Tottenham Hotspur’s recent success under the stewardship of Andre Villas-Boas may have confounded the views of a fleeting majority amongst supporters, but the strides the club have made as a collective may well be going against the grain of a greater common footballing logic.
As opposed to supplanting the school of thought that merely applies to the footballing domain, Spurs’ current Premier League standing of just the two points behind second-placed Manchester City seems to contradict basic economic within this league. In its very most basic guise, those with more money will generally attain more success.
As glorious as their 2-1 win over Arsenal in yesterday’s North London derby may have been, it would still be somewhat naïve to cast the Lilywhites as a shoo-in for a top-three finish, but there’s every chance they could finish above both the Gunners and Chelsea come the end of the term in May. And if we’re adhering to the correlation between revenue and league placing, then Tottenham seem to be doing all they can to bamboozle base logic.
Indeed, although the men from N17 might currently be the third best team in England this season, in terms of revenue streams, they’re not even in the top five. They may have won the battle on the pitch against their North London rivals, but away from it, they’re soundly beaten with a near £91million disparity between their total revenue.
Finishing above Chelsea may be a more difficult task for Andre Villas-Boas’ men, but again, should they do so for the second consecutive season, they’ll be outplacing a club that generated an astonishing £117million more than themselves when all was said and done last season.
Within both examples, we’re not talking about a skewed financial imbalance triggered by the sale of the odd player here and there; both Arsenal and Chelsea are competing on different financial plateaus altogether. With the commercial behemoth of Manchester United and the petromillion-fuelled investment at Manchester City aside, even Liverpool – a team who Spurs are set to finish above for a fourth consecutive season – boasted £188.7million in total revenue in comparison to Tottenham’s mark of £144.2million.
And it’s within the side’s unremitting quest to once again qualify for the Champions League and close down the gap in revenue, that both Tottenham and its supporters are given a potent reminder of the bigger picture needed to grow in the sustained manner that they wish to do so.
Because although no one should be under any illusions as to quite how much money talks within this league, the issues that both Arsenal and Chelsea have endured in recent times suggest that bloated revenue streams count for very little if they’re not managed properly. And although there may well be a correlation between increased revenue and success, no such link exists between bloated revenues and a guarantee that a club will able to deal with such riches efficiently.
Much has been made of the way Spurs is run as a business over the last 12 months and the methods in which chairman Daniel Levy goes about steadying the financial ship. Some sections of support are certainly far too keen to lap praise upon the Essex-born businessman while others are far too overzealous in their critique. Has he made mistakes in the transfer market? Without any shadow of a doubt and the small of army of supporters happy to band about the slogan ‘in Levy we trust’ are perhaps a little blind to his faults as chairman.
Although those that exerted a desperately resigned sigh come the club’s failure to spend little more than what they recouped in transfer money during the summer, perhaps failed to see the bigger picture as to where that net transfer spend was going. The nature of their transfer spending and their late timing left a lot to be desired, but the quality of their investment hasn’t been in any doubt.
The failure to attain Champions League football last season was heralded as the doomsday scenario. There was a feeling that the ship had perhaps sailed in their push to maybe one day compete with the big boys. How would Spurs cope with an annual wage bill some £50million behind that of their North London rivals? Chelsea are only going to get stronger, surely? The answer has been emphatic.
The club’s revenue shrunk some 12% via their failure to attain Champions League football, but as well as superbly investing the money recycled in the sales – predominantly fuelled by that of Luka Modric & Rafael van der Vaart – most poignantly, their wage bill remained the same, with reports suggesting it’s remained at around a £91million annual outlay.
This isn’t to say Spurs can permanently battle with the teams at the very top of the table without furthering their income. But as much as they may have been aided by the meddling hierarchy at Stamford Bridge or the puzzling culture of regression at the Emirates, their current success owes as much to their own astute and sensible ethos of running a football club, as much as the mistakes of those around them.
If Tottenham really have long-term designs on becoming a sustainable top-four side or harness ambitions that perhaps even surpass that, the blueprint to do so isn’t some big secret. They need regular Champions League football, they need to hang on to their best players and they need a new stadium capable of generating more matchday revenue. As of yet, none of the above have been in sustained attendance.
But ultimately, the giddy progress this side has made over the last five months must serve as an important reminder that there’s more to running a club and moving forward than simply shifting up the Deloitte Football Money League. Carry on as they have been doing, however, and it won’t be long before Spurs do that as well.