The summer transfer window is done and dusted for another year. As always there a number of clubs who have done very well and others who have struggled. A Deadline Day set before the start of the season saw a number of clubs rush to get business done. All eyes fell on Spurs, who were the only club yet to make a summer signing.
5.00 PM came and went and the club failed to conclude any business. They thus became the first Premier Club to sign officially zero players in the summer window and face a long, arduous campaign with a squad that looked stretched at times last least. The inquest is already underway and speculation will continue to mount about how happy the talented Mr Pochettino can be at this unpleasant eventuality.
The mood of Spurs fans is unlikely to be improved by the gloating of their fierce rivals from East London. West Ham were the antipode to Spurs this summer. Almost £90 million has been spent by The Hammers on nine new players with the likes of Felipe Anderson and Andriy Yarmelenko among the top-billed signings. Manuel Pellegrini must be as delighted, as Pochettino is frustrated.
However a look at the immediate surroundings at West Ham and Spurs will no doubt add more than an extra squeeze of bitterness to the grumblings of the North Londoners. As Spur’s construction site nears completion and their shiny new stadium takes shape, many will ask the legitimate question as to why Spurs — like Arsenal before them — have been forced into a period of financial prudence, while newly housed West Ham have shown no such restriction and are now flexing their financial muscles?
For a while, West Ham’s new home at the former Olympic Stadium was a troublesome dwelling. Fan violence marred their opening few games there, as did poor results and flat atmospheres.
Worse still, the club made the worse kind of headlines as The Guardian newspaper revealed that the East London Club was actually using tax payer’s money to fund facilities costs at the stadium, which totalled almost £2.5 million annually. Given that the club only had to find £2.5 million for rent, this effectively wrote off their annual fees.
At the time David Gold was defensive and prickly, as you would expect when faced with such public negativity:
“Without us the stadium would lose money. The suggestion we are getting the stadium rent free is categorically wrong – we are more than paying our way.”
No doubt West Ham will contribute positively, by attracting sponsors and bringing in money to Stratford. But make no mistake, this is very much a two way street. West Ham have, no doubt, reaped the financial rewards of their increased capacity and sponsors. On top of that, they only have to stump up a one off cost of £15 million towards the hefty £272 million renovations costs to turn the former athletics venue into a football ground.
Spurs should feel aggrieved
All of this is set in stark contrast to the overheads being incurred by Tottenham in their building works towards a new stadium.
The new build costs of Spurs’ new ground are set to reach an eye watering £850 million. Daniel Levy has had to divert funds to the stadium and transfer funds have dried up.
Any club in world football would be hurt by those sorts of costs and Spurs fans now face a big season having failed to invest significantly in their squad. Pochettino is trying to build something at the proud North London club. He’s the best thing to happen to Spurs in s long time, but no doubt he will be smarting over this setback.
For a smaller club, and a local rival at that, to significantly outspend you is hard to take. For that club to do so with a new stadium they’ve effectively had handed to them is outrageous and Spurs have every right to feel aggrieved.
Lower base, broad impact
In all honesty, West Ham’s splurge in spending and their shrewd appointment of Manuel Pellegrini is unlikely to prove a direct threat to Spurs this season. Yes, West Ham have strengthened and Spurs have not. World Cup fatigue could also hurt the Tottenham squad with a long campaign on the horizon.
The Hammers, though, are starting from a much lower base. A 13th place finish is almost an entire league away from Spurs, who finished in 3rd, with Champions League football once again secured. This gulf in class though does not entitle The Hammers to handouts and cushy deals.
Spurs, like their bitter rivals Arsenal before them, have built a stadium at their own cost. No doubt the upgrade will pay out dividends long term. But at least in the short term, if their spending power continues to be hurt, their status as a top four club is in danger.
Chelsea and Arsenal will not hang around; neither will the ambitious cluster of Everton, West Ham, Fulham, Leicester, and Wolves. Worse still, neither will Pochettino and half of the talented players at the club.
This is, of course, all worst case scenario stuff, but in a league where you have to spend almost £100 million just to stand still, the financial restriction of Spurs new stadium could impact for years to come.
Back 2002-3, then championship side Leicester City celebrated a return to the Premier League. A 2nd place finish and an impressive 92 point haul was a cause for jubilation for The Foxes.
However, there was a darker side to their success. They had just built a very expensive stadium; in fact, it was a ground they couldn’t afford. As they celebrated promotion, the club was actually in administration with huge debts for the time, totalling almost £40 million. They went up owing a lot of clubs considerable sums which were effectively written off.
Administration was all the rage back then. In the wake of the ITV sport deal collapsing, many club’s were in debt and were put in special measures. Leicester City, though, was deemed a case too far. Many chairmen at the time filled complaints and the FA were pressured in to serious action.
After 2002-03, a ten point deduction was brought in for club’s who went into administration, basically defaulting on their debts. It was designed to force clubs to stay within their means and also to play fair with their fellow football league members.
The steal of the century
West Ham’s stadium is clearly not as taboo as defaulting on debts. However to get a 54,000, top of the range stadium for £15 million plus a £2.5 million a year rent charge is a steal, no matter how you try to spin it. In 2016, Arsene Wenger effectively said the same thing;
“I say to West Ham: ‘Well done. You have won in the lottery and you do not need to sweat like I did for long years, and fight for every pound.”
Wenger had six years of austerity and trophy drought off the back of Arsenal’s £390 million investment in The Emirates. Spurs cannot afford likewise. No club aiming so high can. If West Ham are allowed to crack on and spend, surpassing their rivals then there may be more, less gentle, cries of foul play then Wenger’s in 2016.
Spurs, Liverpool, Arsenal, Everton, even United and Chelsea are all clubs who have either redeveloped their grounds or are looking to in the future. All of these clubs are unlikely to find a deal as favourable as the one Gold, Sullivan and Brady got in 2015.
These clubs would be within their rights to point to this deal and demand a rethink from the powers at the very top of the game.