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In response to ‘The crimes and delusion of ENIC FC’

10 min read
by The Fighting Cock

Following on from Lustdoctor’s article yesterday, Windy picks out a few important comments left by readers.

Lustdoctor's ArticleIt was difficult to read Mark Butcher (AKA The Lustdoctor)’s article ‘The crimes and delusion of ENIC FC‘ without nodding along in agreement. There’s lots to be fed up with at Tottenham Hotspur FC/Plc, and Mark’s article gave us a fairly comprehensive list.

However, I felt compelled to create this response on behalf of two people who wrote well thought-out and detailed responses to the original, as their views deserve a wider audience. The first is more a comment on modern football, the second more specific responses to questions that Mark raised of Levy’s leadership.

Amidst talk of demonstrations and the creation of ‘ENIC/Levy Out’ banners, there is certainly some food for thought here; personally, I think some people’s anger at Spurs’ current situation is snowballing due to the same rows being had day in, day out via social media. Of course, there are issues: StubHub being a key one, the Thomas Cook match packages being another. Levy should absolutely be challenged on these. But I think that demanding that he leaves the club is a grossly disproportionate challenge, especially with the below in mind.

Without further ado, I give you the responses from SniersMoregut and LookMa:

Response 1 from SniersMoregut:

A deeply troubling and emotional article whose sentiments I share, as do more people than I can ever recall. I’ve never felt such a distant disconnect from my club in over 35 years of attending. I feel far less excitement, engagement and affinity with THFC than ever before. The mistreatment of fans – as cash cows to be bled dry and extorted at every turn whilst muted and ignored by the club on issues that really matter – is extremely difficult to stomach. It’s become a very one sided abusive relationship.

However, is this just the way football is now? It’s an entertainment business, with an emphasis on the last word. It’s no longer the habitat of the wealthy indulgent benefactor – even Sheikh Mansour has significant, long-term, and very deliberate commercial objectives in his extraordinarily lavish support of City. Football is now run almost entirely as a business.

Furthermore, if we consider the tenure of ENIC in an emotion-free analysis of how we are performing as a football team – looking only at items we can measure – one can make a very different case to the one Mark so eloquently states. This is not necessarily my own view, just a different one.

They took over a middling, stagnant club that used to be “big”, but had been treading water for a decade. A club that was some way off the top table – in fact it didn’t even know where the restaurant was. A club with an average league finish over the preceding decade of 10th; also known as midtable.

A club where the playing staff mostly consisted of average Joes, home-growns or cheap semi-broken dogs. With the odd sprinkling of stardust masking the smell of the shite.
A club that spent badly and ineffectually, buying the better clubs’ cast-offs, often on the cusp of their decline. We were a bit of a joke; a non-contender, never a threat to the elite or even mentioned in the same breath. “Silly old Spurs…”.

Where are we now in comparison?

  1. We have the most expensively assembled squad in our history.
  2. We have unquestionably the best squad I’ve ever seen at Spurs – eclipsing ’81 and ’87 in depth and sheer talent. How man internationals do we own today?
  3. Between 2004 and 2007 the team gained an average of 1.50 points per league game. Between 2008 and 2012 this rose to 1.74. Between 2012 and 2013 this again rose to 1.83. Even now, 2014, it stands at 2.29 (I’ll eat my own head if it stays at that though). That is incredible and, I’d wager, unequalled by any other (non-doped) club in the country. It illustrates sustained, continuous improvement and upward progression.
  4. The last 5 years have seen us finish 5th three times, and 4th twice. Five consecutive years of finishing 5th or higher. The first time we have ever done so in our history. That kind of stability is not to be sniffed at or ignored.
  5. We have become regular challengers to the top 4 or for the top 4 depending on which journo you read

Yes, it isn’t silverware; yes, maybe we could and should have done even better. But as Mark himself states, we are a par 6th club on income, stadium and size [Note from Windy: this was certainly not the case pre-ENIC]. Hence, we and ENIC must be delivering an above par performance. Who else is?

The football landscape has changed forever; it isn’t “a working man’s game” with invisible Chairman and loyal players. This is Skyball and it’s horrible in comparison on many levels. It feels as if it isn’t for me for much longer. But I think some of that pain is perhaps being unfairly and unintentionally directed at those that are actually doing a far far better job than most. Albeit they are making some howling gaffes in the process.

Response 2 from LookMa:

I’m going to disagree with a few points.

1. “the invisible new stadium (as real as the infamous season ticket waiting list)”

The waiting list is reported by the club. And I always find it funny when people suggest that the stadium is a fantasy just because they aren’t hearing regular updates. If you believe this to be the case, you clearly have never been involved in a project of the size of the NDP. The red tape makes things significantly more difficult. If you actually read documents submitted by the club to Haringey or other government bodies its clear it’s going forward; it’s only being hindered because we are unable to progress due to red tape. We were told:

“We have advised the London Borough of Haringey on a Compulsory Purchase Order to facilitate the regeneration of North Tottenham which will involve the construction of a new football stadium for Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and much needed housing. The CPO Inquiry was held in April 2013 and the Secretary of State’s decision is anticipated in early 2014.” (via a law firm requisitioned by Haringey)

Yet people still claim nothing is happening.

2. “The lack of coherent information or explanation as regards decision making within the club has created a culture of distrust.”

How many club chairman keep fans intimately up to date on the day-to-day operations of the club? That’s the manager’s job and, no matter what he says, some won’t take his word at face value. When [Head Coach] Tim Sherwood said yesterday that he’d been offered players, people immediately commented that “I bet he’s being told to say that”. What’s the point, if people refuse to believe anything said? How many times have Arsenal kept fans intimately up to date whilst they sold their players?

3. “The delisting of the club from the Stock Exchange means nothing has to be explained. ‘Pay up or fuck off’ appears to be the underlying message.”

We were delisted to increase liquidity, which was reduced by the listing – meaning we missed almost half of our potential days from trading company shares. Our borrowing capacity is effected by use of a equity issue or using our shares as an expansion currency. Our stocks were being undervalued by AIM despite performance. Finally, regulatory costs – which weren’t a justifiable expense – would be much higher when we started building the stadium phase of the project. You can try to glean underlying messages all you like but that’s the reality.

“The 2013/14 season transfer spend also shows that Spurs, hemorrhaged of their best player Gareth Bale, should not be realistically expected to compete at the top table. (2013/14 transfer spend: 1) Man City -£92m; 2) Man Utd -£69m; 3) Chelsea -£37.5m; 4) Arsenal -£34m; 5) Liverpool -£21m; 6) Tottenham +£12.5m profit.”

Net transfer profit doesn’t equate to spending ability. How much actual cash Spurs received is completely different to the reported net profit, especially considering that most of those are reported fees. Fees are often different, and we have other expenditures which fans ignore because some don’t have to do with acquiring players. We’ve spent over £150m on capital projects over the past five or so years.

4. “Daniel Levy has become a bizarre Napoleon character and completely unaccountable since ENIC delisted the club from the stock market. A rumoured £750,000 pay rise soon followed. ”

I believe that’s partially dividend payout because for being chairman (and part-owning the club), he would benefit in other ways as well. Many seem to misunderstand what his connection to the club actually is, and consider him nothing more than a paid employee.

5. “ENIC’s hatchet approach to managers – nine in thirteen years – suggests the buck never stops with them. But they are always happy to bend their own rules if there is a fast buck to be made. ‘Out the tout’ – unless he pays ENIC twice. Perhaps we should be grateful.”

In reality, for a club our size we’re run in just about the most sensible way you can expect; the notion that Levy/Lewis are hoarding profits has no base. They put just about everything back into the club and fans making net spend arguments often leave out other expenditures like capital investments over the past five years or so which have cost us at least £150m. Inside that system there is potential to meet our goals. The problem is that the margin is incredibly thin.

Here’s the problem with managers – Levy’s biggest drawback: we’ve have lost sight just how difficult a job that is for a club like ours. Top 4 football is a lofty expectation. Many other clubs have similar lofty expectations and most never achieve them.

Just look at similarly-sized clubs around us (albeit this is a relatively subjective measurement): how many managers have they had in the same period? Not counting interims:

Manchester City – 8
Chelsea – 11
Aston Villa – 7
Liverpool – 6
Newcastle – 11
Tottenham – 9 inc Sherwood).

The common theme there is ‘not meeting the clubs’ current expectations’; in some cases lofty and in others bordering on desperate.

What would be ideal for Spurs? A manager who for accomplish the boards goal with the resources he’s given: finish in the top 4 consistently until we reach a period where we can push on for titles. How many managers in England have been able to live up to minimum expectations year in and year out? Maybe two: Ferguson and Wenger. I guess you can count Mourinho with his bags of money.

Spurs, for all intents and purposes, typically punch above our weight. Yet our goal from our fans and board is Champions League football and therein lies the problem, expectations. I’m not criticising anyone for having a minimum goal of Champions League football – I mean, that’s my minimum as well. Still, that’s very difficult. I’m tempted to call it obsession, and this is what causes the reactions which we’ve seen over the years.

Everton have hired two managers in the same space of time Levy has been Chairman. They’ve had good seasons, and a load of mediocre seasons. That’s a good example of what I’m talking about. They’ve sold big players, they’ve had a more strict budget, and still Moyes was able to stay in that job for a while because they didn’t expect much more of him considering all of the outside hindrances.

I’m sure Spurs could hire a manager who can help us finish 6th-ish every season and keep him on for years, making the occasional top 4 run. That could be us if we wanted it and we’d be fairly stable. But getting the next Ferguson or Wenger is difficult; there have been several clubs who have failed at this task the past 15 years and will continue to forever more.

My biggest issue with Levy is his record with managers, but it’s disingenuous for fans to suggest it’s easy to find a manager who can meet our goals with as thin of a margin we’ve had.

[author name=”Windy” bio=”Spurs blogger, with some focus on the youth/dev squads. You can also hear me on The Fighting Cock podcast & read my blogs for @BetfairSports & @FourFourTwo.” twitter=”WindyCOYS” avatar=”https://pbs.twimg.com/profile_images/704074888/coysman.jpg” website=”windycoys.com[/linequote]

All views and opinions expressed in this article are the views and opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of The Fighting Cock. We offer a platform for fans to commit their views to text and voice their thoughts. Football is a passionate game and as long as the views stay within the parameters of what is acceptable, we encourage people to write, get involved and share their thoughts on the mighty Tottenham Hotspur.

6 Comments

  1. spursster
    02/02/2014 @ 9:55 pm

    Actually Spurs are selling club.We can’t keep our best players which is obvious.A big club like Tottenham Hotspur should build up , step by step , but in the reality we are not too comfort club for the best players worldwide.Look at the table – Chelsea , Man City and Arsenal are far far away – bigger stadiums , huge income and off course rich owners,Don’t tell me that Levy is a Spurs fan .. neither Joe Lewis.This is just a business and it’s not about winning trophies but making a profit.Well , and the new stadium hoax… do you really think ENIC will build a new stadium ? I do not think so.
    COYS !

  2. AnythingButPenalties.com
    02/02/2014 @ 10:13 pm

    Interesting article. I have mixed feelings about ENIC. They are certainly not the worst owners, you only have to look at clubs like Leeds, Newcastle and Portsmouth to see that. We have been run fairly sensibly, we’re not flirting with bankruptcy, and yet we do spend reasonable money on players unlike say Everton.

    On the other hand StubHub has really annoyed me as someone not lucky to have a season ticket, I wrote an article about this on my blog and signed the petition. Selling our best player every year has become very frustrating, every time we seem to be getting somewhere it’s back to square one. The general transfer policy where we hold out for the best price and end up missing out is short sighted (e.g. Moutinho).

    Sacking AVB seemed premature to me but a large percentage of fans would argue it was not soon enough so here they can’t win.

  3. Jill
    03/02/2014 @ 10:27 am

    Be careful what you wish for. Look at Leeds and Newcastle. Remember George Graham and the football we played then and him binning out Ginola. Give Sherwood a chance, no I didn’t like him as a player but there are signs of hope in what he’s doing so far. Yes I feel more disconnect with the club than ever before and I’ve been going since the mid 60’s and can boast family support back to the 1901 cup final! But that, as moregut says, is the result of football becoming a business and the influence of Sky. I hate what football has become but I still love the game (sometimes) That we have been extraordinarily unlucky is also true whether lasagnagate, Capello’s resignation derailing Redknapp, missing 5th with an unprecedented points count or starting to seriously regularly challenge for 4th at the same time City changed the game. As has been said we are punching above our weight, but I could still sit down and weep at times at what MY club has become, but it’s MY club and I don’t want to see it destroyed in the way that some owners destroy clubs. So for me whatever their many shortcomings I want to stick with ENIC and Levy, better the devil you know and they are not bad devils. The club has improved under their tenure and I have to trust them to continue to improve things as the alternatives could be seriously scary.

  4. LJ_84
    03/02/2014 @ 11:28 am

    Great, perspective giving articles. Ambition and expectation are two different things. Why do a lot of Spurs fans think we’re a big and monstrous club? Because we had success under Bill Nicholson and won a lot of things in the past? The same past that included teams like Preston North End and Notts County as prestigious football league clubs. Times have very much changed and we have gone from mid table (and on a few occasions relegation material) to consistent top four challengers. Money has never been held back and every coach / manager has been given funds. Has it been spent wisely? Now that’s a different matter altogether.

    Why are fans criticising the club for selling their best players when at the end of the day money talks and it becomes untenable to keep a disgruntled player who has had his head turned. Prime example, Luka Modric. Wonderful player who is now one of the best at Real Madrid. Levy was adamant that he was not going to be sold to Chelsea and he stood his ground. Modric was never going to sign a new contract and a year later he was probably valued less as his contract had less time to run, but Levy fought tooth and nail to get the best deal for the club as at the end of the day the player wanted to leave and had started to become a disruption to others – that poison is not something you want in the club and must be cut out straight away.

    This day and age money talks. We’re not alone when it comes to selling as there will always be better teams who want our players. We’ve sold Bale, Modric, VDV, Berba, Carrick… arsenal have sold RVP, Fabregas, Clichy, nasri. UTD sold Ronaldo and they are now realising that their squad is not all that good. City and Chelsea haven’t sold that many, but doesn’t that just highlight the power of money? Loyalty is not a word that is used in football nowadays and with players like Yaya Toure earning a reported £200,000 a week salary it’s no wonder players have their pick. Spurs are in a similar boat to others. On the cusp of great things but with one eye on the reality of what football is really like in this day and age.

    • Park Lane Spurs
      03/02/2014 @ 4:51 pm

      Good points, people seem to forget it’s not a level playing field. It seems to me many fans are pissed off, mainly cause they watch too much Sky Sports News and have sadly been drawn into the modern day soap opera that they promote. Top 4 or bust they would have you believe, players will leave you, the money you won’t get, it’s the be all and end all… well, no it isn’t. These last 6 years (since Jol basically) have been great, we have finally become side that can challenge. We never were for the previous 20 years. Yes, we have been very unlucky and several times just missed out on the promised land, but I love the fact the season goes up to the final game every year now… We are contenders and we just need to make that final jump to Winners. Keep the faith lads… up the Spurs

  5. Bentleysbird
    03/02/2014 @ 4:59 pm

    We don’t punch above our weight really given our weight is 5th/6th and we’ve only bettered that twice.

    However, when you pay CL team prices for tickets and the chairman is the second highest paid in the league, I think they leave themselves open to certain expectations.

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