Spurs Ticket Prices Test the Faithful. Or: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of a Credit Card Bill the Size of Jupiter

It comes to something when your faith is challenged not from within but by the object of your devotion.

On Monday Spurs announced the season ticket prices for the coming season, the first in our new ground. We all expected increases but the scale of these price rises is intolerable. Variously across the ground, hikes amount to 20% and 30% more than the White Hart Lane equivalent. Some of the cheaper seats in the old Park Lane are now £995, that’s about £200 more than they were last year. My seat in the old block 28, Shelfside opposite the dugouts, is gone completely, now some luxury lounge corporate drinks at half time and padded seats for plump arses. The closest alternative costs £1500, a rise of 50% for a worse view. Can’t afford it.

It’s a fallacy to argue the increases are justified because Spurs must fund the ground and a top-class team. A recent Deloitte’s report on football shows that gate receipts amount to around 15% of a Premier League clubs’ revenue, the rest derives from television rights and commercial deals. This will go up substantially with the new ground, but the board won’t change the current salary structure because of this extra income from excessive rises alone. To repeat, it’s Spurs, in London, new ground, an increase I expected. 20, 30 50%, that is unfathomable.

The brochure extolling the virtues of the new Lane feels glossy and smooth. Two days after opening, it reeks of luxury and indulgence. To me, its only value is playing the Spurs equivalent of Where’s Wally? with the artist’s impressions’ pictures. Where’s Daniel? One bloke crops up twice in the same photo – if only we could do the same with Harry Kane on the pitch.

I’ll enjoy the space, although as to whether I will be able to get a cup of tea at half-time, I’m not holding my breath. The brochure is largely irrelevant to my matchday experience and that of many other supporters. I don’t want a micro-brewery or artisan cheese. Especially if beer costs £6 a pint, as the bar price list notes. Going home, I’m not going to say, “well, we were rubbish at the back but at least Spurs have an unrivalled standard of finish using materials such as brushed steel, copper, European oak and Quartz.” A floor to stand on and chat to my friends will do me.

“We’ve got brushed steel, we’ve got brushed steel, you ain’t, you ain’t.”

The brochure is a waste of time and money. They are selling the fans something that doesn’t need a sales pitch. Photocopy a sheet that says, ‘new ground, Spurs will be there.’ Done. Because that’s what matters to every single person who buys a ticket. I wasn’t going to go the game but the goal-line bar has changed my mind. Not how we think. You have to plough through the brochure before getting to the bit the matters, the cost. Marketing, that is.

Whatever you think about Levy, and in Tottenham On My Mind I have been consistent in pointing out the flaws in his strategy and decision-taking as well as praising him when he deserves it, building next to the Lane is nothing short of a coup. I’m deeply proud that our new home is in N17, and I understand that throughout our chairman has sought a fan-friendly design, with stands close to the pitch and good acoustics. That’s not an accident, and fair play to the board for delivering.

Yet the pricing serves to weaken this legacy. Great football grounds are made by the fans, not bricks and mortar. The ground is our place, where we come out to demonstrate our passion for the team and get behind them, where we celebrate, create and commiserate. Fans make football worth watching.

This pricing structure does everything possible to undermine this. Some will be priced out totally. Percentages and comparisons with other clubs mask the cold hard fact that watching football at Spurs is bloody expensive, whichever seats you choose. The government say we are in a time of austerity, where expectations must be scaled back and realistic, where money will be tight. The first thing that goes is usually leisure expenditure.

The South Stand is a return to an ‘end’, the popular side, for singing, for atmosphere, for young people. £1200 in the centre blocks, a fiver shy of a grand further down, with 4 pockets of 1882 Club seats at £2200. I see little encouragement there. Shades of Club Wembley as fans struggle to tear themselves away from the complimentary food to watch a football match.

And then there’s the Shelf. Over the past 50 years I’ve seen around 95% of Spurs’ home league games. Almost all of them have been from the Shelf, standing just to the left of the gangway separating the centre block from the rest, then sitting 10 yards away on the giant white F of the THFC spelled out by the seats. The people who sit around me – sat around me –  are pretty much the same. Football is no longer a working-class sport, and the working class itself has changed, but this is as close as you will ever get. We’ve been there since 2000 – we’re newcomers compared with the others. Ordinary folk, diverse, friendly, Spurs in their hearts and souls. 30 years of camaraderie and relationships obliterated, with a final message ringing in our ears – you are not important to us anymore.

This is the real demise of the Shelfside, home of the Tottenham loyal since 1934, whose fearsome roar urged on the navy blue and white and terrified opposition fans, who never came near. Bricks from the old Shelf form a mural on the wall of one of the bars. It is our headstone.

The stadium design pays close attention to our heritage, the club pays lip service to the fans who have created it. Fans who turned up in numbers when things weren’t going as well as they are now. Who took to the streets so we could stay in N17, to walk in the footsteps of every Spurs fan who has ever been to a home game. Levy, we helped you build this. Not rewarded in the prices.

The ground incorporates some good ideas, only fair that I list them. Better access and less segregation for disabled fans – Spurs were previously one of the worst in the PL. A range of discount tickets for children and, new this, for young adults (although these tickets are only in the cheaper areas). A better ticket exchange. Being able to walk round the concourses to meet friends who sit in different parts of the ground. Very good – safe standing areas.

Daniel Levy (salary 2014-15 £2.6m) is a shrewd financier and businessman. As such, he understands the value of investment, in the short, medium and long term, except when it comes to his supporters. Everything is rosy now, but when the burnished novelty of the new stadium dulls, if this fabulous team falters, renewals in a year or two may not be as attractive a prospect. Now, Levy rightly calculates that fans will pay, although the fact that a Wembley season ticket was offered to a 7-month-old baby who had reached the top of the waiting list suggests demand is not completely elastic. The crude supply and demand equation is a short-term approach that does not do nearly enough to safeguard future generations of Spurs supporters.

I’ve stood and sat in the same place for fifty years. In these stands I grew from a boy to a man. Here, I’ve shared joy and despair, laughter and some of the most bitter albeit creative moaning that’s ever been. I’ve been struck dumb in misery and lifted to the sky with elation. Only football can do this.

Football has kept me going through life events that I would not wish to happen to anyone, profound desolation and hopelessness, yet at the Lane there’s always hope. Always, even if sometimes it had faded far across the horizon. Just another run, beat a man, shoot on the turn. Ah, next time maybe. A goal to be craved, even a miss meant there was still hope for next time. I would have gone under if I didn’t know that there was going to be a show and Tottenham Hotspur would be there.

And this is what the Spurs board, and for that matter football boards up and down the country, simply do not grasp. They have no sense of the depth of feeling that an emotional attachment of such complexity and power generates. Football is about us as individuals. It’s fundamental to our identity. I am a father, husband and Spurs fan. I’m also Jewish, qualified, a dedicated social worker, white, a Londoner exiled in Kent, British, overweight, but these are the three that define me most accurately.

Worse than not understanding this, football boards think they understand. This means they don’t put any effort into finding out more. Instead, this loyalty becomes a commodity they can trade in and exploit. Not my business to intrude on the grief of others, but this is the root cause of the troubles at West Ham. Forget the tribalism – this also serves to mask another reality, which is that fans everywhere have much in common and are being treated poorly. The Hammers’ core support is loyal, longstanding and long-suffering. Their board, under the guise of working in their interests, has tried to undermine their heritage with a saccharin stadium designed for anything but football and barely disguised contempt for the well-being and safety of their fans. They believe the fans will fall for the promises they make about the future, in terms of players and the experience of watching the team. Mixing up groups of fans, misleading them about the view from their seat, feeding the line that Stratford means they’ve put one over on us – all this and more in the name of progress.

The ructions over the weekend at the London Stadium have multifaceted origins. At their heart is that supporters and fans hold fundamentally different ideas about how they see a football club and what they want from being a part of it. It’s a battle – the board wants to change a culture that has lasted for a century and more. They want everything to be shiny, pleasant, lucrative, commercial. They want consumers not fans. And when fans don’t want it, they have to make those concerns heard.

At Arsenal, the facilities are great but there’s no atmosphere. Corporates don’t sing, or indeed watch the whole match. Charge the earth for the privilege. It was fine until team didn’t do so well, now some fans are so aggrieved, they would rather stay at home than sit in seats they’ve already paid for.

Leave the sneering to one side. Both these groups of supporters have been through the process of moving. There’s a real danger than Spurs have not learned these lessons. The team is playing marvellous football at the moment, but recent history suggests this is atypical not the norm. The attraction of paying £63 per match to sit behind the goal, the popular end remember, not by any means the most expensive seat, could fade before you can say ‘and no guaranteed cup final ticket.’

Several years ago, the morale of Spurs fans was ebbing away. Ask people what they felt, nobody truly looked forward to the next game unless it was a derby. Season ticket holders questioned whether they would renew, some the first time such a thought had crossed their minds in two or three decades.

It wasn’t so much what happened on the field, although AVB and Sherwood inspired few of us. Supporters felt disengaged, distant and alienated from a club who asked us to spend the earth on tickets with no prospect of significant improvement, who treated us as customer number not individuals, extras for the crowd noise that is so attractive when it comes to selling the foreign TV rights.

I tend towards the view that football supporters are pretty much the same wherever you go. I might even go so far as to say that I have as much in common with a Hammer who fears for the culture of his club than I do with a Spurs fan munching mature gruyere and peering at the players through one-way glass in the Tunnel Club. What happened next at Spurs, however, gave us a refreshingly different experience from other London fans. We brought through a group of young players who were totally committed to the team and to improving themselves. They acknowledged supporters in their celebrations, I mean looking genuinely elated not doing a choreographed mystery in-joke dance when they scored. Kane is one of our own – this chant resonates as the symbol of what he and we have achieved together. Ryan Mason playing out of position and eventually disposed of, gave us everything and played for the shirt. No prima donnas, no excuses. They gave as much for the shirt as we did.

As a result, the distance between fans and club diminish. We felt closer. The atmosphere lifted. We played football the Spurs way. The club responded in some ways. The Lane finale moved each and everyone of us. These prices could destroy that.

Fans go to the game for the football, not the facilities. If we can’t afford it, we can’t go. I’ll be there, somewhere, because it’s that important for me, and for my son and granddaughter who sit next to me. This is what we do, this is who we are. I’m come through a crisis of faith before, when all things considered it would have been easier to not go and avoid the strife of going out, of this being a luxury I could not afford, the credit card bills. I can’t work full-time because of other responsibilities. Money’s tight. But I came through that, and I’m glad I did because I was being true to myself and thereby able to be true to others who need me. It gave me the energy to keep going. Spurs are a big thing for me, too big perhaps but I’m here now, this is how I feel so I roll with it. Love the club for evermore. Not sure it will ever feel quite the same though.

48 thoughts on “Spurs Ticket Prices Test the Faithful. Or: Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory of a Credit Card Bill the Size of Jupiter

  1. lovely article but I suspect the 15% premise is shot at these prices the income generated per season should be somewhere between £75m and £120m a season.

    Our last published acccounts show £200m turnover and whilst this year should be significantly more the gate WILL be a much more significant portion

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    • Thanks for this, on reflection my meaning in that para isn’t enitrely clear – I meant to say that the ground would of course bring in more cash but that an increase above, say, 10% would make a radical difference. It would bring in a lot of cash, of course it would, but there are costs to that not measured in pounds shillings an dpence.

      Thanks for commenting, Alan

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  2. Brilliant, painful and somewhat haunting, but brilliant Alan. A fine and timely excoriation of THFC’s egregious and risky pricing policy.

    Daniel Levy and Tottenham Hotspur have really crossed the Rubicon of the supporter-customer/tourist line, I fear.

    Daniel Levy was so keen to get the pitch as close as possible to the stands that it suggested he realised the big part Spurs’ support and atmosphere generated had played in the team’s performances in recent seasons. The premium areas in the middle of “white” wall and imo OTT price hikes suggest he’s risking what he is/was aiming for.

    Too many think Arsenal and the Emirates experience and their increasingly poisonous fan disillusion and entitlement (at those prices a customer should expect more?) can’t happen to us. It really, really can.

    I hope we have enough well-heeled dyed-in-wool supporters or ones more willing and able to make what must be severe economic sacrifices than I could or would, so the amazing last few years of vocal support at the Lane continues into new WHL. Keep winning you Spurs and I’ll have a platter of slightly sweet, supple, yet bold and herbaceous, tangy and grassy cheeses, please. Can I take out a mortgage on that?

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  3. Brilliant article!
    I’m a 75 year born Forest Gate and lived in Upton Park for 28 of my years in Boleyn Road and could hear the roar of the crowd when wet spam played.
    Dad took me to see the spammers when I was 6 but it was not to be. Spurs took over my life in 1950 -51 and the rest is history. Kids enclosure, Jimmy, Ossie, Hoddle, Gaza et al!
    54 years a season ticket holder, with 50 of ‘em in the East Stand and 4 as a concession in the North Stand.
    And so it has come to pass . With Gods will I’m gonna’ see my team in the new temple of Spurs The LilyWhites.
    Where abouts I’ll sit I know not? But where ever it is ,and if your near , you will hear me roar “come on You Whites” just as they kick off!

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  4. Excellent article. Could not agree more. I have been Spurs for almost 60 years ever since my dad first took me to see them play Crewe 13-2. Seen the ups and downs, these prices are not about true supporter. One could argue a true supporter will pay anything, on occasions this is true, but then in this age of cutting back it is the luxury that goes, these prices are bordering luxury for lots of these supporters.

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  5. 66, yrs young never had a season ticket for a variety of reasons got one for Wembley in order to get one for the new WHL. I’m in the sixth sales action the likely hood of me getting a seat at a price I can afford is …. might be said that as a newbie it hard luck however my first game I remember was Bill Nicks first as manager my dad took me to most home games . So I get the history now despite son, daughters and grandchildren being spurs my pension will not cover a big price hike thanks big money

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    • Thanks mate. This is another problem – although there are plenty of discount seats, they may all go in the early phases. Best of luck.

      Regards, Alan

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  6. What happened about keeping fans sitting together the staggered re-new period will mean people will no longer be able to sit with SPURS friends also like the author I being an old fashioned 58 year old supporter go for the football not some luxury food suspect the more expensive seats will be empty at the start of the 2nd half

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  7. Great article. Moving and funny.
    I’ve been Spurs for 50 years and attending for 46 years.
    I did the Division 2 season when our support was truly immense and even better the following year.
    Like others I have talked to, I will do next season for the novelty value but thereafter an ST will be a very considered purchase.

    Time will tell.

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  8. A super article. I like many Spurs fans have been so excited about getting back to The Lane but this pricing policy has made me think long and hard about ST renewal, it is the only real power the fan has to show his discontent. I will probably give it a season but if the entertainment or atmosphere wanes then it will be odd games for me. Getting tickets wont be hard at these rates.

    One factor not mentioned much is removing price concessions to much of the ground. That means a lot of long standing groups will be split up as few pensioners will be able to afford full price. All contributing to a dampening of the atmosphere and experience.

    It could be Emirates Mark 2 God Forbid.

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  9. Fantastic article. The majority of Spurs fans go to games to watch and support the team and whilst the provision of improved facilities is great, I don’t go to football to spend hard earned cash on inflated beers and food! The dynamics of football has changed beyond recognition over the past thirty years. Some will say for the better with more families and women attending, however with the ever increasing costs involved there comes a point where the price of season tickets will become beyond the reach of many dedicated and loyal Tottenham faithful. Will it become the Wembley norm of mass exodus 15 minutes from time to beat the traffic or queue up for micro beers and designer post match burgers? There is no doubt that general poular admission prices in many areas are too high.

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  10. Couldn’t agree more!…Says everything perfectly!…We’re long term season ticket holders seriously thinking of jacking it in.

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    • Good point, Harry…I was noting that over here in the former colonies, prices for average tickets and concessions (beer prices twice as much) at sporting events, even for losing teams, is much higher!

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  11. A great article. I am a 70 yr old season ticket holder, was on “the shelf side”and have supported Spurs since the late fifties. To retain my option of a season ticket In the new stadium, I have had to endure traveling across London to Wembley. My reward ? My season ticket if I am lucky to get into the same area, will go up from just under £1,000 to £1500, and TWO LESS GAMES ! An increase of over 50%. I can of course get a concession seat for £565 in restricted areas of the stadium, but these will either be in level 5 and probably require binoculars or other unappealing areas. With more and more games being shown at “the local” it is becoming a tempting alternative for several of us. COYS

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  12. Just for comparison: my hometown LA Lakers (who haven’t been in the playoffs for several years after a great winning run, and who will probably finish with a losing record — W/L ) have an average price of over $100 a game. And the average Spurs ticket price for the “cheap” (995 package) works out to about $73 per…maybe we’re used to paying higher ticket prices here? Just saying…

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    • Its a fair point ashleycollie but to be honest thats exactly the type of arrangement we are trying to not head towards in football ! This is going to result in a lot of decent and normal fans who have been going for decades not being able to support the team. It will slowly but surely kill the atmosphere of British football. I see us slowly but surely turning into the Emirates Mk II.

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      • Cheers, mate, thanks for reply. Fans are used to be chiseled over here. Your prices seem inexpensive compared to ours. PS Perhaps unfairly, I often get to go to games for free as a journalist.

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    • Good to hear from you as always Ash. This is about the different sporting cultures – this is big money for us and a big change that upsets decades of football supporter culture. Not just at Spurs. it won’t be the same…
      All the best, Al

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  13. Agree with every word Al. Thank you for writing this. I hope find somewhere to call home in our new home.

    The club are walking a fine line. Next year won’t be a problem as there is plenty of excitement around the new stadium. Give it a year or two, if results don’t go out way and there are dodgy signings and managerial appointments it could turn out like it has at the Emirate and the London Stadium.

    It’s also very sad how groups of friends and family who’ve sat together for years risk being split apart.

    We are being milked.

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    • Milked indeed my friend. I’ll find somewhere. One of our three tickets is in phase three by two points, so up to 10k tickets will be gone by the time I get to choose.
      Best wishes Alan

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  14. Have been going to the Lane since 1959. The whole family mums, dads aunts and uncles all lined up at the turnstiles. Win or lose we were there to cheer on the Spurs and make the atmosphere such that the hairs on your neck stood up.
    I fully expected the prices to go up but once you get past the sneaky headline prices for each block the reality is that only a few in each block are at the advertised price. The prices serve to show that the club place no value on a supporters loyalty and it is sadly all about money. Will I be able to secure a seat at a price that even my credit card can afford, I don’t know. I posted a note on one of the many Tottenham facebook sites and the first reponse was from someone suggesting that should I be offered a seat at a price I could not afford, to let him know. I am sure that the board will initially fill the seat with those with deep pockets but how many will be true supporters.
    The thing that really upsets me is as supporters we simply cannot do anything about it.

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    • My article has brought out so many stories like yours. The board want to fill the seats, they don’t care who fills them. Wasted opportunity. Hope you find something.

      Cheers, Alan

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  15. Excellent article and covers all aspects of being a Spurs fan, we have had many bad days, but these outweighed by that one good day, yes at the moment we are playing the best football I have seen Tottenham play for many a year, and playing as a tam not just the odd individual.
    But the pricing out of the so called working class, started over 20 years ago, and has gone up year upon year, yes everyone wants to be part of the experience of seeing us play in the new stadium for many years to come, but at what price. I had to make sacrifice’s years ago and gave up my season ticket, my son last year managed to obtain a season ticket again after waiting 7 years on the waiting list, but he himself is having thoughts against paying a high price. Tottenham is in our blood, once you are part of supporting the team we do this whatever the result on the pitch, but to out price the fans, I fear for the atmosphere and all the good things that I love about the club.
    When I watch the team play on TV home or away, and you hear the supporters strike up that song when the Spurs go marching in, it makes my hairs stand up, and although I am not part of the crowd on the day, I can hear myself singing along in silence proud that we are the club that we are.
    I hope Levy looks at some of the postings that the true supporters write, we want success, but at a price we can all afford.
    C O Y S
    from a loyal fan, who can’t attend as many games as he wishes he could

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  16. As eloquent and on the nail as ever, Alan.

    Levy & co will hear, but they won’t listen, of course. They know best, after all.

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  17. Thanks so much Alan for this article. It really struck a chord with me. I’ve been a Spurs supporter since 1981, I only go to a couple games per season as my weekends are now filled with looking after my 2 boys who have just started to play the beautiful game (for the record one of them is pretty good actually, the other one is sh%t but by gosh he tries hard).

    In particular this statement really hit home to me.

    “I tend towards the view that football supporters are pretty much the same wherever you go. I might even go so far as to say that I have as much in common with a Hammer who fears for the culture of his club than I do with a Spurs fan munching mature gruyere and peering at the players through one-way glass in the Tunnel Club.”

    This really hit me hard Alan. True fans are being slowly but surely being shoe horned out of the club, replaced with what can only be described as “consumers”.

    This is going to get worse unless the government implements something similar to what the Bundesliga have in the 50 + 1 rule (https://www.bundesliga.com/en/news/Bundesliga/german-soccer-rules-50-1-fifty-plus-one-explained-466583.jsp).

    But it doesn’t look like anyone in power has the cajones to do it. Very sad state of affairs Alan. I still don’t know whether I should either cry and get angry. But one thing is certain, I’ll still sing “Come on you spurs”.

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  18. Some fair points made, but that would have been better without the self absorbed, over romanticising and not been such a long, mostly pointless read.

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  19. Great read and so true. The Shelf side was the heart of WHL with the Park Lane being the lungs. It now seems the heart is being ripped out and that dynamic that created the atmosphere will be gone, lost forever.
    The lack of concessions tickets in the East and West is also a concern along with limited in the Park Lane due to the possibility of safe standing someway in the future, coupled with a family section still as expensive bar a small handful of seats. Lets then add the reduced discount on a concessions ticket from 60% to 50% coupled with the price hikes, this will dent our future fans been able to become ST holders as for many families decisions and hard ones will need to be made.
    West Ham fill their stadium with cheap tickets and generated an atmosphere very quickly compared with other new stadiums (maybe because they got bored been unable to see the pitch a mile away?) but they made it accessible to their fans old and new. It is a shame we haven’t taken this approach and scored a massive PR win by offering more affordable seating in key areas for ST holders, even cheaper family ST in a larger area. Charge more for the individual match tickets but give something back to those who pay up front not knowing how the season and transfer window may pan out.

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  20. Pingback: My Eyes Have Seen The Glory…. – Welcome to South Dorset Spurs

  21. Hi.
    A brilliant article and agree with every word of it. I have been going to WHL since 1966 and have been sitting on the Shelf (same block as you were, row 11) for donkeys years. I even had a season ticket in the small standing area when the ground became all seating. Like you, we have been priced out of sitting on the side, so five of us have moved up to block 418, so that some of us can get a concession and I will hopefully get one in a few years (If THFC don’t move the age upwards!) Like many people we have built up friendships over the years with people around us and that has all been destroyed now. Fans in the later phases will probably be left with expensive seats and no concessions, so will they renew? I am sure the new stadium will be sold out next season but can people afford it year after year, as prices will only go up. I have great respect for the job Daniel Levy has done and the fact that we are a properly run club but please do not take us for granted. Football has always been a social thing, meet up with friends, drinks before the game (Not in the longest bar in Europe at ridiculous prices!) and then watch our club playing football the correct way. Welcome to Fleecethefans FC. Nothing will stop me from going to THFC but will it ever be the same again? COYS

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Enjoyable article After spending this year at Wembley,it has made me realise what a soulless place it is. I hope we don’t inherit that at the new Lane, and the loyal supporters stay, and we carry on playing great football.
    On a personal note, I will still walk up from seven sisters, stop for a kebab and pint in a local business, and have a bovril ( if available) at the ground.
    I have been a spursman since ‘67 and will always be.
    I hope we don’t sell our family ‘silverware’ to pay for this stadium, but it’s about business now…….

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  23. Thank you for this brilliant, heartfelt piece of writing. I couldn’t agree more that club owners don’t understand what going to football games – and especially being a season ticket holder – means to fans. Going to Spurs has always been a way to spend time with my dad, doing something that we both love.

    I was reluctant to pay the increased prices but I did in the end. My seat increased in price from £900 to £1500. What was the alternative? Losing something special with my father.

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