may have changed now, but for this reason, Financial Fair Play will not be our salvation, it will be our poisoned chalice.

1,496 words on quite a boring subject and I’m not even sure I’ve managed to get what I wanted to across. You’ll have to excuse the slightly drier tone on today’s offering too.

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