Government’s Fan Led Review: THST written submission and next steps
Update on supporter representation at Spurs
Preparing for the return of fans from August
Club ticketing meeting – 14 July
Club atmosphere meeting – 13 July
Business and Community matters
Combatting online hate
THST Fans Survey 2021
Cycle on you Spurs and Football to Amsterdam
The Antwerp Arms
1. Government’s Fan Led Review: THST written submission and next steps
The government’s fan-led review into the way our clubs and our game is run has taken up a huge amount of our time and effort over the last few months. We submitted our written evidence at the beginning of the month, and the full submission is available for everyone to read, here. Our evidence was based on our own experience and knowledge of issues at THFC and in the wider game, Trust policy, and consultation with a number of Trust members with expertise in the field of governance who responded to our appeal for help. Our written submission followed an oral evidence session we were invited to deliver in the middle of June.
Tracey Crouch MP, who is chairing the review, issued an interim report in the form of a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on 22 July. We responded positively to that on our website, and have offered to feed into the continuing discussions.
In brief, Tracey Crouch’s letter indicates strongly that an Independent Regulator for English Football will be established, and that it will have teeth. The letter recognises a number of pressing issues facing the game and sets the ground for tackling them. It also acknowledges the shortcomings in supporter representation at club and whole-game level, and appears to embrace a number of recommendations the supporter movement is lobbying for.
The Football Supporters’ Association has also submitted detailed evidence and proposals. This document provides further evidence that what we are proposing at THFC is in line with the calls for reform across the game.
Conversation will continue between now and October, when the final report will be published. It seems likely that legislation will be required to enact some of the changes the interim letter indicates may be coming, and we are optimistic that the review chair is aware of the need to ensure the government backs the findings with appropriate action.
2. Update on supporter representation at Spurs
We submitted proposals for improving supporter representation and Club governance at THFC to the Club at the end of June, and reported on the response in point one of our June Newsletter. The week before the publication of Tracey Crouch’s interim letter was due, we received a request from the Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer to discuss the proposals we’d made in more detail. We did so, in a constructive call.
Trust members voted to call for the Club’s Executive Board to resign in the wake of the European Super League debacle. That remains our position. The Club has refused to discuss that, or to respond to calls for assurances that the £10m in fines arising from the attempt to break away from English football will not come from Club funds. If the current Board shows a willingness to properly engage, the option to revisit the vote remains open.
In the meantime, the review into governance has continued, and we have put forward proposals that we think could improve on the current structure at THFC. There are clearly differences of opinion between the Trust and the THFC Board, but we believe we would be avoiding our responsibilities to pursue change if we refused to talk about potential reform, which would include the replacement of the current Executive Board of THFC with a structure that delivers a greater level of supporter engagement and transparency.
Tracey Crouch’s interim letter has indicated a direction of travel and we have made it clear, through our conversation with the Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer, that the Club needs to recognise this reality and engage in genuine efforts to reform Club governance. We are awaiting a more formal response from the Club on next steps and welcome the fact that it has dropped its original plan to rush through reforms ahead of the review’s final recommendations in October.
The informal advisory group of Trust members with experience in corporate governance continues to monitor the situation, and we continue to welcome input from members. We remain willing to talk to the Club, the Premier League and the review about how to develop detail arising from the initial proposals.
Once there is a solid set of proposals for the future at THFC, we will put those in front of our members and seek agreement on next steps.
As part of wider work on governance issues at the Club, THST Board members Michael Green and Pete Haine conducted an investigation into the corporate structure of Tottenham Hotspur. Their report focussed on ownership, football operations and property development and was based on publicly available information; notably financial statements filed at Companies House and planning applications submitted to Haringey Council.
The Club’s structure is relatively complex but not unusual (it is similar to that of our neighbours at the other end of the High Road) with a number of subsidiaries below the main holding company level. Against wider discussions of new governance structures in football, the report shows it is necessary to ensure that any new arrangements accommodate the legal complexity of a club’s corporate structure and that fan influence is not by-passed at the subsidiary level.
The full report can be viewed on our website but will continue to be updated as further information comes to light.
3. Preparing for the return of fans from August
The new season is fast approaching, and with it the challenge of returning fans to stadiums. The situation is changing almost daily, so it has been difficult to write something that is relevant and largely up to date. This is an issue in which football definitely cannot be separated from wider considerations, but we need to emphasise that the game itself can only deal with decisions made by the government and public health authorities.
The Premier League and the Club are, of course, monitoring latest advice and policy and, as has so often been the case during the pandemic, arrangements made one day can need to be changed extensively the next. We’re aware there are lots of rumours about what may or may not happen, but we will restrict ourselves here to dealing with facts, and to indicating our preference where appropriate.
We’re not convinced how wise it is to return to full capacity when rates are rising, but we accept that now the government has lifted restrictions, people are expecting to be able to do much of what they used to and that the Club has to fall in with what is happening elsewhere. However, this does mean that as many measures as possible should be taken to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus. We would support the wearing of masks in indoor crowded areas such as toilets and parts of the concourse. We recognise making this mandatory would place a higher burden on staff who will have to enforce mask wearing and so we appeal to all supporters to help staff and other fans by wearing masks in crowded areas and respecting other people’s personal space.
We’ve spoken to contacts at the Premier League, and Trust rep Martin Cloake attended a meeting of Haringey’s Safety Advisory Group that discussed plans for the limited return of fans at pre-season games. There are extensive provisions in place to mitigate the risks of attending games, but the reality is that the return of crowds to capacity or near capacity at stadiums will involve a degree of risk. So we all need to focus on ensuring supporters have enough information to be able to make an informed decision on those risks.
Our survey results showed fans wanted reassurance that measures would be taken to reduce the chances of transmission in the stadium. Therefore, we would support the requirement to EITHER show proof of vaccination OR a negative test to be able to enter the ground. The sad reality is that there is no foolproof system to ensure people honestly report their status. So, we appeal to all fans to consider those around you and act responsibly, ensuring that you are COVID-19 negative before travelling to the game and entering the ground. The more this happens, the sooner we get back to normal.
We're aware of the debate around so-called "COVID passports" following the announcement from the Prime Minister of his plans to make full vaccination the condition of entry to venues where large crowds gather by the end of September. Having someone with a medical background on our board helps us to understand the ethical challenges as well as evaluate the health risks. The Prime Minister’s indication that a negative test will no longer be a sufficient alternative to full vaccination poses some very tricky ethical questions surrounding valid consent, which must be free from coercion. With this in mind, we would not want to see entry denied to those who were not double vaccinated as we believe this would be unethical, exclusive, and impractical. Those who are double-vaccinated can still catch and transmit the virus, for example.
We understand why the Club, in recent communications, has indicated it has to prepare for the possibility of a legal requirement for double vaccination being a condition of entry to large events. But we also think the Club and Premier League should be pushing back harder on this because of the ethical and practical issues involved. We would also like to see greater prominence given to provisions for supporters who do not have smartphones and so therefore cannot use the NHS app.
As we write this, indications are growing that the Government may soften its position, but our expectation is that requirements will not be confirmed until close to the start of the season. It’s important to emphasise again that the Club, in line with other organisers of large events, is bound by requirements set down by the government and we would urge supporters to recognise this.
At the SAG, we also drew attention to our survey findings that indicated more people would be avoiding public transport and driving to matches while the virus remained prevalent. While we recognised that the impact of matchday traffic on the local area had to be considered, we also asked for some flexibility on parking restrictions if pandemic conditions meant fewer people would use public transport to attend games. The SAG was not prepared to reconsider its attitude to matchday traffic management in current circumstances.
Finally, it’s useful to link to the FSA’s survey of fans on the return to stadiums. The findings follow the same pattern as our own, indicating a strong appetite for returning to matches but significant consideration being given to the challenges of attending games while pandemic conditions remain.
4. Club ticketing meeting – 14 July
We’d been keen to hold a ticketing meeting with the Club for several weeks so were pleased to speak with Head of Ticketing, Ian Murphy, and Supporter Liaison Officer, Levi Harris, on 14 July for an online catch up. Kat Law, Martin Cloake and Anthoulla Achilleos represented the Trust on the call.
We’d structured the session to cover off maximum areas in the minimum time and began with the return of fans next season. The Club is still awaiting updates from the Premier League around final COVID-related plans but is anticipating opening at full capacity, with a full complement of away fans for our opening match against Manchester City on Sunday 15 August. The Club will fully communicate arrangements in due course.
We then covered recent season ticket renewals and a breakdown of seats in the ground. The stadium capacity is now 62,850 in total but with seat kill across the segregation line and media requirements, the usable capacity is more around the 62,000 mark. We have 42,000 season ticket holders, 8,000 premium seats and 3,000 away fans typically, with c 7,000 tickets available for One Hotspur Members. The rest are media, partners, players and staff allocation. Renewal rates for the coming season stand at 95% for Season Ticket holders, with 500 deferrals.
In terms of seat relocations, the Club has moved c 7,500 of 9,000 applications across last summer and this summer. It intends to offer seat moves each summer in the future, where available.
Discussions moved onto the introduction of a fully digital ticketing system from August, whereby stadium access cards will no longer be in use. Instead match tickets will be activated within Google and Apple wallets on smartphones. We stressed the need for the Club to fully articulate how the digital ticketing system will work in practice, and where fans should direct any concerns. The Club agreed to share communications with us ahead of publication. We said fans without smartphones had been raising concerns and, after some discussion, were reassured issues could be properly handled on a case-by-case basis.
Providing the stadium opens at full capacity again, Ticket Exchange will open at the Club’s discretion and after Members’ on-sale dates, as was the case before COVID. Ticket Share will be fully functional as pre pandemic, also. We stressed the need to explain clearly how Ticket Share, in particular, works for those wanting to informally pass on their tickets to friends and family. It was agreed that the guidance on Ask Spurs was excellent for Ticket Share but needed better signposting as many fans were still unaware that the platform existed.
As for away ticketing, we stressed that while most fans agreed that allocating by ticketing points was the fairest method, a majority were now out of patience with the constant buying and selling on for points which undermined the entire principle of the system. Work is underway at Premier League level to trial and eventually move all away ticketing to a digital system, which would work to the same principles as the home experience. This would go a long way to eliminating the selling on of away tickets and to ironing out the malpractice that has become all too common over recent seasons.
As previously agreed, the Club confirmed it will be publicising its Sanctions and Banning Policy for ticket offences in every away match attenders email for the coming season, to make sure fans selling on or passing on tickets are aware they face an immediate deduction of 50% of ticketing points for a first offence.
Other areas covered on the call included the Gold Cup scheme - we lobbied for the Europa Conference League games to be excluded from any Gold scheme; for all Cup games next season to be kept out of categorisation; for as high a number as possible of Category C matches in the Premier League calendar to keep the entry price as low as possible for those less affluent supporters on as many occasions as possible; to review the concessionary pricing policy and particularly the cap on where concessions are permitted around the ground. We’ll update on those discussions shortly.
It was good to establish contact again and to be able to practically input into policies and processes which directly affect supporters. Next season will be one of change again, and we’ll do our best to help fans understand and get the most out of the new ticketing arrangements, as well as keeping the Ticketing team at the Club informed of any patterns, trends or key issues that require urgent attention.
Any fans with ticketing questions are encouraged to contact email@example.com in the first instance. Feel free to copy in info@THSTOfficial.com should you need our help with a particular issue.
5. Club atmosphere meeting – 13 July
Ahead of the pandemic, Club Supporter Liaison Officer Levi Harris had arranged a meeting of fans who’d been in contact regarding the atmosphere at the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. That comprised individual members and Season Ticket holders, fans running larger social media accounts and the Trust. As attention is now focussed on the return of fans to grounds at the start of the 2021/22 season, Levi was keen to reschedule the meeting in an online format with the original group of supporters, and this took place on the evening of 13 July 2021.
Kat Law represented the Trust on the call. Kat has been on the THST Board for over eight years and has worked closely with the Club to facilitate the 1882 movement, pioneered by the Fighting Cock podcast team back in 2012/13; to reintroduce the drum back into the ground in 2013/14; on two surfing flag projects (mixed memories!) and on various flag displays at both Wembley and old White Hart Lane. Also on the call alongside Levi Harris were the Club’s safety officers and head of match day entertainment, and 15 or so Spurs supporters passionate about improving the atmosphere in the new ground. Levi and the Club were keen for any initiative to come from the grassroots support in order to maintain authenticity and credibility, something the Trust has always maintained is vital.
Discussion focussed mainly on the barriers to a great atmosphere. Structural issues such as ticket pricing, concessionary policy, current standing legislation, all-seater stadia with pre-allocated seats and ground regulations featured heavily, and whilst undoubtedly valid, there is limited movement on most of those issues at present. Similarly, the mix of fans in certain areas of the ground, the churn of match-goers through Exchange and Share, the 1882 band of Premium Light seats through the heart of the South Stand and the positioning of the away fans in the North Stand also came in for criticism.
These are all points we have raised in previous meetings with the Club as potentially creating problems, and we’ve reported this in previous editions of THST News. We wish the Club had listened to us. It didn’t, so we have to deal with the situation as it is, and appeal for more members to join us more actively in future to increase the chances of the Club listening.
There was also the acceptance that fans reacted to what was being served up on pitch and when the team performed better, the fans reacted more positively. The same was also true in the reverse.
Turning to practical, quickly achievable efforts to raise the atmosphere, flag displays pre-game had a mixed response from the group, as did the use of a drum, with most feeling the biggest impact would be achieved by allowing like-minded fans to group together in a regular part of the stadium. Use of open areas such as Park Lane Square pre-match were also considered to be positive steps to creating a good atmosphere before matches.
It was agreed to revisit the idea of designating blocks for fans wanting to create a lively atmosphere for Cup games next season. A commitment to lower ticket pricing was also essential for these games, as was removing certainly Europa Conference League games from any Gold Cup scheme whereby fans would buy their regular seats by default.
Any supporters wanting to work with the Club as a more formal group were encouraged to contact Levi after the meeting to discuss plans further.
From a Trust point of view, we are always happy to lend our experience and to help articulate or amplify plans when needed, but we’re also happy to take a back seat if other fans want to advance initiatives. Kat offered as much or as little input as the rest of the group wanted moving forwards.
What was clear is that there isn’t a quick fix to long term barriers to great atmosphere, but also that when the team played well; when fans were entertained; when there was jeopardy; when the fans weren’t aggrieved about any number of controversial decisions by the Club, then the atmosphere could be electric. Just a few things to work on, then!
6. Business and Community matters
Tottenham now has its very own art gallery, situated on the site of the old Supporters’ Club in Warmington House. It’s run by long-time Spurs Season ticket holder Justin Hammond, and our own Rob White interviewed him for our website. Read Rob’s highly entertaining interview with Justin here.
Pete Haine attended a meeting of the Business and Community Liaison Group on behalf of THST. The meeting heard that The Corner Pin was due to reopen in early August; NFL UK gave a presentation on the planning for this year’s games on 10 and 17 October; and plans for pre-season games and the open training session were announced.
7. Combatting online hate
The appalling racist abuse of England players after the Euro 2020 Final sadly proves the continued need for action to tackle social media abuse in football and in society. We continue to support the campaign for the Government and social media companies to take urgent action to stop the abuse and punish those responsible.
We have used our own social media presence to endorse the campaign by the Football Supporters’ Association and to inform supporters how to report racist abuse using the hashtag #NotInOurNameNotInOurGame. The FSA is embarking on another high-profile push against online hate over the coming weeks and THST will play its part in amplifying that very important message.
Meanwhile, the Government has still not published its proposed Online Safety Bill. There are concerns that the legislation will not go far enough to tackle abuse. We support the calls for tougher action, including personal criminal sanctions against senior social media executives whose companies are repeatedly guilty of failing to take effective action against online abuse.
8. THST Fans Survey 2021
We’ve read through the thousands of responses, reviewed all of the data and we’ll be publishing the results of our largest ever survey of Spurs fans next week, ahead of the new season starting in August. There’s loads of fascinating results and themes to process; you weren’t backwards at coming forwards with your opinions! This really will be a MUST READ for fans of Tottenham Hotspur, and for the Club itself.
Keep an eye out for the results across our regular platforms.
Sales through the donation of matchday programmes have raised over £2,000 for THST charities, thanks to the generosity of our members. There have been a few recent donations, so if you’re interested in purchasing any of our extensive collection of programmes, please email Pete for a full list.
Pete also has a number of books which have also been donated. Again, he can provide a list of what is available so please email if you’re considering purchasing some Spurs literature and supporting some very worthy causes at the same time.
10. Cycle on you Spurs and Football to Amsterdam
In the May 2021 newsletter we indicated that, due to continuing uncertainties regarding international travel and specific issues around quarantining, the planned September 2021 London to Amsterdam ride has had to be postponed to June 2022. The likely dates are June 10 to 12; yet to be confirmed.
The message for now is that the Cycle On You Spurs team is still active and looking forward to the 150-mile, two-day ride. Having completed a ride around all the London league grounds two months ago, some of the team have arranged to cycle around the Isle of Wight this September on the dates of the postponed Amsterdam ride.
Currently, PCUK is communicating with all 2020/21 registered riders to ascertain numbers for 2022 and so invitations for new entrants have not yet been issued. When they open, you will be informed via our newsletter and our web page. And we will be relaunching our fundraising drive. You can keep up to date with all F2A information here.
11. The Antwerp Arms
Lockdowns and restrictions on social gatherings, not to mention the absence of football, have no doubt resulted in very few of our members visiting The Annie, the community owned pub that the Trust and a number of our Board members support as shareholders, for some time now. Of course, this has also meant no end of season BBQ or charity Spurs quiz since 2019. We continue to monitor the situation so that we can assess when these popular events can resume safely.
Meanwhile, it is good to know that The Antwerp Arms, unlike many hostelries, has survived this perilous time and has ambitious plans for the future. Since becoming North London’s first community-owned pub in 2015, The Annie has been run by a community-based management committee, together with a pub manager. It has now appointed a tenant landlord to develop the pub side of the business, allowing the committee to focus on community-related affairs.
With this recent change, the pub will be re-opening after a two-week closure on 7 August. During the closure, a kitchen fit out, cellar improvements, internal refurbishments and a planned new menu launch have been carried out.
So, be sure to come along on matchdays and meet other Trust members, some of our Cycle On You Spurs team and the new landlord, Ben Abrahams.
12. THST Forum
The forum is a great place to keep up to date with issues relating to Spurs supporters and football fans generally. This month we have been discussing a range of issues. Obviously, the Fan-Led Review of Football chaired by Tracey Crouch MP has featured strongly: the Interim Report she has produced can be found there as well as THST’s cautiously optimistic response to it. As always, we welcome your comments and feedback once you’ve read the documents. There’s also a link to our filmed Open Letter to the Board of THFC – do have a look if you haven’t seen it yet.
With the imminent return to stadia there are also threads on ticketing issues (including ticket exchange and the mooted idea of vaccine passports). There has been discussion on the vouchers received instead of the membership gift packs, and an interesting article about the issues faced by football clubs attempting to secure naming rights deals for their stadia.
We have many supporters clubs who have joined the Trust, and one, Austria Spurs, have shared an appeal asking for supporters to get involved with their anniversary celebrations.
There have also been some THFC planning proposals and developments: documents for which can be found on the Forum. We are developing some work on this area and your thoughts and contributions are both encouraged and welcomed. The plans for Whitewebbs Park Golf Course include a Women and Girls Football Academy as well as opportunities for community access, education and coaching. Plans are also on the Forum for some further development of the training ground, and pictures can be seen of the new Beavertown Pub in the Corner Pin building.
Forum members can start new discussions on off-field areas of interest and we encourage everyone to have a look, get involved and share their views.
The THST Forum is open to full and life members of the Trust. Full and life members should to apply to join through the link on our site, and set yourself up an account. We should emphasise that Trust membership alone doesn’t give you automatic access to the forum, you need to register via the link. To JOIN the Trust, please register here. To UPGRADE from free Associate Membership of the Trust to Full membership, please click here. If you’re already a Full or Life member of the Trust, click here to register for our Forum.
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