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Nov 5, 2008

Olympic frustration for Spurs

Daniel Levy and the Tottenham Hotspur board could be forgiven for being more than just a little annoyed with the International Olympic Committee.

On the same day last week that the Spurs chairman announced plans for a new 60,000-seat stadium to replace White Hart Lane, the IOC performed a totally unexpected and astonishing U-turn which could end up costing Spurs a lot more than the £44 million it has already.

With London set to host the 2012 Olympics a centrepiece stadium is being constructed in Stratford, a district of east London a little more than five miles from White Hart Lane.

For years football clubs like Spurs, West Ham United and even lower league sides like Leyton Orient have cast covetous looks in the direction of Stratford, hoping that they could become the new tenants of a new Olympic stadium after the conclusion of the games.

However, there was one rather large stumbling block; an IOC stipulation that the main Olympic venue must have an athletics legacy, meaning the stadium could not be handed to a football club once the Olympic flame was doused. That was the IOC's position, everyone knew it and it was there for all to see.

That was until IOC president Jacques Rogge spectacularly backtracked and said the most important thing was that the stadium was used in some sporting capacity and not left to become an expensive white elephant.

It should have been music to the ears of the Spurs board, had they not been simultaneously revealing that the club had spent five years buying and taking options over property around White Hart Lane, including ''almost 60 separate property transactions, including 40 residential and potentially 160 commercial properties at a commitment of £44 million.''

The IOC's decision must be excruciating for Tottenham. Of course, moving into the Olympic stadium would not exactly be cheap, but it would surely be more cost effective than the massive expense of actually building a stadium once added to the £44 million Spurs have already incurred to this point.

Forget the financial implication of the IOC's volte face, the key frustration for Spurs must be that they made an important decision whilst under the impression that all the variables were set.

That previously immoveable objects have now been shifted has denied the club an option that could have saved them lot of money.


Another week, another Premier League club linked with a takeover. This time it's Portsmouth, just two years after the tub thumping arrival of Alexandre Gaydamak and the hope that the billionaire's son would turn Pompey into the south coast's answer to Chelsea.

Gaydamak is apparently unwilling to service the club's debts, which are estimated at being anywhere from £30 million to £60 million, and is hoping to attract someone happy to part with £40 million for the right to inherit hearty debts, a crumbling stadium and an unproven manager.

The 32-year-old bought the club in 2006 for £32 million, meaning that if anyone meets his asking price he'll walk away with a rather nice £8 million in profit. Not bad for two years work, which included an FA Cup victory.

One man who won't be replacing Gaydamak at the Fratton Park helm, according to the UK's Observer, is Europe's richest man, Ukrainian Rinat Akhmetov.

Akhmetov, who made his estimated $30 billion fortune in mining and metallurgy and is already president of Champions League regulars Shakhtar Donetsk, wasted no time in politely declining the invitation when approached over becoming the Premier League's latest foreign sugar daddy.

While Portsmouth have also been linked with a consortium of South African businessmen - who in turn have also been linked with Fulham and Charlton Athletic - the man to watch could be Pini Zahavi, the Israeli super agent and all round football king-maker.

Zahavi, who has close ties with Portsmouth having played a role in Gaydamak's takeover from Milan Mandaric, is thought to be putting together a consortium of his own.


It seems the credit crunch is not biting at Old Trafford after the reigning Premier League and European Champions blotted the ink dry on their fourth new sponsorship contract of the year.

Swiss watchmaker Hublot have agreed a three-year deal to join Budweiser, the Seoul Metropolitan Government and Saudi Telecom as partners who have bought the right to be associated Manchester United.

But before United fans get too carried away there are concerns, particularly over American International Group, the club's main shirt sponsor who are three-quarters of the way through a four-year deal worth £19-million-a-year.

Given that AIG, once regarded as one of the most prestigious financial institutions in the world, have received a staggering $123 billion in emerging lending from the US Federal Reserve it is almost inconceivable that the company will seek to renew their deal, leaving United on the hunt for a replacement for the 2010/11 season.

As you might expect United chief executive David Gill is putting a positive spin on the situation, arguing: ''There are still some very successful, profitable, growing companies around the world.

''Football is global, Manchester United is global. We have to demonstrate, to one company effectively, what the value of being on our shirt is. We are very confident we can do that because we truly believe the shirt of Manchester United is worth a lot of money.''

A very calm assessment of the situation but, while Gill makes salient points, the fact remains that in the current economic climate the only thing that will ensure the money keeps coming in is success on the pitch, and even then matching the level of the AIG deal is a big ask.

But with debts in excess of £600 million United cannot afford a reduction in revenues.

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