THST on restarting the season
How to watch the rest of the 2019/20 campaign
Club ‘Behind Closed Doors’ initiatives
Haringey Safety Advisory Group Meeting – 15 June
FSA virtual meeting with the Premier League – 9 June
THFC and the Covid Corporate Financing Facility
Commemorating Walter Tull
Final Meals for the NHS total
Football to Amsterdam 2020 cancelled
Wingate and Finchley crowdfunder appeal
The major event since our last newsletter has been the return of our team to action, alongside others in the Premier League. Although this has been flagged as “football is back”, in reality only football matches at the top levels are back, and in very different circumstances to normal. We think it’s important to remember we are part of a national pyramid, especially as the game as a whole faces real challenges in the future.
We issued a statement outlining our views on the restart just ahead of the Club’s game against Manchester United, and covered how we’d tried to ensure the fan perspective was included in planning.
We also asked the Club to mark those fans who it knew had passed away during the break in the season, and drew attention to an initiative at Spanish Club Deportivo Leganes whereby shirts were laid on the seats of Season Ticket holders lost to the pandemic. We were pleased to see this was was adopted. We know the Club has made real efforts to contact and express condolences to our supporters who have experienced hard times and bereavements, and we know that’s been really appreciated.
Fans did not gather or cause problems at our stadium while the first two games were played during a period when social distancing and lockdown measures were still fully place. As we said, football fans are a wide cross-section of the public which had for the most part observed advice during lockdown to avoid spreading the virus. As the situation continues to change, we must all remain mindful that public health is our primary consideration.
2. How to watch the rest of the 2019/20 campaign
With TV the only option for fans to watch their team in action, we published an FAQ piece after our game against West Ham United. We felt the Premier League itself could and should have done more to get information out to fans, especially those who don’t normally have cable TV subscriptions, and we were receiving a growing number of questions. So we hope our short piece proved useful. We’ll continue to update via our website.
3. Club ‘Behind Closed Doors’ initiatives
The Club’s Supporter Liaison Officer and Head of Marketing contacted us ahead of the restart to discuss a number of initiatives being considered for the games to be played behind closed doors. We thank the Club for seeking supporters’ views.
They explained that the Premier League was keen for some visual uniformity throughout the division so the lower tiers of every ground were to be wrapped in a vinyl covering. This would feature commercial sponsorship and Premier League branding, but also club-specific messaging. We were asked what we thought should be included and recommended several club specific quotes and slogans such as Can’t Smile Without You. Both the Trust and the Club were keen things didn’t look entirely corporate, and we discussed how to get real fan flags into the stadium. This has proved to be a successful initiative.
We were interested and encouraged to hear that the players had mentioned how encouraging they found the homemade fan banners, particularly at away games, and that they were something the squad always looked out for. Your support really does make a difference.
There was also some discussion on how to bring the audience watching at home closer to the match day experience. We explained our position was that any measure to enhance the viewing experience of fans watching at home was fine, but that we didn’t support anything that attempted to replicate the presence of fans in stadiums. We thought plans to show fans via Zoom on big screens celebrating goals was particularly cringeworthy, but this seems to have been adopted across the division anyway.
We also discussed how to acknowledge those fans who hadn’t missed a game live for many years, and for whom not being able to be in the stadium when Spurs played would be a particularly tough blow. We acknowledged the commitment of that band of dedicated fans in our statement.
One final word here on goal music. As controversial as ever, the Club has elected to play music each time a Spurs goal is scored. For those asking, the track is Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400. We were informed that the players had requested goal music as an alternative to silence after scoring for the duration without fans inside grounds. We have been assured that this isn’t something the Club would consider once fans are back in the stadium. We thought it would be wise to put this on record for future reference!
4. Haringey Safety Advisory Group Meeting – 15 June
Trust rep Martin Cloake attended a virtual meeting of Haringey’s Safety Advisory Group on 15 June. As always, there’s a large amount of operational information discussed at these meetings, much of which is confidential.
Our job as Trust reps is to provide a supporter voice, and in the run-up to the meeting we’d submitted a paper to the group stressing the view that any fan messaging should be based on a public health rather than a public order approach. This was understood. We also asked that we be fully involved in discussions around any phased return of fans to the stadium.
We want to put on record our appreciation of the tremendous amount of hard work put in by staff at the Club, in public authorities and in the emergency services to stage games in the most challenging circumstances.
5. FSA virtual meeting with the Premier League – 9 June
Trust co-chairs Katrina Law and Martin Cloake attended a virtual conference of Premier League club fan reps convened by the Football Supporters Association on 9 June. FSA Chief Executive Kevin Miles opened with an update on discussions that had gone on over the months since the season was halted. It’s more useful here for us to focus on plans going forward, but it’s worth mentioning that the position THST took on the restart and on not artificially replicating the presence of crowds in stadiums was in line with reps from other club supporter groups.
We discussed what is looking likely to be a phased return of fans to games next season, and it’s fairly obvious this will present a lot of logistical challenges. Some fan groups are taking the position of “none back until we’re all back”, but the broad consensus is that we need to make a phased return work as well as possible as part of a move back to full attendance. The position throughout the crisis has been based on public health first, and that won’t change. But we need to hear much more about how a phased return will be organised and managed, and we need more assurance that fan reps will be properly involved. That involvement needs to cover not only what happens inside grounds, but what happens around and on the way to them.
There was some detailed discussion on ticketing policies for next season if a phased return was undertaken. How could we ensure those fans unable to attend for health reasons until a vaccine is made available did not lose out on loyalty schemes, for example? Would it be possible to offer season ticket sabbaticals for fans in this position? How could we stop clubs penalising fans who had to ask for refunds?
THST’s reps led a strong push to lobby the Premier League to at least make recommendations for minimum standards of customer care across the league. There was some hesitation because of the practical challenges in enforcing any recommendations, and because of the Premier League’s traditional antipathy to telling its members what to do in their businesses. We felt an approach that prioritises customer service from a brand management perspective was something the PL should consider. Marketing buzzspeak maybe, but we have to communicate in a language they understand. A subgroup has been established to work up a Fans Charter to try to gather support for minimum standards during any phased return.
Premier League Executive Director Bill Bush then joined the meeting and outlined the organisation’s position on restarting. He was keen to emphasise that despite the popular perception, the Premier League itself wasn’t a cash rich organisation, it operated on a “cash in, cash out” basis and that a major financial hit would cause it problems. It’s a professional sports business, with all the economic realities that come with it. He said the consequences of not restarting, and not getting next season started, were extremely serious.
Bill recognised some may find this hard to believe and offered to open up the books for fan reps to see what he meant. THST is among the fan groups to have taken up this offer, and our finance expert Michael Green is on a small working group with other reps who are setting up a process.
Referring to concerns around supporters gathering outside stadia, Bill explained the Premier League shared the view that fans should not automatically be considered a problem and had lobbied strongly against those arguing for a public order first approach. He also outlined the organisation’s preference for sporting merit to feature as strongly as possible in the conclusion of this season.
6. THFC and the Covid Corporate Financing Facility
On 4 June, THFC announced it had been given approval to access the Government’s Covid Corporate Financial Facility (CCFF).
It says this will give the Club financial flexibility and additional working capital - particularly as it is unclear how long it may be before spectators are allowed back at live events. The Club considers this prudent management, ensuring it can continue on a self-sustaining commercial basis.
We always believe fans should be fully informed about how the business side of the Club is being conducted, and we recognised that, after the outcry over the Club’s early access to the government’s furlough scheme, there would be greater interest in this announcement than usual.
Our corporate finance expert, Michael Green, took a look at it for us.
The CCFF is unlike other Covid-19 support measures in that it’s not a grant. It’s a commercial scheme issued at commercial rates for established businesses that meet set criteria. The Government will earn interest from these fully repayable loans. It’s not a public money grant.
The paper issued to TH Stadium Limited is for £175m and the Club say it will be repaid by managing cash reserves. Issuers under the CCFF may be required to commit to restraint on their capital distributions and on senior pay.
So, the Club is using a loan underwritten by the government to ease cash flow problems caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
The loans are cheaper debt than a commercially available loan because they are underwritten by the government, which is able to access cheaper debt because as a government is less of a risk to lend to. They are payable back over two years at a rate which does not come at a cost to the taxpayer.
Does the Club have a cash flow problem? Undoubtedly - just like every club, because it is unable to stage live games and it is having to forgo at least some of the TV money (although not as much as we were at first led to believe). There are strict conditions attached, and the Club meets them because it hasn’t paid a dividend and the Board has taken pay cuts.
Our view is that accessing a scheme for which the Club is eligible to protect the short-term future of the Club is a sensible move. As owners, they would probably be negligent not to explore such options given the current circumstances. Our priority is for the Club to be here for us to support after the pandemic has passed, and for its staff to still have jobs.
We would have liked more information on how the Club proposes to use the money so we could make a more informed judgement. The Club chose not to provide that information, so we can only really comment on whether in general accessing the scheme seems appropriate.
We’re glad, however, that an increasing number of people within the game now seem to be agreeing that football should not be left entirely to the mercy of the free market.
7. Commemorating Walter Tull
We’ve had quite a few calls for the Club to commemorate Walter Tull since the issue of representing the full spectrum of our country’s history has become the subject of a national conversation. So we thought it would be useful to gather some information here.
Tull was the first black outfield player to appear in the top flight of English football, signed at the age of 21 from Clapton FC in 1909. At the time, he was the only black professional footballer out of 600 professional players in the English leagues. In 1908 he’d helped Clapton win the FA Amateur Cup, London County Amateur Cup and London Senior Cup and was described as “the catch of the season” by the press when Spurs swooped.
He played for Spurs on the Club’s pre-season tour of Latin America in the summer of 1909 and went on to make 10 first-team appearances before being dropped to the reserves where he played a further 27 games. He was signed by Northampton Town in 1911 and went on to play 110 times for them.
In 1914 he was on the verge of a transfer to Glasgow Rangers when war broke out. He joined the Football Battalion of the British Army and reached the rank of Lieutenant, becoming the first black officer in the British Army. He was killed in action at the Second Battle of the Somme on 25 March 1918. His body was never found.
Tull’s name is on war memorials in Dover and Folkestone, where he was born in 1888, and on the Arras memorial in France, which commemorates the 34,785 soldiers who died in that sector and have no known grave.
Within the game of football, Tull is primarily recognised as a Northampton Town player, having made the majority of his appearances for the Cobblers. In 1999, a memorial wall for Tull was unveiled in the garden of remembrance behind the club’s Sixfields Stadium, and a road and a pub near the ground also bear the player’s name.
In 2007, local residents in Tottenham chose Tull as one of three local heroes to be commemorated in a metal sculptural portrait in Downhills Park, and Bruce Castle Museum staged an exhibition marking his life in 2009-10, on the 100th anniversary of Tull joining THFC.
In 2014, a blue plaque was added to the wall of 77 Northumberland Park, the site of the house in which Tull lived before the war. Spurs legend Garth Crooks unveiled the plaque and spoke at the ceremony. In the same year, Tull featured on a £5 coin in a commemorative set of coins issued by the Royal Mint.
In 2017, a bronze statue of Tull was placed as part of a group of five at Northampton’s Guildhall, and in 2018 his face featured on one of a set of stamps issued to mark the centenary of the end of the First World War.
In 2009, THFC’s website featured an item linking to a detailed piece by club historian John Fennelly on Tull’s life that had been used by BBC Four as part of its research into the drama Walter’s War, written by Kwame Kwei-Armah.
The definitive biography of Walter Tull is Walter Tull, 1888-1918, Officer, Footballer by Phil Vasili and was first published in 2010. Vasili’s play, Tull, was staged by Tottenham Theatre Group at the Bernie Grant Centre in Tottenham in 2014. Tull’s legacy forms part of the education work carried out by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation.
A campaign to posthumously award Tull the Military Cross he was recommended for is ongoing. Current and former players Dele Alli, Danny Rose and Kieran Trippier, local MP David Lammy and author Michael Morpurgo, who wrote Warhorse, are among those to have publicly backed the call.
While that campaign is ongoing, the recognition Tull has already received and the educational work carried out to preserve his legacy is a positive example of what can be achieved when we research and properly understand our history.
8. Final Meals for the NHS total
You’ll remember we decided to donate all fees from new memberships to the Meals for the NHS charity for the duration of lockdown. Thanks to your generosity we have been able to contribute £2,250 to a very good cause. Overall, the charity had raised £1,794,181 as we went to press, enabling it to deliver 278,292 meals to staff in 124 UK hospitals. The initiative is being wound up now, with the last meals scheduled for delivery at the end of the month.
We’re proud of all our members who contributed to helping our frontline NHS staff during the most challenging of times. And we hope that our new members will feel their Trust membership is worthwhile as we continue our work. Thank you for your support.
9. Football to Amsterdam 2020 cancelled: Onwards to 2021!
As you will have read in recent THST newsletters, Prostate Cancer UK had been working hard to reschedule their annual bike ride to Amsterdam for early September 2020. However, it is now clear that it won’t be possible to do so safely due to the ongoing impact of COVID-19.
The good news is that dates are already in place for the 2021 event. It will take place from 4-6 June 2021. All 2020 registered cyclists (28 in the case of Cycle on Your Spurs, the largest in the country) will be given the opportunity to defer to 2021 and all of our 2020 fundraising, over £21,000 to date, will be carried over to 2021.
Cycle On You Spurs and the Trust will be doing all we can to seek out and encourage new recruits for the June 2021 ride; likewise to boost our fundraising. You can register your interest now. And to donate to our Just Giving page, click here.
- Cycle On You Spurs/ THST cycling jerseys
10. Wingate and Finchley crowdfunder appeal
Two seasons ago, we responded to a request from Wingate & Finchley FC to publicise their home games when Spurs were on the road and many fans may want their helping of live football. We continued to do that, and we also maintain links with Enfield Town FC. We’ve always said we’ll do what we can to help any clubs local to Tottenham who approach us for help.
In that spirit, we’ve been asked to let you know about a crowdfunder appeal Wingate & Finchley FC has launched to help it sustain its community-led football projects. It aims to raise £15,000 to improve the services it currently provides and the sum will go a small way towards changing lives and bringing positivity to what has been a tough time for everyone. Like many clubs, Wingate & Finchley FC has really been hit by the reduction in income streams during the coronavirus crisis.
How can you help?
- Donate if you can and claim a Reward in the process. Every penny counts and would be greatly appreciated
- Spread the word and share the Crowdfunder page on social media
- Ask your family or employers to support their local club in need
- Contact Wingate and Finchley to volunteer and get involved with your local football club
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30 June 2020
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