Just ENIC of time

24.12.2000

With the English National Investment Company (ENIC) buying a controlling interest in Tottenham Hotspur plc, the club enters a new era with Sir Alan Sugar taking a back seat on the board.  But will it be a new broom that sweeps as clean as some of the fans wanted ??

With the company being an investment company, it is only reasonable to assume that they will carefully monitor the profitability of their money and that would not necessarily involve throwing money at the team without any restriction.  The days of Jack Walker at Blackburn Rovers and Jack Hayward at Wolves have gone.  No more will those who have made their pile come into a football club and be willing to shell out on top price players.  Buying the title is not a route that many teams have gone down, although Blackburn did it, you should ask where are they now ??  Wolves still linger in the First Division despite spending big.  A prudent approach to the financial input to the club is what we can expect from ENIC, which will mean something not far removed from what went on under Sugar.

Where they may prove more beneficial to the club is in their marketing of the Tottenham "brand".  The club are hanging onto their media rights and this could make them a very tempting proposition for a TV/Internet company who realises that the potential for growth at the club is huge should they start to challenge regularly for the top trophies.  Just look what happened when Spurs won the "Mickey Mouse" trophy - the League Cup - in 1999.  The tie in with a media deal could see the club bring some major investment in to bolster the squad, ground and the development of the Academy.  There are also links with bookmaking that ENIC have and also in the sphere of football around the continent.  While ENIC didn't take up their share option at Glasgow Rangers, it is important to see where Spurs lie in their portfolio of football clubs.  Rangers were no doubt the top club in the ENIC collection, with the other clubs rarely in the Champions League, usually only the UEFA Cup.  Now, although the Scots Champions didn't often get too far, that didn't matter.  The important thing was that they were getting exposure.  Now that they have bought into Tottenham, after a number of years trying to do so, they are undoubtedly seeing Spurs as their "jewel in the crown" of their investments.  With this allied to the fact that Chief Executive Daniel Levy is a Spurs season ticket holder, there is a feeling that things might go in the right direction.  It remains to be seen if Save Our Spurs will give the company the time to do so.  Indeed, I heard someone comment at the Middlesbrough game that Mark Jacob should be held responsible if the new owners failed to restore the "glory days".  Now that's a bit harsh, but the constant clamour for success is all very well, but it has to be a rational approach to gaining a foothold in the successful reaches of the Premier League.  Talk of a five year plan come into line with what GG first said on his arrival and although things have occurred to slow that down (causing resentment among the fans as it has), it is a sound way of building the club up from the position it had fallen to.

Levy is certainly saying al the right things to get the fans on his side.  The club has lost it's soul, he was quoted as saying in the News of the World article on Sunday 24th December 2000.  He went on to say that the club should be about football rather than making profit and that players like Ginola were fantastic to watch, which is what the fans wanted.  He said that Tottenham should be bringing players like this to the club to promote the glorious traditions that have existed in the past and desperately wants to keep Sol Campbell, Les Ferdinand and Darren Anderton who are available on Bosman transfers at the end of the season.  The man has shown himself at the start of his involvement as a "Tottenham man", who is aware of what supporting the club is all about, which Sugar patently failed to do when he came in.  Calling them "Tottenham Hotspurs" and not knowing what the "double" was led fans to have initial suspicions which festered away over the length of his tenure.

For all Levy's brave words, he will upset many by saying that George Graham is set to remain at the club to provide some continuity, instead of the chopping and changing of managers and staff that has gone on over the last few years.  He seems to have similar aims and ambitions as Graham, who has said that he wants to bring youngsters through the system rather than splash out huge sums of money on transfers.  That must have been music to the ears of the new man, coming after GG was reported to have said that if someone gave him 50 million he could produce a title challenging team !!  The amount of investment in the team will only be raised from profits made by the company, as Sugar made clear at the AGM recently.  Therefore, the more profit made means that money could be pumped back into the team or other areas needing development.  Using their knowledge in the sporting world, it must be hoped that they can generate the sort of funds needed to make Tottenham great again.  They certainly seem to want to bring young fans in to the club and appear to realise that these are the future of the club's support.

Would it also be cautious to suggest that the new owners might be looking at moving Tottenham out of their traditional home to a place where income could be more easily generated by having a much higher capacity ??  With the National Athletics stadium going ahead in nearby Picketts Lock, Spurs could be housed in a stadium with a potential capacity of 80,000.  The arena has received money from the Sports Council of Great Britain and no doubt there will be lottery funding in there somewhere, but Tottenham could fulfill the requirement that is to be met to make sure the facility is used to it's true potential.  The idea of Saracens rugby union team moving in to make it more regularly utilised is one which appeals to locals as they were based at Enfield Football Club originally - about two miles away.  However, in terms of revenue generation, Tottenham Hotspur would be a much more attractive prospect and I am sure that having ousted Enfield FC from their own borough, the Council would have few qualms about attracting a Premier League side to bring trade into a deprived area of the borough.  The only drawback would be the transport links to the stadium.  Talk of a new railway station opposite have been mooted and there is only one main road leading to the site, but the transport questionnaire currently being run on the Spurs official website must be for some good reason - normally working out the feasibility of getting people to the ground using "sustainable means" (i.e not cars).  The only problem then would be to get planning permission to use White Hart Lane for development (offices, housing) or for Tottenham to decide what they would use it for if they decided to keep it.  If sold, it could be worth quite a lot and moving into Picketts Lock would only involve a leasing agreement; not having to own it themselves.  It might not happen, but the thought of increasing the capacity to a similar level at the present location is one which causes lots of headaches.

Rather than being of the same frame of mind as one of the "radical" elements who have been vocal around Tottenham the last few seasons, Daniel Levy appears to be a more pragmatic figure.  He realises that Tottenham have fallen along way behind, but doesn't want to go along the lines of some other clubs to regain lost glories.  His is probably a more long term plan not to get Spurs back up there, but to keep them there when they get there.  For that, his company's financial investment and the emotional investment of the fans should reap some benefit.

TONY BRENNAN

 

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