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In Defense of Tottenham Hotspur
SunFlash 2 months ago
Manchester United, USA 17 3181

Roy Keane, the famous Manchester United captain, was reminiscing about a Premier League game against Spurs at the turn of the century. His thoughts on the situation were as follows:

“It was Tottenham at home. I thought please don’t go on about Tottenham, we all know what Tottenham is about, they are nice and tidy but we’ll fuc**** do them.

Ferguson came in and said:

"Lads, it’s Tottenham"

This line has become a popular catchphrase with those familiar with the Premier League over the last two decades. Spurs have repeatedly failed to win any competitions, with their capturing of the "Mickey Mouse" Carbaro Cup in 2008 representing their last trophy. In fact, if you remove England's secondary domestic cup from the equation, Spurs have not won a trophy since the FA Cup 30 years ago, and have not won the First Division since 1961 - 60 years ago this year.

All this has made them meme-tier for many football supporters, with bottlejobs and references to ineptitude cast in every corner of both social media and professional media. Spurs, rightly or wrongly, are the little club that couldn't.

The English perception of this is simple, Spurs are the club that are always in the discussion, but unable to close. In the 80's, 90's, 00's, 10's, and now 20's, Spurs seemed to need just one thing to go their way and they'd be able to finally take that step and become a major club. From the outside looking in, this never happened.

But to say that is to look at Spurs in isolation without taking the rest of the soccer environment into question. Spurs have been tremendously successful in staying competitive in an environment that passively dissuades and actively holds down clubs attempting to take that step. In the Premier League, we have become accustomed to seeing the artificial giants, Manchester City, Chelsea, Wolves, and so on - clubs who made themselves through foreign money and ownership. While these clubs are self-sufficient now, the start-up cost (or down payment if you like) was so high for these operations it will take decades to repay the owners for their investments. While these clubs are now at least in the top 10 every year, and often win the title, they naturally had to replace clubs without such artificial financial "doping."

We see this transition play out across all the major European leagues. Clubs such as RB Leipzig in Germany have replaced stalwarts like Schalke. West Ham and Everton, perennial contenders before the Premier League and even for the first decade of it, have fallen behind the pace and show no signs of ever catching up. Some clubs, such as Portsmouth, bet big that they could keep pace - and bankrupted themselves when those bets did not pan out.

Yet Spurs are different. For a club that does not rely as heavily on international players (and even those are mainly from the nations in England's backyard: Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, etc), continues to be owned and operated by the British, and produces a higher level of English prospect from their academy on a re-occurring basis moreso than anyone except perhaps Manchester United - they have stayed remarkable consistent in this time of otherwise massive transition. One could argue they are the perfect club for English Brexit-ers. Spurs, in effect, are run in the romantic notions of how a club should be run according to the vast majority of supporters...yet are at every turn derided for it.

Spurs have succeeded where other traditional clubs like Schalke have failed through an absolutely tremendous level of administrative management. In 2000, just before Roman Abramovich arrived on the scene and was followed a few years later by a literal Middle Eastern oil country, Spurs made a revenue on par with clubs like Schalke and Celtic. Newcastle, by comparison, made nearly a third more in revenue. In 2004, Spurs made a little more than half of Arsenal's total revenue, but through a combination of good policy in their administration and high transfer fees received for players, were beginning to have an upward trend.

At this point it is probably time to mention Daniel Levy. He has been the chairman of Spurs since 2001 and has overseen the period that I'm about to cover. He has maintained throughout his tenure a very small wage budget in comparison to other teams that had similar revenues. Wages-to-turnover are the economic device used to measure such an equation, and Spurs have consistently had the best in the league. In 2018 for example, Spurs spent 38% of their overall profit on wages. Arsenal, United, City, and Chelsea all spent between 53% (United) and 64% (Chelsea). Clubs who operated at the same "level" as Spurs, such as Everton and Leicester City, were spending 85% of their turnover on their wage bill. This means that regardless of the size of the club, Levy was making Spurs more pound-for-pound than anyone else in the league.

Levy has also been, unlike many other club executives at clubs in Spurs' position - able to keep his best players on those low wages and happy at his club. This is done through a combination of fantastic administrative man management, and also through being a total harda ss at the negotiating table. Levy has received massive transfer sums for the player he did let go, Gareth Bale, Luka Modric, and Dimitar Berbatov amongst others. Sir Alex Ferguson, described the transfer for Michael Carrick (another Levy special), as being "more painful than my hip replacement."

All of these efforts have led to Spurs, over the last financial year I have clean data for(i.e. non-covid), 2018-19, having a revenue of 521 million Euros. This is good enough for 8th in the world and is higher than that of clubs such as Chelsea, Arsenal, and Juventus. Of the clubs that performed better than Spurs, 2 were artificially doped (PSG and City), 2 benefited from hilariously unequal league TV deals (Barca and Real), 2 were clubs that won big championships are therefore collected large competition bonuses (Liverpool and Bayern), and one was Manchester United which is a huge outlier due to their innovation in the international market (there are more United supporters in India than English people in England. Outlier). Everton, a club that was more or less on par financially with Spurs at the turn of the century, made 213 million Euros, less than half of Spurs. Newcastle, who were financially better off when Levy took over, collected 178 million. Both these clubs made minimal profit due to their high wage bill (around 85%), whereas Spurs' 38% ensured they made significantly more.

However, money going into the pockets of owners (trust me as a United supporter) does not improve the club. Levy flipped this on its head when Spurs built their new 1.2 billion dollar stadium. On the surface, this looks like it hurts, but the reality is it enables Spurs to increase the value of their club (which has increased from 80 million to 1.8 billion since Levy took over) without paying tax on their ridiculous profits they make every season, something that had been a bit of a sore spot before. If Spurs maintain their current level of profit (not increase, just maintain), they'll have the whole stadium paid off in 20 years and saved hundreds of millions in taxes. Assuming the new stadium increases revenue (which it will, especially with the NFL giving millions to play games there), it could be done even faster, although Levy or whomever comes after will probably keep the debt around to lower the tax bill anyway.

The TL:DR of a very long post is this:

Supporters of European soccer in particular think Spurs is are a joke. I do not understand why one of the best managed companies I've seen in any industry, let alone European soccer where mismanagement is everywhere, should be seen in such a way.

This hasn't even mentioned the quality of their players, the development they've done (Lloris, Kane, Son, Winks, etc), or the high quality of soccer they've played. Also important is that these trends were here way before Poch. This post is less about what happened on the field, and more about what happened off it.

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Comments
Emobot7 2 months ago
458 10782

Very good share as usual, when you decide to make a post Sun. Excellent analysis and obviously true. I mean, its quite clear how amazing a club Spurs are if you take their management into consideration and analyse where they come from. Sure they haven't got any recent title yet to show up for it but considering how close they've been at time, when compared to other teams who came from similar background, I think it still show what an amazing organisation they've become.

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ashwin1729 2 months ago
Manchester United, England 10 684

Spurs are there as a business. Their chairman runs it as one. It is successful. Trophies will come with the right coach. People who believe they they are a joke, don't understand the dynamics of the business side.

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expertfootball11 2 months ago
Real Madrid, France 64 2800

Spurs aren't a joke since Pochettino came. Heck even when Son and Lloris came, or when Kane's popularity began to rise.

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Footy_watch 2 months ago Edited
Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil 5 1305

Yes they arent a joke because they have maintained their low standards and lack of success for a long time.

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Yes they arent a joke because they have maintained their low standards for a long time.

DarthFooty 2 months ago
Queens Park Rangers, United States 16 803

There are a few clubs in a perpetual holding pattern that can't see to break through for one reason or another. This tells me that either those organizations have some strong back offices as well, or perhaps someone new in those roles might help see an angle the current group is missing.

I don't have the business acumen to offer suggestions, but if you have stayed in the EPL for a consistent time, without winning any titles, you have to be doing some things right at least.

It does beg the question of how and why they have not come over that "last" hurdle though.

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SunFlash 2 months ago
Manchester United, USA 17 3181

It does beg the question of how and why they have not come over that "last" hurdle though.

I should have written my TL:DR better - the entire point of the post was to address this.

Traditionally strong teams like Spurs have faced massive new hurdles caused by the entrance of new money clubs, like City and Chelsea. Even on a smaller scale, the bottom-level Premier League clubs such as Burnley, Leicester, etc have financial staying power that eliminated the old place in the hierarchy that Spurs sat.

To have NOT tumbled down the table like Arsenal, Everton, and Newcastle is a massive hurdle in and of itself. To still be in a financial position to fight at the top without outside money is, in England at least, unheard of - even Leicester has dipped into their ownership's pockets.

Darth, your post largely hits my main gripe with those who deride Spurs, as seen through this statement in the original post:

But to say that is to look at Spurs in isolation without taking the rest of the soccer environment into question.

While looking at a Premier League table from the past few years compared to 20 years ago, Spurs appear to have not moved. But look at what happened around them! To still be there is a mind-boggling accomplishment.

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DarthFooty 2 months ago
Queens Park Rangers, United States 16 803

I did not give credit where it is due I am afraid, so apologies there. Clearly, they are doing a great job and should be a blueprint for everyone else. Sadly though, titles win the fans, trophies bring the players and having legitimate chances at those bring in talented coaching. The current player base on paper is just as good as most teams, and now they have Nuno, whom I really fancy as a coach.

Barring player loss, injuries, etc, this should be a dark horse to win the title, yet no one will give them that. If we did a predictions poll right now, how many of us would put Spurs in the top three? Top five even?

In fairness, Spurs are doing it better than anyone else, I 100% agree.

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SunFlash 2 months ago Edited
Manchester United, USA 17 3181

Barring player loss, injuries, etc, this should be a dark horse to win the title, yet no one will give them that. If we did a predictions poll right now, how many of us would put Spurs in the top three? Top five even?

I'd have them top 5 - not necessarily in the points table every year, but in the financial position to be successful. My tier list would probably be:

Tier 1: City and Chelsea (via owners), United (via marketing power)
Tier 2: Liverpool and Spurs (through lack of ownership investment) NOTE: unlike Spurs, Liverpool seem set for a decline when their manager leaves, whereas Spurs have consistently maintained their performance despite the manager, not because of him
Tier 3: Arsenal...I'm sorry but Arsenal has fallen off quite a bit in the financial world. They're spending more on wages every year, and spending more on transfers then they should be to compensate for a lack of UCL and paying off players who'd rather be elsewhere. It's what United was going through post-SAF. It's a highly negative trend that usually gets worse, not better.

No one else is really close to these six financially. To be clear, this doesn't mean Arsenal or Spurs can't win a title, it just means they have to have a significant advantage outside of their books, such as Liverpool's gengenpress/Klopp.

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Showing previous versions of this text.

Barring player loss, injuries, etc, this should be a dark horse to win the title, yet no one will give them that. If we did a predictions poll right now, how many of us would put Spurs in the top three? Top five even?

I'd have them top 5 - not necessarily in the points table every year, but in the financial position to be successful. My tier list would probably be:

Tier 1: City and Chelsea (via owners), United (via marketing power)
Tier 2: Liverpool and Spurs (through lack of ownership investment) NOTE: unlike Spurs, Liverpool seem set for a decline when their manager leaves, whereas Spurs have consistently maintained their performance despite the manager, not because of him
Tier 3: Arsenal...I'm sorry but Arsenal has fallen off quite a bit in the financial world. They're spending more on wages every year, and spending more on transfers then they should be to compensate for a lack of UCL and paying off players who'd rather be elsewhere. It's what United was going through post-SAF. It's a highly negative trend that usually gets worse, not better.

No one else is really close to these five financially. To be clear, this doesn't mean Arsenal or Spurs can't win a title, it just means they have to have a significant advantage outside of their books, such as Liverpool's gengenpress/Klopp.

quikzyyy 2 months ago
Arsenal 425 8568

Arsenal spending more on transfers then they should be

If Arsenal is spending more than we should, how much is United spending?


Since 2017: Manchester United spending: £706.21m + add Sancho & Varane to that
Since 2017: Arsenal spending: £532.30m + add Ben White to that

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SunFlash 2 months ago
Manchester United, USA 17 3181

@quik

In 2018-19, United made 764m (USD) in revenue, while Arsenal made 478m in revenue. The ongoing trend shows United as outpacing Arsenal in terms of both proportional and overall revenue year-by-year. Coupled with the fact Arsenal spends about 10% more of their revenue on wages then United does, they simply are nowhere near the financial power of United.

United spending 706m since 2017 is a significantly smaller number then Arsenal's 532m given the revenue of the two clubs over that time period. Much of the anger towards the Glazers that culminated in the "invasion" of Old Trafford prior to the derby was the recognition of this by the fanbase.

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quikzyyy 2 months ago
Arsenal 425 8568

Coupled with the fact Arsenal spends about 10% more of their revenue on wages then United does

Arsenal players annual salary 2020: £130,729,273
United players annual salary2020: £177,775,000


United spending 706m since 2017 is a significantly smaller number then Arsenal's 532m given the revenue of the two clubs over that time period.

While I agree you have much bigger buying power, it's not significantly smaller, sure you may earn 200 more millions from revenue, but you lose those 200 millions on transfers. Your club has 3rd biggest debt in football (just behind Barcelona & Tottenham) so does that really mean Arsenal is spending more than they should?

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SunFlash 2 months ago Edited
Manchester United, USA 17 3181

Arsenal players annual salary 2020: £130,729,273
United players annual salary2020: £177,775,000

Again, given the differences in revenue, according to the Premier League's own figures, this amounts to Arsenal spending 10% more of their revenue on wages compared to United.

While I agree you have much bigger buying power, it's not significantly smaller, sure you may earn 200 more millions from revenue, but you lose those 200 millions on transfers. Your club has 3rd biggest debt in football (just behind Barcelona & Tottenham) so does that really mean Arsenal is spending more than they should?

Closer to 300 million more every year. Since 2017, which was was the number you had for transfer fees, that's 300x4 which means United has 1B more revenue over that time period (2017-2021) then Arsenal. It's significantly different.

The debt is a long story that can and has been better explained by soccer journalists then I ever could. But the long story short is that it effectively doesn't matter for United's books, just an expedited way of transferring money from the club to the ownership.

EDIT: Realized I didn't properly answer the last question. Arsenal spends more on wages/transfer fees propotional to their revenue compared to the other members of the top six, and, have in the last few years, performed worse than the top six despite this. That's where the "spending more than they should" comment came from, particularly compared to Spurs who have done nearly as much and sometimes more with half the outlay. United are so ridiculous that it's really not fair to compare them financially to other English clubs.

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Showing previous versions of this text.

Arsenal players annual salary 2020: £130,729,273
United players annual salary2020: £177,775,000

Again, given the differences in revenue, according to the Premier League's own figures, this amounts to Arsenal spending 10% more of their revenue on wages compared to United.

While I agree you have much bigger buying power, it's not significantly smaller, sure you may earn 200 more millions from revenue, but you lose those 200 millions on transfers. Your club has 3rd biggest debt in football (just behind Barcelona & Tottenham) so does that really mean Arsenal is spending more than they should?

200 million more every year. Since 2017, which was was the number you had for transfer fees, that's 200x4 which means United has 800m more revenue over that time period (2017-2021) then Arsenal. It's significantly different.

The debt is a long story that can and has been better explained by soccer journalists then I ever could. But the long story short is that it effectively doesn't matter for United's books, just an expedited way of transferring money from the club to the ownership.

Arsenal players annual salary 2020: £130,729,273
United players annual salary2020: £177,775,000

Again, given the differences in revenue, according to the Premier League's own figures, this amounts to Arsenal spending 10% more of their revenue on wages compared to United.

While I agree you have much bigger buying power, it's not significantly smaller, sure you may earn 200 more millions from revenue, but you lose those 200 millions on transfers. Your club has 3rd biggest debt in football (just behind Barcelona & Tottenham) so does that really mean Arsenal is spending more than they should?

200 million more every year. Since 2017, which was was the number you had for transfer fees, that's 200x4 which means United has 800m more revenue over that time period (2017-2021) then Arsenal. It's significantly different.

The debt is a long story that can and has been better explained by soccer journalists then I ever could. But the long story short is that it effectively doesn't matter for United's books, just an expedited way of transferring money from the club to the ownership.

EDIT: Realized I didn't properly answer the last question. Arsenal spends more on wages/transfer fees propotional to their revenue compared to the other members of the top six, and, have in the last few years, performed worse than the top six despite this. That's where the "spending more than they should" comment came from, particularly compared to Spurs who have done nearly as much and sometimes more with half the outlay. United are so ridiculous that it's really not fair to compare them financially to other English clubs.

quikzyyy 2 months ago
Arsenal 425 8568

True, you're right. However I don't think we are spending more than we should. For years we had literally spend nothing and been getting top 4 constantly. Past years we have been making terrible business, not only the players we bough Mustafi, Xhaka & co. But absolutely stupid board (Hello Gazidis) giving unreal wages to players like Ozil. We spend so much on players like him and not only we didn't get anything for them in return (Ozil, Alexis) we even made the deal worse by not playing Ozil & swapping Alexis for Mkhi (you had probably similar problem with Alexis unreal wages, but he at least wanted to play football and went to Inter).

But yeah, completely agree with your points.

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expertfootball11 2 months ago Edited
Real Madrid, France 64 2800

@Footy_watch, I like how Arsenal fans who even acknowledge themselves that their club became a banter club continue to berate Spurs who often end up ranking higher than them.

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@Footy_watch, I like how Arsenal fans who even themselves that their club became a banter club continue to berate Spurs who often end up ranking higher than them.

quikzyyy 2 months ago
Arsenal 425 8568

@expertfootball11 give Spurs a trophy for finishing higher, it will be their first in 13 years.

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Footy_watch 2 months ago Edited
Paris Saint-Germain, Brazil 5 1305

Ironic username, I didnt know finishing higher than us amounted to a trophy.

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Ironic username, I didnt know finishing higher than us amounted to a trophy and who set the limit of how much history is looked at. Spurs have barely finished ahead of us.

Ironic username, I didnt know finishing higher than us amounted to a trophy and who set the limit of how much history is looked at. Spurs have rarely finished ahead of us.