Tribalism is the essence of being a football fan. United in support of our obscure object of desire, Tottenham Hotspur Football Club, we pledge everlasting love and set aside other relationships in preference to the one that truly matters. We have our colours, our temple of worship, our rituals. At games or out and about, I strike up conversations with perfect strangers because they are navy blue and white. The Lane, just before kick-off, I shake hands with people I see more frequently than I do most of my friends and relatives, people with whom I feel a deep common bond in a place where I am more at home than anywhere else on earth. I don’t know their surnames, where they live, what they do or think, anything of any significance, yet none of this matters, because we are Spurs.
Scratch the surface, however, and deep fissures shatter this fragile unity. At least, that’s the conclusion I’ve reached after reflecting on how this blog has dealt with some of the major issues that face the club. Two topics have produced more comments than any other articles that I’ve written over the past couple of years, namely Stratford and the Madrid tickets. Not necessarily more views than other pieces, in fact ironically my most read article is an innocuous match report on this season’s away game at Everton that was picked up by Everton sites and messageboards, Surprised and pleased at my even-handed approach, they extended fraternal greetings as fellow football supporters and wished us good luck in Europe. It’s the reaction that has been markedly different, revealing deep divisions not just on the topic itself but, significantly, on the very nature of being a Spurs fan.
There are several pieces on Stratford; the comments sections on a couple are not for the fainthearted. The single biggest issue to face Spurs since the club was in deep financial distress under Scholar was bound to provoke a meaty debate. Last week I offered some constructive criticism of the ticket office’s appalling treatment of fans trying to buy Madrid tickets but the fascinating comments section, which as a regular correspondent noted somewhat disconcertingly for an author was as good as the article, revealed distinct differences of opinion about the solutions.
To be very clear – keep the comments coming. I read them all, often respond and don’t censor or delete them. If you take the time and trouble to not only read the blog but also comment, I’m genuinely grateful. Interaction is what blogging and the internet is all about. This piece is not about who is right and wrong. Perhaps I was being naive but the ferocity with which some people got stuck into to fellow Spurs fans did take me by surprise. With the OS, for example, I’m anti-Stratford but understood the concerns of people who see it as the way forward. The fairest way of distributing tickets for big games is via the loyalty points system, not perfect but the least worst. However, several people rightly pointed out that if they have a membership, they are just as entitled to go for the tickets as anyone else. In fact, a wider distribution encourages a broader based support.
In the end, we’re all Spurs, right? Wrong apparently. As the debates raged, the nature of a being a fan came into dispute. Are people who have been attending games for many years more a fan than others who come once or twice a season? Younger fans in this equation will always be at a disadvantage because of their date of birth. Family circumstances and money prevent an increasing number of supporters from coming to see the club they love. When I was in this position for a few years, I remember listening on the radio to a home game when we were near the bottom of the table and physically being in contortions of agony until victory. Would I have been more of a fan if I had been at the ground? Yet who can deny the phenomenal dedication of those who give up their time and money to follow them around the country. Some tried to find the coefficient between the two. With Stratford, both sides saw themselves as defending the club’s future, both with very different views as to how this might be achieved.
To repeat myself, I’m not talking here about who is right or wrong about Stratford or ticket distribution: I’ve written about that elsewhere, feel free to comment. Rather, I’m taking this as evidence of divisions within Spurs fans that are exposed whenever problems arise. I’d say that the one thing we agree about is that we get behind the team, but the fact is, there’s disagreement there too, the two extremes being those who cheer on regardless and those who feel justified in complaining openly by booing or abusing our own team and/or players. Most of the time it’s a comforting and humbling experience to be part of the worldwide Spurs community. Sometimes, that comfort is an illusion.
Ironic that I’d been mulling this over in a week when a 4% rise in season tickets has been announced. I’ll pay of course, and Daniel Levy knows I will. More importantly, he knows that if I don’t then someone else will. For the record, my ticket has gone up by over 6%. Increased operating costs are the reason, apparently. I work for a charity. We have cut our costs as much as we dare because of the current climate, but Spurs are seemingly immune from the pressures we all face because the law of supply and demand has come down heavily in their favour. Increased revenue from Europe and TV ( did I see an increase of over 40% mentioned?) has not been reflected in concessions to the fans. There’s no moral imperative to consider the loyal fans – but again, I’m being naive. Levy knows we are divided. I’m reminded of the industrial disputes of the 70s and 80s. Two factors overruled everything else – the unity of the workforce and how real was the possibility of a strike. Levy knows our weaknesses and will exploit them.
11 thoughts on “If Spurs Were United, We’d Never Be Defeated”
Well written as always Alan – and oddly I was mulling something over with a link between industrial disputes and football fans.
Ticket rises, tied in with record fuel and transport costs and 49% increase in revenues.
My employer last year, no pay rises, restricted bonus and record profits announcements to the city.
Some times I wish I was ignorant of such issues and carried on in both areas regardless…
Again a thoughtful and well written blog. As you’re aware, I’m firmly in the ‘let’s get a bigger stadium and fast’ faction and for all the reasons you’ve said in this piece.However if the NPD were to happen, that’ll be fine and dandy, as it’ll be where my team play, in fact the only ground I’ll never venture to see Spurs play a league match in is The Emirates as I really dont wont to give them a single penny of my money (Cup games, different matter, but couldn’t make either CC games anyway). The point you made about Everton is one I’ve often considered myself as our sides are so similar and I get the feeling Toffee’s fans must see us and consider why cant our board do a Spurs? same size ground etc, which is what really annoys me when you hear that Spurs have spent this or that, yet the experts never seem to ask how?. Would Toffee’s fans pay what Spurs fans have done f(or very little return I may add), and how brilliantly Levy and ENIC have done in getting us to that promised land. Of course fans are divided, they’ve always been divided, for instance I walked out when the stick Falco took during a game was so OTT that it became unbearable to hear or watch. But its a passion and a business combined, which is like having a good wife and an ongoing affair with an expensive whore at the same time, you’ll pay for one and get satisfaction from the other, just at different times with both of them but only.sometimes!
A lot of people have already said, “enough is enough, I just can’t afford it any more” and will continue to do so until WHL ends up just like other grounds have, Old Trafford, Emirates, Stamford Bridge, i.e. over diluted by tourists/corporate types who either pay anything or nothing, don’t complain and add nothing to the atmosphere. A bigger stadium will only accelerate this. It’s a bleak picture, but this is the nature of modern success in football I’m afraid.
Tell me how ‘bleak ‘ it is on Tuesday before the match, when your guts are knots and fingernails are little stumps mate, that’s what its all about, that’s what you pay for! Win and its worth it, lose and life sucks!
Not sure why any fan would be that nervous in the first leg of a game we’re massive underdogs in. In fact, quite the opposite. It’s the Blackpools and Wigans of our league that make me nervous.
If the tie isn’t dead for the second leg, there’ll be a butterfly or two.
Perhaps that difference between you and I , I watch and love football, well Tottenham Hotspur to be exact, but I have absolutely no loyalty to a wrongly coloured plastic seat, located in a dilapidated stadium that’s housed within an area that offers nothing and expects everything and uses the only decent thing situated within as a means to support their misuse and negligent policies. There has always been ‘money’ people in professional football, the only difference nowadays is that the players are no longer exploited (min wage), the stadiums are far better and the modern facilities have no bearing on the endless queues for scolding hot Bovril or half cooked and rancid pie, all that takes money to achieve, you cannot have one without the other! Wipe the sentimental tears away and look at how things really were and compare them to now!
I’m guessing 76 is the year you were born. If so, you don’t know the half of it.
And wrong again!, but Its just an opinion matey, even if I was 100 or 15, it’ll make no difference, I could’t care less about the fixtures and fittings, only the team on the field, a team that I’ve seen play all over Europe for what its worth!
I personally find it very hard to see how the fixtures and fittings (or in my mind: tradition, history, soul, very essence, and reason of the club – the fixtures and fitting these past 100 odd years have not been where they are by chance) can be divorced from the team on the field. One might as well watch a peripatetic Sunday morning park side imo. Which is fine for those that do or move to corporate nirvana in the city.
I certainly am not criticising you Essexian76. Just my point of view, genuinely and no offence intended. Many many Spurs fans feel like you do, even ones I know who have missed a handful of games since the mid 70s, ones that are from Tottenham proper and ones that go occasionally or cannot afford to go at all now,, but have a long or short history of following Spurs. This surprised me no end during the OS debate.
Excellent article as ever Alan.
There’s the paradox in a nutshell, because it’s soul and heart is the fans and how many are from the area? I believe it’s 1%, although it’s possibly far greater but not much in actual terms. I actually herald from the area Stamford Hill, to be exact and went to school in Clapton and Stoke Newington. However things move on and out for self betterment and hopefully future success. I’m not in favour of a move for the sheer hell of it, but I see the team’s elevation back to being a top side and a move out of the Lane as one of the same. History cannot be altered and those wonderful memories cannot be erased, but for the Bales, Modric’s et-al to realise their ambition and not be a source of incoming revenue then my opinion is move out if Haringey cannot see the benefits for the keeping only decent thing in the area! 200 million is an awful lot of money which ever way you look at it.
They are fair points. Let’s hope NPD comes off, which hopefully will give us the best of both worlds. I don’t really know what to believe any more about its viability.