The recent publication of this year’s Deloitte Football Money League review was hardly met with untold worry by Tottenham Hotspur fans, but the news that the club had posted an overall loss in revenue would have certainly provoked a universal grunt of frustration.
You don’t need to have anything in the way of an economics degree to figure out why the club’s total revenue took a £19.3million hit during the 2011/12 season, with the glaring absence of Champions League football proving an inescapable demon for all connected with the club.
The frustration on missing out on another chance to dine on Europe’s most exclusive table was always going to hit the club’s bank balance as much as it left its supporters dreadfully disappointed. The doors that Champions League football opens in terms of both financial luxury and player recruitment hardly need preaching to a set of supporters who are reminded almost daily about its merits.
But it was within another statistic within Deloitte’s annual review that bears a similar level of perpetual frustration, yet an even more harmful word of caution to their long-term financial prospects.
Deloitte’s description of ‘capacity constraints at White Hart Lane’ might serve to do Spurs’ hallowed old ground something of a disservice, but as is always the case when the Football Money League is wheeled out, a glance down the road to fierce North London rivals usually tends to bring a brutal sense of perspective.
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Because although a £20.6million disparity in broadcasting income between Spurs and Arsenal can be accounted for amongst their failure to gain Champions League qualification, a staggering £54.1million difference in their matchday income, most certainly cannot.
It’s the elephant that’s been in the room for several years now in North London and after what feels like a lifetime of struggles to get their long-awaited Northumberland Development Project off the ground, talk of the new White Hart Lane has a touch of the taboos about it.
Not because fans harness anything in the way of anger towards the project; most supporters are well aware of the delicate need to attain naming rights before phase two of the development (the stadium itself) can even begin to be thought of as a reality. Yet with there being no immediate news in sight from a club who continue tend to give very little-away in regards to stadium developments, some have felt it easier to simply just put it to the back of their minds.
Although for however far your head may have been in the sand in regards to Spurs’ stadia-based woes, this latest round of financial figures should leave you with little doubt as to quite how important attaining an increased capacity stadium is to the club’s future.
Because while they might be on the same plateau of competition with Arsenal in the Premier League this season, financially, the Gunners are in a different postcode. And regardless of whether Andre Villas-Boas’ side achieve their target of qualifying for the Champions League this season, without the eventual development of White Hart Lane or the less-likely arrival of a sugar-daddy in N17, that fight to attain elite European football may become unsustainable.
There is a school of thought amongst some sections of fans that following their Uefa Champions League adventure during the 2010-11 season, that chairman Daniel Levy was hiding a nice chunk of money behind the White Hart Lane sofa for him and ENIC head-honcho Joe Lewis to sit upon.
Yet for all the lavish financial gains that their run to the quarterfinals brought to the club, it also brought its fair share of financial pain as well, primarily to the tune of a 36% increase in their wage bill from £67million to £91million. If you consider that the total of Spurs’ additional revenue as a result of their Champions League run was estimated to sit at around £37million, the hit they took in wages hardly equates to peanuts.
Should Tottenham qualify for the Champions League again next year, they will of course be able to look forward to a similar slew of riches that will fall their way, although those expecting a change in attitude from Levy towards a summer of excess on transfer fees and wages are likely to yet again feel disappointed.
The supporters know better than anyone just how volatile qualification for the Champions League may be. Some will argue that you have to speculate to accumulate and show ambition to get there in the first place. Although it’s worth noting that Chelsea harness a £170million wage bill and still finished outside the top-four last year.
Of course, they still eventually qualified for the competition. Although should that hypothetically happen to Spurs next season after splashing out on couple of big money transfers tied down to £100,000-a-week contracts, they haven’t got a Russian billionaire to balance out the books when the Champions League party reneges for another season. The point is here that while Champions League football is absolutely vital to the club in both the long and short term, it doesn’t represent a secure means of income of which to finance the sort of financial boost the club needs to take them to the next level.
As the club have proved in recent years, you don’t need a relatively gargantuan wage bill to compete for a top-four finish, yet as they continue to loose financial ground to their rivals, it’s going to become increasingly difficult to do so. Qualifying for the Champions League this season would be a massive stepping-stone en route to further success both on and off the pitch. But without securing the funding for a new stadium, the chances are their Champions League pushes are likely to become fewer and further between.
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