What Tottenham need to do to regain the trust of supporters after new stadium debacle
No one ever thought it was going to be easy. To complete the estimated £850 million new White Hart Lane stadium by the start of the current season was always going to be a tall order. Construction projects of this magnitude are often subject to unforeseen delays and run over by several months. The club understands this and so do the fans. So no one should be surprised that Tottenham have yet to finalise a date for their opening fixture at the new stadium.
But what has upset many supporters is the way in which the news of the delays have been handled. What should be a good news story about Spurs moving into a brand new state of the art 62,000 seater stadium is in danger of becoming a bad news story that leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Here is a four-point plan that some supporters and members of the influential Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust (THST) believe the club should implement to improve relations between the club and the fans.
1. Spurs should improve their communications on the progress of the stadium
At present it feels that every piece of news about construction delays have to be dragged out of the club and that the first supporters get to hear of any problems are through rumours in the media. First it was that the Liverpool and Cardiff home games were to be played at Wembley. Then came the information that the first Champions League game was also to be switched to Wembley and that if Spurs were drawn at home in the third round of the Carabao Cup, the tie could be moved to an -- as yet unspecified -- neutral ground. Now it also appears there is confusion over the Premier League game against Manchester City due to be played at the end of October, with City unwilling to agree to a postponement and Spurs unsure if they have a ground to play on as the game is scheduled for the day after a NFL fixture at Wembley.
Drip feeding bad news creates bad feeling and generates mistrust, and many fans are beginning to wonder if Spurs will be in their new stadium by the end of the year. Supporters want the club to stop acting as if the whole episode will soon be forgotten once the stadium is complete and to treat them like grown-ups. A more confident club would have been more upfront about the risks inherent in the construction project and presented fans with a contingency plan back in the summer. It may be a bit late in the day to adopt a more transparent approach but Spurs need to regain control of the news agenda and act as if their fans matter to them.
2. Give season ticket holders back their two free cup games
In the past, season ticket holders used to get the first two home cup games thrown in for free in the price of their membership. When Spurs announced their season ticket pricing for the new stadium, supporters were horrified to discover that those two cup games were no longer included in the membership package. As a gesture of goodwill to show that the club didn't merely think of its fan base as cash cows, supporters believe that Spurs should now include the two cup games in the cost of the season ticket for the current year. After all, the changes were made on the basis that all the home games would be played in the new stadium. As Spurs have been unable to fulfil their side of the bargain, it seems only fair to revert to a pricing system that was in operation both at the old ground and last year at Wembley.
3. Spurs should be more open with the fans over the state of its finances
No final figures for the cost of the stadium have yet been published. Initially it was estimated to be in the region of £500m. Current estimates in the papers suggest costs have risen to about £850m. How that extra money is to be found has not been made public and supporters fear that there will be a knock-on effect when it comes to trying to strengthen the squad.
Pete Haine, secretary of the THST, points out that when Spurs announced its pricing structure for season tickets at the new ground -- many seats went up by 50 percent or more -- the club assured the THST the money for the new stadium was ring-fenced and that the increased revenue from tickets would all be spent on improving the quality of the squad. Despite Mauricio Pochettino's assertions at the end of last season that he would be looking to buy new players, Spurs did not acquire a single player in the transfer window. Indeed there remains the possibility of Spurs weakening their squad by selling players before the close of the European transfer window. To reassure fans that the club is not, as promised, using the extra revenue from increased ticket prices to cover overspends on the stadium and that the construction costs have not impacted on its transfer activities, Spurs need to better explain its financial situation.
4. Spurs should be more open about its away ticket allocation
This may seem a bit niche, but it matters to those fans who like to travel to away games. Depending on the size of the ground, Spurs are generally allocated between 1,500 and 3,500 away tickets which are distributed to supporters on the basis of their loyalty points. This year many fans have discovered they are no longer able to get tickets for away games that they have been regularly attending for many seasons and this is generating bad feeling among those whom Spurs should value most. The THST believes the reason there are fewer away tickets available for the most loyal supporters, is that the club is giving priority to new fans who bought Premium season tickets -- at top prices -- for the new stadium. The THST has written to the club about this -- nowhere in the details for the premium season tickets was the promise to guaranteed access to away games mentioned and the THST suspects it was an incentive latterly added as the club was having difficulty selling its premium tickets -- but has yet to receive a satisfactory answer. Spurs need to address this as a matter of urgency. The new stadium shouldn't come at the cost of excluding the most loyal fans from games they have always previously attended.