Home > Sports > football news > Tottenham gets a super-club spur

“What can I promise? Passion, real passion…" With that, Jose Mourinho entered a football club that had charmed its way to the highest reaches of English football but was now struggling to assert its right to belong. One of the most respected, and divisive, managers in modern-day football took charge of a Tottenham Hotspur that was in dire need of wins, points, direction and energy. It was also searching desperately for another thing: a compelling narrative.

Every club needs a narrative. Some more need it more, especially when they have travelled the arc that Tottenham has in the last five years. On the one hand, Mourinho’s predecessor, Mauricio Pochettino, built Tottenham from a team that routinely slotted into the fourth to sixth positions to one that contended for the top prize. On the other, the club made a big investment to make a similar leap commercially, which needs it to keep contending. Or, stay compelling.

By hiring Mourinho, one of the highest-paid managers who is also a prime-time story, it is trying to do both. Commercially, Tottenham wants to become a super-club, like a Manchester United, Manchester City, Arsenal, Chelsea or Liverpool. These clubs operate on another plane in revenues, success, player profiles, global popularity, sponsorship. They operate juggernauts that must keep rolling, on the field and off it.

Tottenham aspires to become a juggernaut and has taken strides towards that. In terms of revenues, its gap to the top English club (Manchester United) in the financial year 2010 was 58%. In the three-year period between 2014-15 and 2017-18, its revenues galloped at a compounded annual growth rate of 25%. The next best among the top six English clubs was Liverpool, with 15%.

As a result, in 2018, Tottenham had bridged the revenue gap to the top English club (still, Manchester United) to 36%. In other words, Tottenham’s 2017-18 revenues (379 million pounds) are about two-thirds of United (590 million pounds). The unstated part of Mourinho’s job would be to ensure the narrowing continues. To see it stagnate, or worse increase would be akin to Tottenham going backwards.

Under Pochettino, moving forward for Tottenham pivoted a lot around winning, while playing an exciting brand of football. In each of the last four years, the club finished in the top four in the English Premier League (EPL). Further, in each of those four years, it finished with at least 70 points, a feat it had accomplished only twice in the 15 preceding years.

Finishing in the top four in the EPL guarantees a place in the premier pan-European club competition, the Champions League, and a revenue bump. For example, according to the Uefa Club Licensing Benchmarking Report, in the financial year 2016, Tottenham received 21 million euros for being part of the Champions League. The following year, this increased to 45 million euros.

This bout of success for Pochettino and Tottenham came without breaking the bank. Tottenham has mostly shown a value for money streak in player spending. Even when it was bracketing itself with EPL’s best in performance, it wasn’t doing the same on player spending. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, its rolling 2-year average spend on new players was 18-50% lower than that of its five peers.

In 2017-18, it posted a pre-tax profit of 139 million pounds, the highest among the top six. That gave Tottenham’s owners the confidence to invest in a new stadium that could seat almost twice as many as its older one.

In 2016-17, when the club was at its older stadium, White Hart Lane, Tottenham recorded an average attendance of 31,639. In 2017-18, when it temporarily moved to Wembley while its new stadium was being built, average attendance increased to 67,953. Revenues from ticket and other in-stadium sales increased by 45 million pounds to 76 million pounds.

Tottenham’s new stadium has a seating capacity of 62,000. In 2017-18, only six clubs in Europe managed to average those many spectators per game, Tottenham being one. In building this new stadium, Tottenham has seen its debt bloat to 466 million pounds, next only to Manchester United (511 million pounds).

The fixed assets it is carrying on its books, because of the new stadium, are next to none in all of Europe. It has to make those assets sweat. That means putting people in those 62,000 seats, every matchday. To do so, it has to contend or provide a compelling narrative. Passion or not, contention or not, Mourinho will provide a narrative.

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