It all started one fateful evening. Deep in the shadows a man lifted his collar to shield against the biting wind and pulled his hat low over his eyes. Bloodshot red from exhaustion, his steely glint was the tell-tale betrayal of his determination. Soon his long vigil would pay dividends. Suddenly the woman came towards him, a blonde smouldering in the light of the flickering streetlamp…
Actually it was my mate Debs. Forsaking her usual spot in the Park Lane, she joined us on the Shelf for the Fulham game and a pleasant evening was had by all. We are used to her teasing about ‘us posh lot’ in the east stand, although this is frankly hard to imagine on the approach to the venerable old stand, weaving our way through the piles of horse dung and in through the rickety turnstiles. The upper concourse is a decent place to relax pre-match. It used to be carpeted but that is long gone, replaced by regulation Tottenham blue over concrete. It’s clean, tidy and spacious but nothing special. Debs was mesmerised by the exotic delights of a bagel, a culinary delight from the East that has not yet travelled as far south as the Park Lane, but the real revelation came a few minutes later when she returned from the ladies.
‘Hot water. You’ve got hot water. Bloody posh here!’
It’s 2010 and hot water should not be too much of a luxury in this day and age, but there’s none in the South Stand. There’s certainly none in the gents either. In case this was a freak occurrence, last Sunday I forced my daughter into the ladies – us ace reporters always check our sources. She didn’t want to go but I suggested that it’s usually a good idea, just in case. She gave me a withering look: ‘That worked when I was 6, dad, but now I’m 22.’
Being a fan from way back, I was brought up on such rudimentary toilet facilities, I’m grateful for anything where I don’t have to queue for ten minutes or roll my trouser legs up before entering. The old Wembley was the worst. The gents were often an inch deep in urine and the ladies were lucky to have, well, ladies. So Spurs are pretty good, there’s quite a few and the towels don’t run out until 15 minutes before kick off. However, Spurs are a multi-million pound business, the 15th richest in the world according to figures released this week, paying millions to their pampered celebrity staff plus a decent whack to shareholders, and charging us the fans through the nose. Yet they can’t provide hot water.
Another friend of mine has contacted the club about this, or, as he sits in the West Stand, probably got his valet to do so after he tore off the ticket stub for him at the gate, brushed down the seat and delivered a cup of delicious powdered coffee and milk on a silver salver. Sadly I’m not able to quote the inspired rant in full as the correspondence with the club continues. Suffice to say that as a life long fan he is accustomed to the problems of traffic, nowhere to park, changing kick-off times, even the ludicrous salaries to players. He admits that like me, he’s hooked, so he pays one of the highest ticket prices in the country, if not quite willingly. But the straw that broke the camel’s back is: there is no hot running water. Although it is basic hygiene to be able to wash with warm water and soap (Swine flu anyone? Vomiting virus? Come right this way.), the real point is that this is symptomatic of the way the club treats its loyal supporters. It’s fair to assume that the boardroom has hot water, as do the executive boxes. We pay, they know we will pay, so why give us anything back? They can’t be arsed.
To emphasise his point, he received an automated E-mail promising a reply after 5 days but of course heard nothing, so he’s reminded them and to be fair they are corresponding regularly now. The club points to the undoubted improvements at the Lane over the years and will ensure that the problem will be repaired as a matter of urgency. So it has presumably come as a surprise to them to know that in their own stadium, the stadium they run and maintain, actually there are no hot water taps.
The missing hot water is by design, not accident. In the week that Portsmouth fans face the loss of their club and the League rules that Leeds fans must accept that their owners have passed the ‘fit and proper’ test without being able to be told who those owners are, the Great White Hart Lane Hot Water Scandal is small beer. But in its own way, it’s the perfect example of the relationship between the fans and the club. Us and them. Not only do they not provide hot water, they don’t even know that there is no hot water and have designed a stadium that does not provide it. It’s a massive gulf, one that creates increasing bitterness amongst supporters. They take us for granted, and we deserve better. Our loyalty deserves better.