COVID-19: the impact on football, Spurs & THST
Season ticket renewals postponement
THFC headline financial report
Trust meeting with the Club Board on 2 March
Meeting with the Club catering team on 2 March
Charity Quiz Night: postponed
End of Season BBQ: postponed
Prostate Cancer UK bike ride: postponed
Trust training with Show Racism The Red Card
The One Show OFCOM complaint
Members online forum: update
Before we start this edition of THST News, we wanted to take this opportunity to wish all of our members good health and well-being over the coming weeks and months. We are living in uncertain, unprecedented and unpredictable times. Times which will prove both challenging and testing for many of us in our everyday lives, and times that will call for a new sense of perspective, especially where football is concerned.
So we share this newsletter with you in full knowledge that none of our work is likely to be top priority for you at the moment, but to reassure you that we are still functioning as a Board and we are still representing the interests of fans during this difficult period.
Your Trust Board members have discussed what, if any, role we play in this difficult period. A number of you have said you appreciated hearing from us on podcasts over the last couple of weeks, providing some reminder of normality at a time when everything is changing. We know that people look to familiar organisations in times of trouble. But we also realise that the work of a Supporters’ Trust is far less important than so many other things at the moment. So we hope to strike a balance.
We’ll continue to maintain a presence on social media, and through our regular newsletters. Much of the day-to-day work we do has stopped, which means there will be little or no progress on a number of key work streams. We will look to ensure Club and local community initiatives are publicised, and to play what part we can in getting public health messages out.
We’re in regular contact with the Club and will continue to ensure they understand the fan perspective and, in particular, the real challenges many fans will be facing. And we will do what we can to provide a point of contact for those who need it, particularly those facing these difficult times alone. We have written to all full members over 70 offering a point of contact and providing government advice on dealing with this difficult period.
Football will, at some stage, resume. So we have a responsibility to think about how that will happen, and about the implications for fans, clubs and the wider game when it happens. There are some tough questions to face and we won’t shirk them. The first item in this month’s newsletter sets those issues out in some more detail. At the moment, there are more questions than answers. We will do our best to canvas opinion among our members, but realise that all of us have other significant pressures on our time at the moment. All any of us can do right now is try to apply some emotional intelligence to the situation, and hope that stands us in good stead for the days ahead. These are uncharted waters and we all need to acknowledge that everyone is finding their way.
Although we don’t know what the world will look like then, we do know that the current crisis will pass, that some version of normality will resume and that the things we value will, hopefully, still be there. While it’s a challenge to think football is important at the moment, we’ve chosen to step up and try to represent fans, so we need to try where we can to ensure the fan perspective is a key part of what comes next. And we know we wouldn’t be thanked for not shouldering the responsibility.
But there is one very important message we must emphasise now above any other. Football is important in all of our lives but all of our lives are more important than football. Stay safe. Stay in. Look after each other.
1. COVID-19: The impact on football, Spurs and the Trust
We’ve said these are unprecedented times. So it’s worth setting out how we read the current situation, and starting some discussion about how we respond to it, and how we can be proactive when we all come out the other side.
As we write, the Premier League Season has been paused until 30 April. National League Steps 3 to 7 have ended their seasons and declared the campaigns null and void, as have Tiers 3 to 7 of the women’s game. Top-flight seasons across Europe and the rest of the world are also on pause.
This raises a number of immediate questions for fans and for clubs. For fans, those questions include how should the Premier League season conclude, what happens to monies already paid for games to be played this season, and what happens about payment for the season that eventually follows this one. For clubs, those questions include how will cash flow and projected income be affected, how will financial losses be mitigated, and what happens about the TV contracts. The statement issued by Daniel Levy as we went to press with this newsletter underlines the seriousness of the situation.
Of course, there are countless other questions about player contracts, competition integrity, TV rights and the need for agreement between a number of governing bodies about the way forward.
Our role is to put forward the fan perspective, and also to promote awareness of the big picture. This may well mean both clubs and supporter organisations need to think in completely different ways.
At the moment, the very strong sense we have from talking to supporters across the country is that this season needs to be finished whenever it is possible to do that. Null and voiding a season where 29 games have been played would likely lead to endless legal challenges and would be unprecedented in the professional game.
The prospect of playing games behind closed doors has been raised. While it would be foolish in these turbulent times to rule anything out at this stage, we also think that supporter sentiment is overwhelmingly against the prospect of playing games behind closed doors. While there are some solid in-principle objections to that solution, we also think there are very real practical obstacles. For a game to take place, several hundred people need to be gathered in close proximity and need to travel to the game’s location. The players also run significant risks if they play while the health crisis is still live. If it’s not safe with fans, it’s not safe without fans either. Playing behind closed doors just does not seem a solution.
We understand that many supporters take the view that if games are not played, or not played with fans in the stadium, monies paid should be refunded. It’s a view we totally understand and we’ll push for monies paid for games not played to be refunded if that’s what members want. Fans must be offered the choice to claim a refund or not. However, we’ve all got to consider the impact of every action we take. If fans are refunded all monies for games not played, and the TV companies also push for broadcast fees to be repaid – especially after pausing subscriptions – that will have a significant impact even on the richest clubs. And let’s remember that measures the game adopts will apply to all clubs, however well off.
If this season is going to be concluded at some stage, we take the view that those fans who have already paid for tickets will be happy to use those tickets to watch the games. Subject to the usual opportunities to exchange tickets if they can’t make an individual game. Clubs will obviously want to keep the funds already committed to them, and we believe this strengthens the case for concluding this season when possible.
It’s clear that the season is unlikely to restart on 30 April. It could well be significantly later. We have to seriously consider the option of cancelling the 2020/21 season; a move that will free up time to conclude the 2019/20 season and eventually return to a regular timetable. We are aware that solution is not one without complications, not least over player contracts and career development, and with club and TV company income projections. But these are exceptional times and exceptional solutions are needed. We will all have to think in new ways.
Any discussion of a new season raises the thorny issue of Season Ticket renewals. We cannot see how any club can ask fans who will most likely be experiencing severe economic hardship, or worse, to commit up front to a season that could be a year or more away. But we also recognise that many clubs will go to the wall without the guarantee of new ticket income, and that even the richest clubs will be severely affected. While our prime objective is to defend the interests of Tottenham Hotspur fans and the club itself, we also know that the health of our club is inextricably linked to others it competes with. No club is an island.
So we will continue talking to the Club, and working with other fan organisations and the Football Supporters Association to pursue innovative financial solutions that could, for example, enable banks to accept bond-style commitments to underwrite income streams, and to look at ways of easing the financial burden on fans. Any such solution will require a commitment to genuine partnership from all parties involved.
We are now actively seeking discussion on these issues with the Club and pushing for the FSA to take a leadership position in similar discussions on a national level. We believe that the fan perspective must not only be heard, but that supporter organisations are in a unique position to contribute to the solutions needed for the good of everyone in the game.
We cover the decision to delay Season Ticket renewals below; a decision we acknowledge was difficult for the Club, but which was the right one. We are proud that the Club supported its staff and maintained its commitment to the local community by disseminating public health messages and taking practical steps to support those in need. Most club communications have been imaginative and impactful, providing a much-needed connection to many people at a time of growing social isolation. And we support the Club’s decision to cease all fan-facing operations and instruct staff to work from home.
2. Season ticket renewals postponement
As the COVID-19 crisis began to unfold, we contacted the Club about the imminent Season Ticket renewal window, scheduled to open on Tuesday 17 March. We asked for a postponement of the opening of the renewal window, and for the plan to prioritise seat move requests by renewal order to be put on hold. We recognised the impact this may have on the Club, but our view was that asking fans to commit to a new season when the conclusion of the current one was uncertain, the date of the new one was unknown, and the circumstances of fans was largely unknown, was not possible on practical or ethical levels. We are pleased that the Club agreed with this view and decided to postpone the opening of the window and pause the seat move priority plan.
We need to make clear here that this decision by the Club does not mean that the closing date for renewal is set in stone. Many fans have assumed the renewal deadline is still 1 May. This is not the case. At this stage, the entire renewal timetable is on hold and we continue to discuss options with the Club.
The Club’s comms around this issue have been excellent throughout this period, and we’d particularly like to commend the FAQs on the Ask Spurs portal. Please do take a look should you have any questions around the postponement and its impact on match-going fans.
3. THFC headline financial report
On 18 March, Tottenham Hotspur Limited, the corporate entity for the Club, announced its results for the 2018-19 financial year. At the time of writing the full financial statements had yet to be posted to the club’s website or the Companies House website. The deadline to do so is 31 March.
The headline numbers continue to demonstrate the Club’s progress financially with revenues increasing to £461m from £381m courtesy of reaching the Champions League final. Interestingly, Premier League gate receipts fell by £8.3m to £34.3m which gives the financial proof of lower attendances as fans became increasingly dissatisfied with our extended stay at Wembley. The tangible assets of the Club increased from £1bn to £1.4bn which is the result of completion of the new stadium and its full value being reflected on the balance sheet.
These numbers are already stale given they relate to a period that ended nine months ago. Of most interest to fans is what the Club’s finances look like in a typical year in the new stadium, for then we can see how much surplus cash is being generated by the Club that can be used to improve the playing squad and, longer term, pay down the debt. Unfortunately, the suspension of the season due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which will have a very serious impact on all clubs, means that we will have to wait at least two years until we can see what a ‘normal’ season looks like financially.
We shall look more closely at the full financial statements when they are made available.
4. Trust meeting with the Club Board on 2 March
Our meeting with the Club Board at the start of the month seems like an event from another world now. The minutes are on our website but we wanted to briefly talk about what we took from the meeting, and make some comment about the reaction to the discussion.
Overall, we weren’t surprised by the line the Club Board took, but we were pleasantly surprised they engaged more than they have on previous occasions and were not as dismissive of the views we put forward as they have sometimes been. We’re not convinced by the ‘no change in approach’ line post Pochettino’s departure and Mourinho’s arrival, and we would have liked to see a little more acknowledgement of where things could have been done better. But it is unlikely that any club Board is going to publicly admit mistakes or go into detail about events or individuals.
Our job is to ask the questions fans are raising and to get the Club Board to be as accountable and transparent as we can. We have reached a position where THFC is more prepared than most to engage in conversation with fan reps on issues both on and off-field, and we believe fans value that access. The meetings are not a forum for argument, although differences of opinion are aired. The gains we make are most often achieved through the day-to-day contact we have with the Club, while these meetings are more outward-facing. It’s up to fans to make their own decisions about the answers given, and then to lobby us based on those decisions.
We know it’s impossible to please all the people all the time. But we are pleased with the amount of support we got for the way we approached this meeting and for the report of its outcome. We’re aware, of course, that other fans weren’t quite as happy. Much of that unhappiness was because the answers the Club Board gave were not answers some wanted to hear, or agreed with. It’s perfectly reasonable not to agree with the Club Board, but we catch a lot of flak for not getting the answers people want. So it’s worth emphasising – the Club Board’s answers are what the Club thinks, not what we think.
But as we said, all this seems very far away and unimportant in the current circumstances. Perhaps it’s time for a little more perspective and grace as we all realise what is important.
5. Meeting with the Club catering team on 2 March
At the beginning of March, Rachel Martin, Catering Lead at the Trust, met with Craig Doyle, Catering Director at Compass/ Levy Restaurants and Levi Harris, Supporter Liaison Officer at THFC to discuss THST catering survey feedback, how the catering provision is going and any planned changes for next season. Since then events have changed dramatically and our thoughts are very much focused on different priorities. However, members might be interested to hear what was discussed.
A full report of the meeting can be found on our website, covering Club feedback, improvements to Market Place, plans for speeding up service, expansion of the product range and, of course, the key issue of pricing. It’s all in the write up if you want a distraction!
6. Charity Quiz Night: postponed
Our 2020 charity quiz night for Studio 306, originally scheduled for 23 April, has been postponed. The Trust took this decision prior to the government instruction to close all pubs. It was the only responsible course of action open to us given the close proximity around 100 contestants and helpers would be in. We informed those who had registered to compete directly.
No date has been put on the lifting of the ban, but even when lifted we will look carefully at the situation at the time in liaison with the Antwerp Arms and Studio 306 Collective and again take seriously our responsibilities to consider any health risks to our members and friends before announcing the date of the rescheduled quiz night. But we will reschedule.
The April 2020 Quiz was shaping up to be a great night. Eleven teams of five and a further four teams of three or four had registered a month in advance, with question preparation underway, raffle prizes being assembled and our quiz master Theo Delaney looking forward to testing your Spurs knowledge.
Once we have a new date, all those already registered will be invited to confirm their participation before opening registration to others.
7. End of Season BBQ: postponed
Our 2020 End of Season BBQ, originally scheduled for Sunday 24 May, has also been postponed. There is no guarantee life will be back to normal by May and, as this event takes a lot of time and effort to plan and organise, it was simply not possible to make any progress without having certainty about a date.
We fully intend to stage this event when the season does eventually conclude and will, of course, keep you posted on new dates as soon as we have them!
8. Prostate Cancer UK bike ride: postponed
In line with other sporting events, Prostate Cancer UK has decided to postpone the annual charity ride from the Olympic Velodrome to the Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam. Whilst not surprising, this came as a massive disappointment to the 28 Cycle On You Spurs riders; both the biggest team nationally and of all our teams since we first participated in the ride in 2016.
In the last few days PCUK have started provisional planning for a rescheduled F2A20, as follows:
- PCUK is initially looking at 4-6 September as new dates and is currently asking all registered riders to indicate availability. Given the reputation of our team and its current size, we were asked to test the water and, with a 24 hour turn around, 23 of our 28 strong team said ‘yes’. The others are hoping to defer to June 2021.
- It is expected that a decision on whether to confirm the dates will be made this week. This is tremendous work by the PCUK team as they have had to line up the ferry company, hotels and Eurostar.
- PCUK are also working on a back-up in case the ride can’t go ahead in early September.
We’ll keep you updated on the latest developments via our dedicated website page and our upcoming newsletters.
9. Trust training with Show Racism The Red Card
On Wednesday 26 February Trust Board Member Rob White attended a ‘Show Racism the Red Card’ educational event hosted by Dagenham & Redbridge FC. Aimed at KS2/KS3 (age 10/11) children from three local schools, Rob had been invited as a member of the THST Board to get a better understanding of the type of work undertaken by SRTRC.
The day was broken into three workshops, which meant that all three groups of the 90 children present got to take part in all of the activities.
Workshop 1 focused on racism, and workshop two on Hate Crime. The third session was a guided tour of the Dagenham & Redbridge ground, which was hosted by Denis Lawrence, who runs the Daggers Community Trust. It was great to see behind the scenes at a lower league club, and a real insight for the youngsters, as many of them had never been to a football stadium before. Denis also discussed how the club deals with racism, and discriminatory behaviour with supporters.
In the afternoon, there was a screening of a SRTRC commissioned short film with footballers talking about the impact of racism and discrimination. This was followed by a Q&A with a panel made up of one current D&R reserve goalkeeper, one former league player, one Dulwich Hamlet player, and Denis.
There was, as you might expect, a wide range of questions. It was nice to see how excited the students were to be able to engage with real footballers, and to learn a bit more about their lives. The session ended with the opportunity for the students to get autographs and photos with the players.
The whole day was very well structured, with some very important and sensitive topics being covered. The facilitators were very good at their role and managed to introduce some fairly difficult concepts in a sensitive way. At all times, everyone was free to express themselves, and actively encouraged to participate in the discussions.
Most importantly, Rob came away feeling that he had learnt a few things, and also with a really positive message about the work SRTRC is doing.
10. The One Show OFCOM complaint
Following an unsatisfactory reply from the BBC which attempted to circumvent its complaints procedure, we escalated our complaint to regulator OFCOM before the COVID-19 crisis broke. Realistically, this is not going to be a priority in the current circumstances, but it remains a live case.
11. Members online forum
Work on this has been delayed for a number of reasons, not least adjusting to the extraordinary circumstances we find ourselves in. As the lockdown continues, we should have time to finish setting this up and in doing so hopefully provide a point of contact for members when such things are more valuable than ever.
12. Free Junior THST Membership
We are making junior membership of THST free. This means all under-18s can join as full members at no charge. As we continue to push the Club to do more on concessions, and as we continue to fight against the erosion of the concessionary principle, this seems the right thing to do. All juniors who are currently members will be automatically upgraded to full membership.
As is always the case, our meeting with the Club Board attracted lots of media attention. While it’s good to know what we do is seen as relevant and interesting, it would be nice if sometimes the mainstream media found the work we do around fan issues as worthy of reporting and further reflection as the comments on the playing side. Not that we wish to appear churlish, but there’s some quite newsworthy stuff in all this fan representation business!
Two decades, one trophy
FIFA Club World Cup
Broken Tottenham squad will test Daniel Levy's resolve over his vision for the future
Tottenham's summer transfer plans will be impacted without Champions League
Culture shock awaits Spurs fans in Germany where lessons can be learned
Daniel Levy’s defiance and broad shoulders
Daniel Levy makes it clear where he and ENIC stand on selling Tottenham Hotspur
The reason Tottenham did not sign a striker in January
Spurs admit failing to secure Champions League would affect summer recruitment funds
The Telegraph (paywall)
Despite off-pitch improvements under Daniel Levy, Tottenham unlikely to end drought anytime soon
The Athletic (paywall)
Levy’s comment has many Spurs fans fuming
Tottenham Paying the Price for Short-Sighted Gamble on Jose Mourinho
Spurs admit failing to secure Champions League would affect summer recruitment funds
The VAR Side, Episode 37
Spurs News 26 March
Last Word on Spurs, 22 March
31 March 2020
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