For those Tottenham Hotspur fans able to stomach watching Match of the Day on Saturday night, despite a disappointing 0-0 draw with Villa, they may have caught the highlights from United’s win over Burnley. Aside from seeing a lucky goal scored by a Bulgarian chap with an uncanny resemblance to Andy Garcia, viewers may have heard grumblings of discontent swell within the ‘Theatre of Dreams’. Cries of “Glazer’s out” permeate the stadium these days, and banners adorn the Stretford End, calling for an end to American ownership. In fact, Liverpool too appears fraught with anger over the state of their club. Thus, in an age of foreign ownership, with England’s biggest ‘franchises’ falling into the hands of those dreaded imperialist Americans, is it time Tottenham Hotspur fans appreciated just how good they have it with Daniel Levy as chairman, and ENIC International Ltd. owner Joe Lewis as financial backer?
On Saturday, Manchester United commemorated the 52nd anniversary of the Munich air crash at Old Trafford. This is the biggest tragedy to occur in the clubs history. The Glazer family however, did not attend. MUST (Manchester United Supporters Trust) now protest so fervently at home matches, that the owners are staying away. Nick Towle, Chair of MUST, told the Guardian,
“It is a shocking picture. These are immense amounts of money being leaked out of United to pay banks, lawyers, the Glazers themselves and interest, to pay for a takeover none of the supporters, or the United board itself, wanted.”
Along the M62, Liverpool do not find themselves in a much better position. Tom Hicks and George Gillet took out a huge loan with the Royal Bank of Scotland when they purchased the club in 2007, and still owe RBS £237million. The American’s have invested little of their own cash on player transfers over the past two seasons, and plans for a new stadium have stalled owing to the clubs huge interest payments.
Is it time then, that Tottenham Hotspur fans looked up from counting their money long enough to appreciate just how good they’ve got it? On Saturday at White Hart Lane, not only was Daniel Levy sat in his comfortable leather seat in the directors box, but so too was Joe Lewis, the man behind ENIC. Joe Lewis lives in the Bahamas, but the man voted 9th richest person in Britain in the 2009 Sunday Times Rich List, is a boy from East London, and is worth an estimated £2,800million. Daniel Levy is the chairman of ENIC and Tottenham Hotspur likewise, and despite fan’s criticism of Levy’s tenure at Spurs, a glance at Manchester United and Liverpool suddenly puts Tottenham’s previous criticisms of Essex born Daniel Levy into perspective.
The managerial structure, and appointment, employed by Levy, is probably the area most Tottenham fans take issue with. Bringing Hoddle to the club was a mistake in hindsight, but a return to Hoddle’s ‘spiritual home’ was met with universal praise when ENIC first took charge of Tottenham in 2001. However, the disastrous appointment of Jacques Santini, and the director of football calamity, will not be so easily forgotten. Certainly, Damien Comolli would not be welcome at White Hart Lane anytime soon. Further, the appointment of Juande Ramos was probably when Levy was at his lowest ebb, not so much for the decision to appoint the Spaniard, but the manner in which he did so. Tottenham officials had been spotted courting Ramos just weeks into the 2007/08 season, and the treatment of Martin Jol, a popular figure at Spurs, was deplorable. Whatever Tottenham fans thought of Jol’s managerial capabilities, it is universally accepted that he did not deserve to be the last one in the stadium to know he’d been sacked on 25 October 2007, during a home defeat to Getafe.
Daniel Levy has endured a torrent of criticism from the media for the way he treated Jol, and for installing the derided ‘director of football’ structure, which xenophobes in the British media deem a foreign concept. However, Levy and ENIC have never failed to support Tottenham financially. When Tottenham looked to be in trouble last January, millions were made available to Redknapp to ensure the clubs survival. Players have been brought to the club, whether successful or not, at great expense, and yet the club remains secure financially. Levy is desperately trying to secure Champions League football for the club, and the club hope to begin work on a new 58, 000 capacity stadium that may ensure the clubs long term ability to compete with Europe’s elite.
In short, Tottenham Hotspur fans must look at the Glazer’s, George Gillet, and Tom Hicks, and appreciate what they have in English ownership, and low level debt. Perhaps ENIC is desperate, as has been suggested, to reach the Champions League so that the club is more valuable, and the firm can sell at a profit. Perhaps that is a bridge Tottenham will have to cross when they come to it, for at present, Tottenham have owners that seem to be interested in Tottenham’s progression and growth, rather than the continued expansion of their fat American bank balances. Therefore, in an age of foreign ownership and high debt, perhaps Tottenham fans do have something to be thankful for after all.