Weds 14 October 2015
Bill Nicholson Lounge, White Hart Lane Stadium
The Q4 THST Members’ Meeting was held on Wednesday evening at White Hart Lane stadium. It took on a new format as we attempted to get to grips with some of the more challenging questions we face as we move into a period that will define the relationship between the Club and its supporters.
We’re really pleased so many members turned up and gave their views. What we want to do here is pass on the detail of that discussion to more of our members, and also keep the conversation going. So please do let us have your thoughts by emailing us at info@THSTOfficial.com.
Transfer policy kicked off the evening, with Trust Board members explaining where we saw the limits of our involvement in this area, and making the point that the Club Board was never going to be utterly frank in public about good or bad buys or rumours of targets not secured. Members felt the Trust’s approach in this area was right – that our job was to explain how the fans feel about our connection to the team and that we should be supportive where required and critical where required. Being a voice for the fans and a conscience for the Club and needing to prevent the Club’s Board from separating itself from the fans were also cited as things the Trust should be and was doing.
Trust Board members made the point that members’ questions were very useful in this area, helping to show the Club the strength and detail of grass roots feeling. It was felt that the Club was communicating better in this area, and providing better and more credible explanations of transfer policy recently.
The Ground share options for the team’s season away from White Hart Lane prompted intense discussion and showed a range of views held by the members present. The possibility of playing in Milton Keynes loomed large, with some stating strong opposition to any prospect of going there, others expressing reservations, and others saying one season there wouldn’t be a problem if there was no alternative.
There was a fair degree of pragmatism on display, with an acknowledgement that if Spurs did end up at MK, the Trust would need to help negotiate the best practical deal for fans. But there was also a strong preference for staying in London if at all possible. The Trust’s position here is that we are for keeping the Club in London, and that we won’t enter into discussions about theoretical situations. The London Ground for a London Club campaign was strongly endorsed.
The Club’s comment during our recent Board to Board meeting that the deadline for deciding where we would be playing in the 2017/18 season is March 2017 was met with disbelief. Trust Board members reported they had expressed concern to the Club over the amount of work that would need to be done to implement a ground share and the time available to do this, and continue to push the point.
There was some discussion over the likelihood of playing at Wembley or the Olympic Stadium. The update on Wembley published in the Board to Board meeting minutes made sense to members, and there was little further discussion on that option. Questions were asked about whether the Club was considering the Olympic Stadium and it was explained that the situation was complex. The Trust was involved in the Olympic Stadium Coalition fan campaign, seeking to get details of the rental agreement between the London Legacy Development Corporation and West Ham United, partly because it wanted to see if the OS was potentially an option, as well as to uncover details of what looked very much like an unfair competitive advantage being given to a rival club via taxpayer subsidy. It was stressed that this was an initiative the Trust was pursuing entirely independently of the Club.
Discussion then moved to ticket prices, with the Club’s proposal to raise prices by 2% next year the focus. Trust Board members reported that on this, as on a number of other issues, the Club was citing the burden of financing the stadium build as justification. In a lengthy discussion, points made from the floor included:
• Spurs may be the only club building a stadium, but other clubs have other demands on their income streams
• Any business must apportion budgets according to need
• A club building a new ground is not a unique situation – and indeed Chelsea are embarking on a ground rebuild also
• The NFL franchise could be a way to generate additional funds, easing the pressure to raise prices
• The argument that a price increase was vital to secure funding for the stadium project didn’t seem to stack up when the total raised by a 2% increase was considered. Assuming the stadium build was a £400m project, the value of raising ST prices by 2% would be under £375,000 – less than 0.1% of the total cost.
There was a fairly even split between those who said they would be willing to pay the increase if it helped the new stadium be built and those who thought a price increase was unacceptable in view of the £5.14bn domestic TV deal. But everyone wanted more information on why they were being asked to pay more and what it would achieve.
The conversation then moved to the question of pricing policy in the new stadium, with some discontent expressed about the Club’s willingness to take participation in the recent price survey as indicating support for the prices cited – especially after it had said the figures were purely illustrative. Again, there was lengthy discussion, with many points made from the floor.
The range of points made included:
- THFC need to start demonstrating accessible pricing
- THST should run a survey to test the upper limits of pricing in the new stadium
- The new stadium is a watershed moment between the Club and fans. The design seems fan friendly. The 61,000 capacity offers the chance to attract both the wealthy and the younger fans needed to preserve the longevity of the Club
- The Club must remember its traditional fan base. These are Tottenham people. They are the long term income of the Club. THFC need to fully understand their market
- A survey of those who haven’t renewed their season tickets was suggested. The Trust pointed out that the Club did conduct ‘exit interviews’ with those giving up their tickets, but that it was unlikely to share that information
- History, heritage and atmosphere will make the new stadium. The 17k ‘kop’ end needs to be the centre of the new stadium and generate the atmosphere, and needs to be priced with those considerations in mind
- Ticket pricing is not the biggest income stream – it’s not going to service the debt
- If the Club overprices seats in the stadium, it won’t be filled regularly
It was felt the Club had one chance to get the pricing policy right. The Trust’s push for a progressive ‘stretch’ pricing policy was endorsed. There was also enthusiasm for the Trust to build its own survey to test pricing points, and for serious work to be done on drawing up a detailed, costed and viable alternative pricing policy, and to counter some of the assertions the Club is making about stadium funding. The point was made that this would require a considerable amount of work, time and expertise. The Trust Board will be contacting members with financial and market research knowledge to help with this task, and we’d encourage anyone who can help with either of these projects to contact us as soon as possible.
The meeting concluded with a few short reports about the Community and the Police and Safety work the Trust is involved in – the latter being a real success story – and also about efforts to resolve the chaotic transport situation on the train line between Liverpool Street and Enfield Town.
This was one of our most productive meetings, and we hope to have more like it in future, with an even wider range of fans represented. We are conscious that fans hold a variety of views. We try to be as representative as possible, and what was encouraging about this meeting was that most people present thought we were getting it about right – something that also came back very strongly in our end of season survey.
We want this conversation to continue as we do our work, so please do contact us with your ideas and your views. As a voluntary organisation, we may not always be able to respond as quickly as we would like, but all views are noted and we do get back to as many people as possible. We aim to be as communicative and collegiate as we want the Club to be.
It’s vital that, in the coming months, the voice of Tottenham Hotspur fans is as strong as possible, so please renew if your membership renewal is coming up, and encourage new members to join us.
16 October 2015