Absolute Gerry Mandering

11.12.2003

Was this really a Tottenham Hotspur plc AGM ?  Where was the sharp retorts from the top table ?  Where was the short snapping replies from the Board ?  
It was so bland that anyone would have thought this was the AGM for some middle of the road company with a chequered recent history and a rocky future ahead.
Oh, it was, was it !!

[DL = Daniel Levy; DP = David Pleat; DB = David Buchler; PK = Paul Kemsley; JA = John Alexander]

OPENING STATEMENT

The opening statement by Daniel Levy was hardly inspiring, although it was meant to be.  To the best of his ability, Levy said he would try to raise the finances to take the club forward.  While the club are not set to pull out of the Lane, they said that they are keeping an eye on the possibilities, although they are still be hampered by the local difficulties in transport infrastructure.

The big news, which we all knew was coming , was that Pleat will stay in charge until the end of the season and Chris Hughton will remain as his assistant.  It was stressed that a new manager would be appointed in the summer.

New terms had been agreed with Thomson for a two year deal bringing in 5 million for the shirt sponsorship by the holiday company.

The club has also agreed to extend the deal with MNBA - their credit card partners - until 2008.

Unfortunately, Daniel Levy is not the most captivating speaker and although he was OK reading from the statement, he did not make you feel that the words he was recounting were a positive future for Tottenham Hotspur plc.

RESOLUTIONS

For the business part of the meeting (and the rest of it really), Levy handed the reins to David Buchler, who is more assured in his presentation of these matters, although often he forgot to say that motions were carried and got flustered over the proxy votes and this lead to a little confusion.

However, all the resolutions got passed by millions of votes to a couple of hundred thousand.  It is a bit of a waste of time voting, as the block votes of the board ensure anything they want to get through, gets through.  It was often noted that the same two people voted against most of the resolutions.

OTHER BUSINESS

After half an hour, we were into the Q & A session that used to be what made the AGM interesting.  Sugar's acerbic responses to questions from the floor were no doubt considered rude by some, but none the less, he was entertaining.  This lot are just happy to hear the sound of their own voice (in the case of the David Buchler Show) or content to sit there and say as little as possible (in Levy's case).  The two members of the Board who were most honest and answered questions openly were David (D.J) Pleat and Paul Kemsley - the Director who has portfolio for ground expansion and the Academy.  I will groups the answers together to reduce repetition.

Ground/Transport issues
The first question was why the club had been shilly-shallying on the Academy, losing 2 million in the process of not getting planning permission.  Kemsley said that it was nearer 1.5 million and that in no other case he had been involved in had there been such strong indications that planning permission would be given.  He said the Councillors at Epping Forest District Council had all said they would vote for the motion a week before and then at the meeting they all turned around and voted against.  However, the some of the money spent was on drawing up a state of the art blueprint for the Academy and that would be transferable to a new site in the future.  As far as the ground went, there was a 2 year master-plan that could not be revealed, but the club were in talks with the local Council and the Mayor's Office.  
"Are Spurs moving to Stratford or Wembley ?" was the next one about the stadium.  Kemsley said that it was wrong for the club to rule out any alternative ... except sharing Ashburton grove !!  Cue cheers from the audience !!  THFC had used moving away as a threat to Haringey Council when negotiating, but the club were committed to staying at White Hart Lane if the transport matters could be resolved.
The matter of the Northumberland Park tube link came up and PK said they had been talking to Transport for London and an initial report was not favourable.  The agencies involved were working with the club and making progress in the right direction.
Was it possible for the number of trains on the BR lines to be increased ?  JA said he was meeting WAGN to discuss an increase in the number of carriages on the trains on matchdays.  Haringey Council are also talking to the club about the introduction of a controlled parking zone around the ground to prevent cars parking close to the ground and forcing more people onto public transport.
One questioner had met someone at City Hall from KSS (stadium consultants) and been told the Northumberland Park report was not very well put together.  PK agreed and said the stadium's expansion would kick-starts the re-generation of the area.  Tottenham are committed to the improvement of the run-down areas around the stadium and did not expect others to contribute without the club doing so.  The regeneration would be an integrated one because you don't want to build a sporting oasis in the middle of a run-down area.  He said things were further down the line that people might think.
The size of the ground was queried and PK said that plans for a 48,000 stadium were in place, by increasing capacity in the East Stand.

Team matters
The next question was about where Tottenham were on the five-year plan.  Levy fielded the question and said that the plan was agreed with Glenn Hoddle and it was now obsolete, although there was not a new plan and the team had not gone back to square one because Glenn had left the club.  The aim is still to qualify for Europe on a regular basis starting this year.  This raised some laughs from the floor.
When the man who had supported Tottenham since 1929-30 stood up, said Tottenham had been pathetic since the inception of the PL and told David Pleat how to be a manager, we all laughed !  Pleat said that the club had failed to live up to it's traditions of the past and that the first people who could turn Spurs into a top six side would be revered.
DB was put on the spot about comments he made saying the "gap between Tottenham and Arsenal will not get any bigger" than it was two years ago and that the players attitudes were all wrong.  DP said that he believed the group of players were decent people and that they were able to be compared favourably with other PL clubs.  He said the players stop to sign autographs despite the abuse form some and that they were concentrating on results to improve the situation of the club.  When the "gap" comment was raised again, DB said his initial comment was made after two heavy defeats and the FA Cup semi final defeat of 2001.  The game at Highbury this season was a lot closer and therefore there was no demolition of our side, thus translating into a closing of the gap.  He ignored the calls from the floor about looking at the points tally of each club.
With the side playing the worst football in many a long year, Pleat answered that when he took over the side were conceding too many goals, but are now more solid and are not letting them in easily.  He felt that the group of players at the club now will go forward as well as backwards, with only the top three winning consistently.  The aim was to get one of the places between 4th and 6th to get Europe.  With shrewd buys and youngsters coming through (Campbell, Carr, King, Yeates), he thought there was a decent future and although the young stars were not going to save the team, DP thought that the management were doing their best and that was what they will be doing.
What has happened to Sergei Rebrov one member of the gathering asked.  JA said he was at Fenerbache until 24th July 2004, when his registration would return to Tottenham.
Someone wanted to know of the story about Rivaldo being offered to Spurs, with DP saying players get offered to the club every day.  He said that the club want a team that play together and not an ageing superstar who hasn't played for 15 months.  Guess that rules out a move for Rivaldo then !!
the case of Bobby Convey came up and the way it was dealt with queried, so JA explained that the criteria for players to qualify for a work permit are hard and fast.  The first application was refused and an appeals procedure was set up for case like George Weah where his team were outside the top 75 in FIFA rankings, but he was a world class player.  Unfortunately, Tottenham thought that they had a decent case, but the Home Office turned it down as they thought Convey would not have an immediate impact on the PL.
With the January transfer window coming up, would any dealings jeopardize the arrival of a manager in the summer ?  DP said that players knew their contract status and that so did other clubs.  Some players were being watched and he said that they would be trying to set up deals which would not affect the new manager when he came in.  He did not expect a lot of change during the January transfer window.
Stephen Carr's contract situation came up and the fact that he has 18 months to run on it.  DP said that Carr was playing competently and confidently and that they would continue to talk to him about signing on, but if he didn't they wouldn't vilify him.  DP said that he was not worrying about one player, as we had Stephen Kelly and Philip Ifil to come in and replace Carr if he left, despite the questioner referring to 18 million lost on the free departure of the previous Bosman case at the club.  DP said that the club would put a value on each player and try to maximise that for the benefit of the club. 
Jonathan Blondel's situation was asked about and DP said he had trained in the morning and had been offered the chance to go to Burnley on loan to get some first team experience, but he preferred to stay and they couldn't make him go.  Pleat said he was a player with potential, but was not strong for the PL, although one day would make a very good player.
Once more the clearance of deadwood was requested and DP said that a lot of the players who were brought in to bring instant success were going to be out of contract in the summer and therefore, the club was in a good position to clear out established players and the team would acquire a younger, more athletic look for the new manager to take over.

Ticketing
Someone too k his three month baby into the ground and had to pay full price for a seat and JA confirmed that because of the licensing laws and Health and Safety, each person going into the ground had to have a seat.

Kits
Someone asked if the number of kits produced since Kappa was to continue and Levy said there was still 2.5 years to run on their contract, so the same number of kits would be produced in that time as had been already.  DL said that this was no more nor less than other PL clubs.

Bill Nicholson
DP told the audience that Bill Nicholson was not at the meeting, but his wife had been unwell and he had been under the weather too.  However, Pleat assured us that Sir Bill was OK.

Director of Football
One shareholder said why is there a DoF when there has been no success for six years.  Levy took the question and said that DP had his utmost support and that he would still be in that post after the coming summer.

New manager
While the club were looking for a competent and experienced manager, would they clash with the DoF ?  Levy said that the board always acted in the best interests of the club and 30 managers had applied to be Hoddle's replacement without the post being advertised; some very experienced and well known.  Almost all clubs abroad have a DoF post of some nature and they manage without any more conflict than you would expect in any company, the chairman told the floor.
The Board were asked whether they had a manager in mind and if, for whatever reason, he decided he did not want to come in the summer, that a Plan B was in place.  DL was quite categorical that he knew who he wanted and that yes, there was a Plan B in place.  Someone mentioned Celtic getting knocked out of the Champions League last night and there were wry smiles around the whole room.
It was asked why Hoddle was given 12 million in the summer and then sacked after 6 games.  The bard felt that they wanted to give Hoddle the chance to turn around the poor results from January to May and felt that things had not got better in the opening stages of the season.  While they all wanted Hoddle to do well for the club, they felt that a change was necessary.

Money
The papers had claimed that the board were to raise a 75 million bond to pay off debts, but how true was this ?  Levy said it was not true at all.
The inevitable question arose about Roman Abramovich talking to Tottenham before buying Chelsea and DL answered that at no time have parties or representatives approached Tottenham about buying the club.  When asked about Joe Lewis putting money into the club, DL said that Spurs were the second biggest spenders behind Chelsea in the summer and that while Lewis was a "supportive investor", he intmated that we should not expect him to do an Abramovich.
Pk answered one question about why are the club concentrating on how many toilets there are, by saying the club had spent more money than Arsenal during the 1990s, but it was not spent wisely.  There is a balance between getting things right on the pitch and off it and that was the way successful clubs progress.
ENIC's holding in Vicenza was questioned, as it had been reported that they had withdrawn from that club, but DL said they still were involved at Vicenza and were committed to Spurs.
Was Daniel Levy involved in the EU review of the Sky TV deal and DL said he was nto, as the PL Chief Executive was handling it.  If TV rights were broken up for each club to sell, then some would miss out, while a few would prosper, leaving the price obtained by clubs becoming much less than the collective agreement.  The PL were together with the clubs on saying this was the best deal for all.
DB stated at one stage that a 75 million securitisaton deal had been made against future season ticket sales and this was for capital projects and not for players.
A Daily Mail article had said that a 15 million bond was to be put to the AGM, but DL said that he had neevr spoken to the Mail and the story was untrue.

 

They were the main points raised and answered during the meeting.  For much of the time, David Buchler, who is an artist at this, tried to deflect the attention of the audience by answering a different question or by throwing people off the scent by praising the questioner to make them forget what they had been talking about.  For much of the meeting, the answers that were given could have been predicted beforehand.  But the feeling I was left with more than anything (and the blank spaces on my notebook confirmed this) was that some of the question were just not answered.  

There were truly more questions than answers !!

WYART LANE

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