Spurs: The Way Forward

OK, I’ll take that one. The angst and alienation that characterises the prevailing mood amongst Spurs fans has provoked a golden period of powerful, passionate writing about Tottenham Hotspur. Here’s the blogroll of honour: the Lustdoctor and Paul Johnson aka @Sniersmoregut on twitter with a manifesto I wholeheartedly agree with,  Dear Mr Levy, Martin Cloake  and last but not least Greg on Dispatches. Read them all, you won’t be disappointed.

Greg ends up by posing a deceptively simple question: what kind of club do we want to be? Here’s my contribution. Like the others, let’s move this forward. After all, I haven’t much hair left to tear out. 

So this is what I want. This is my way out of the mess. 

First thing: football is football. It remains unsurpassed, compelling drama that entices the world. It’s always evolving – the physical fitness of players is the single biggest difference since I began watching the game in the mid sixties. It means it is faster and there is less space for individuals to run with it or pick a pass but I simply refuse to accept that intrinsically it is more lifeless, defensive or dull than it used to be. It’s a little different but football evolves. So leave the game as it is.

There were always good games, bad games and indifferent games. Social media was profoundly affronted when early this season Manchester United and Chelsea contrived to play a dull game. Dull? These superpowers? How dare they? Death of the English game, football not what is was etc etc. Horses**t. It was just a bad game. Ozil – not worth the money. Over-rated. Me, I’d say he’s going through a bad patch, the same as any other player, ever, from Thursday night over 50’s 6 a side to Barca and Madrid. Those blogs that wrote off Gareth Bale after a poor showing in El Clasico earlier this season. His second or third match for Madrid. Talk about giving a bloke a chance. Social media isn’t football. When people say they are fed up with football, don’t get confused with what happens on the pitch. It’s what goes on off it that is the problem. 

Next: I want my Tottenham Hotspur to be unique. I want us to remember our heritage. That heritage is a living thing and the current club and supporters are part of that. Spurs stand for certain things: good football, innovation, being in N17. We breathe the same air and walk the same streets as every player, every single supporter since the boys met under the second lamp-post along the High Road from the present ground in autumn 1882 to form a football club. 

That’s important. This isn’t some poncy heritage site National Trust pickle the ground in aspic rose-tinted visit the tea-shop on the way out nostalgia. It’s real, it’s us, it’s who we are. It makes us strong, different from all the rest. It gives us something to tell our children and our children’s children. Neglect that at our peril. 

This is not an argument for innate superiority. I want City, United, Newcastle and  Sunderland, Dulwich Hamlet and Fisher Athletic to be unique too, to maintain their heritage. I want clubs to be different not homogenised.  

I want the club to be there long after my ashes have been scattered under the crowd’s feet as they hurry home after the match. That’s important too. I want long-term stability and security to make sure that happens. I want Kirsty and Tom, my daughter and son who sit next to me, to be there when they are my age. My club is not a rich man’s plaything, an afterthought soon tired of. It’s not all about me either. I want the club to carry on wehn I’m gone. 

Third pillar: The Champions League is not the Holy Grail. I want Spurs to be contenders, to be punching their weight near the top of the league, I want other sides to worry when our name looms on the fixture list. However, I don’t want to spend money we don’t have on the possibly futile pursuit of temporary success. I want Spurs to play good football with good players. If so, success will come. If they don’t make it, it is not the end of the world. 

Pausing for breath, let me pull up my soapbox by way of an interlude. Just think about this for a sec. The Premier League is geared towards failure and futility. The goal according to accepted wisdom, is the holy CL. Everybody goes for it, only four get in, reduced to three soon enough if English teams don’t do well. We got in but we didn’t win anything by so doing. Whatever level a team is on, their supporters talk of the next level. The FA Cup what’s the point? Europa League? Give up, not worth anything.  

Everything becomes not a victory but a staging post for the mythical next step. There’s nothing achieved, no time to pause and enjoy it, no sense of satisfaction, unless you win the CL three times in a row  perhaps. This is not my attitude but one that prevails in much football discourse these days. It’s one reason why some peole don’t seem to enjoy it. Not for me. Stay in the moment. Enjoy a win for what it is, fifth in the league is better than sixth and enjoy it. Shiny shiny trophies, if we ever win any, stop and enjoy it. Fans are always going somewhere else. I prefer to stop and look at the view. 

Where was I? To be contenders, we have to have a plan and stick to it. We can’t spunk huge wads of cash, let’s build something over time. I want the respect of fans of other clubs who see us doing this, I want some self-respect when I see us doing it and the problem right now is that I have little respect for what’s going on.  

Since Levy took over, he has made a series of attempts not just to build a side but to build continuity, with varying degrees of success. We never really know what goes on behind the scenes but in this perspective, the phases of the club can be measured not through managers but the Directors of Football. Arnesen, Commoli and now Baldini have been charged with, happen to be around when, whatever, we bought players who by and large had their best years ahead of them.  

Good plan botched by Levy. Two reasons: one, he refused to commit a few extra resources to seal the deal when one or two players would have helped the squad fulfil potential. Second, Levy can’t judge a manager. Good chief exec focusses on goals for the organisation, picks good people to lead the operation and lets them get on with it. He can’t do either. But it remains the only way forward for Spurs, and if it works it will feel good. We watched Modric, Bale, Berbatov blossom. They were ours.  

Now, and this is important: the club has to respect the supporters. Deeds not words. Start by understanding that there is a reciprocity in the relationship between supporters and the club. We will put up with a hell of a lot because we are loyal, not to managers, chairmen or players but to the shirt.

It is and always has been an unbalanced relationship with the club holding all the cards because they know that we the supporters will turn up. We have an emotional bond with the club, the board’s relationship is something different, less permanent, less committed.  

This is intrinsic to the culture of British football. Fans have always been badly treated by clubs. However, there are degrees of exploitation and right now supporters are being pushed to the limits. It’s true for Spurs, the example I know most about, but it’s sadly also true for supporters of many other clubs.  

The relationship may be unequal but never forget that it takes two, and Tottenham Hotspur PLC need to remember that. The current alienation has been caused not by league position – we are steady in fifth or sixth despite everything – but by the grievances fans have about being marginalised.  

We can see there’s no coherent plan for the team to progress. Hopes rise only to be dashed again. And there’s a context. Living standards are falling, ticket prices rise. Inflation is falling, ticket prices rise. Above all, the income from non-ticket sources has gone through the stratosphere, ticket prices rise. You’ve heard it before but it’s worth restating, if only as a stark reminder of how much the balance has shifted in favour of the club, of just how unequal the relationship has become. 

Look elsewhere and there are no mitigating factors. The FA and Premier League do nothing except put the interests of the clubs first. Kick-off times, scheduling of matches, managers playing second-string sides for the ‘magic of the Cup’. Pathetic, weak, self-interested, these bodies denigrate the hisotry of the English game and have totally repudiated their precious responsiblity for nurturing its future.  

Families priced out. Kids can walk round the ground before the game but only if they pay to sit in a certain part of the ground. Tour the ground and pay. Visit the shop and pay – how much exactly does a blue and white acrylic scarf cost to mass-produce? We give, they take. Everywhere. Without exception. Stubhub.  If you know your history – Spurs fans do. We remember the Shelf and what happened.  

One feature of the concept of alienation is that the alienated are prevented from having a true understanding of what is going on because of ideological constructions that obscure and deny. I have a sociology degree and I’m not afraid to use it.  

What’s happened now is that dissatisfaction has risen because what was once obscure is now transparent. We can see perfectly well what is going on. The club have more money than ever before yet choose the option of fleecing us more than ever before. 

I want a club that actively espouses the right values. That is transparent in its dealings with supporters. That respects us and the community of which it forms a part, however reluctantly. That gives importance to the needs of supporters. That recognises our emotional attachment. That realises the team will benefit from wholehearted support. That realises the responsibility they have to this and future generations of Tottenham Hotspur supporters, rather than taking a short-term, profit-driven approach. 

To respect us, the club has to listen and to respond. I’d like a supporter-led organisation to take over and take this co-operative to the top of the league. Yeah right. That’s true but it will never happen. Point is, I’m happy to settle for a lot less.

Let the supporters have a say on key issues like pricing, the new ground, ticket reselling. Don’t increase ticket prices this season. How much will the club lose? About half the salary of a squad player or something approaching the equivalent of the chairman’s recent salary increase but it would make a hell of a difference both to our pockets and our feelings. How about safe standing? A dedicated extra area for singing led by 1882. Singing – it’s not asking very much, is it. 

The PLC have an insular, trench-warfare approach to fan liaison. Two weeks ago local paper the Haringey Independent sent them some questions about Stubhub. They were critical but legitimate. Last week they published them. The club complained. They haven’t answered the questions yet but have the energy to complain that a newspaper publishes legitimate questions on issues that have been raised many times before, including in the established media as well as on blogs. Legitimate questions that fans want answered yet the club complain about openness. And we haven’t even got to the answers yet! Doesn’t matter what you think about Stubhub. It’s symptomatic of an attitude that excludes us, a denial of the outside world.  

These things will make the club stronger. They are to be embraced not feared. A dialogue between club and fans, using fans’ phenomenal expertise, building bridges and perish the thought, encouraging our efforts to get behind the team. Think about it – it’s not a revolution, these are not ridiculous demands. I have not even mentioned ENIC here, not about getting rid of them at all. I’m talking about my generation of fan contributing to the long-term benefit of the club. 

Tell us what the long-term plans are for the club. Let us discuss them, contribute, have a dialogue, in public. As radical manifestos go, this is more WI that SWP, yet to the club it’s a threat. That mentality has to go. 

I want children to go to the game. I want them to be welcomed. I want them to come back. I want them to be as excited as I was when I was a kid. I want fans to be able to say, I want to go to a game and I can afford it.  

So there you are. The right values. Money is vital but it isn’t everything and the thing is, there’s plenty to go round. Anyway, respect costs nothing. At least, that’s what I think. Problem is, right now the club doesn’t agree.

Stop Stubhub Update. The Numbers Are In

Tottenham On Mind is proud to be working with the Stop Stubhub group and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust to protest against the club’s links with ticker reseller Stubhub, a partnership that it is not in the long-term interests of Spurs supporters.

Thanks to the work of the Trust, the club and Stubhub have produced data that covers the scheme’s operation thus far. TOMM unequivocally endorses our statement in response to what was discovered:

TOTTENHAM HOTSPUR SUPPORTERS’ TRUST/ ‘STOP STUBHUB’ GROUP

JOINT STATEMENT ON STUBHUB RESALE FACILITY

 20th JANUARY 2014

Having received headline data on StubHub sales for the first six Premier League home games of this season, it is clear that the StubHub resale platform is pushing up the price of tickets to watch Tottenham Hotspur.

The evidence provided shows that 91% of tickets are being sold above face value. At the two category A games included in the data, Chelsea and West Ham, tickets were sold at an average price of 135% and 53% above face value respectively.  

These figures show that StubHub and Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC) are misguided to continue insisting that that the high prices shown on the StubHub platform do not equate to actual sales.  

The evidence is clear for all to see.  

A system in which 91% of tickets are being sold at above face value, and substantially more in a significant number of cases, is not one that supporters’ organisations can back.  

We also believe the Club should be concerned at the fact that 19%, almost one fifth, of season ticket holders have not been able to make one or more of the opening six league games of the season.  

We note the Club intend to make changes to ticketing T&Cs to prevent abuse of the ability to relist tickets on the StubHub platform, also known as ‘flipping’. We are not confident that a fair and transparent method of identifying what is legitimate relisting and what is abusive relisting exists. The Club is, in our opinion, dealing with a symptom of the StubHub system, which it has willingly agreed to. 

We believe a ticket exchange should be a service to supporters, not a means of pushing up ticket prices or generating additional revenue. 

In support of the campaign against licensed ticket touts, the Football Supporters’ Federation said: “Fans already find ticket prices more than demanding enough. The introduction of an additional level of profiteering at our expense can only serve to price more fans out of the game, and must be resisted”. 

We, therefore, call on THFC to end the partnership with StubHub at the earliest opportunity and, instead, to work with supporter groups, the FA and Premier League in their efforts to establish a genuine ticket exchange scheme that does not drive up prices or incentivise fans to exploit fellow fans.

Signatories:

The Board of Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust

Total Tottenham website

The Fighting Cock

Dear Mr Levy website

Alan Fisher – Tottenham on my Mind

TottenhamBlog

Mel Gomes @ The Substantive website

Spurstalk website

Martin Cloake, author and fan

It seems a long time ago now but remember that the club introduced the Stubhub scheme as a service to supporters, replacing the old club-operated Ticket Exchange scheme that sold tickets at face value. Previous Tottenham On My Mind articles such as this one have highlighted my personal concerns about the scheme. The involvement of the FSF indicates that the ticket exchange issue could soon have a national profile.

 If you have not already done so, please sign the petition to show your support: Stop Stubhub 

Thank you.

Stubhub: Myths and Reality, Winners And Losers

Tottenham Hotspur and their kit sponsors Under Armour are currently running a promotion where fans can send in their photos and/or those of family and friends for inclusion on the tunnel wall at White Hart Lane. It’s a great idea – the last thing that the players see as they run out is the joy that they bring to their supporters, a reminder of when it comes to it, when they escape from the protected cosseted world of a modern Premier League professional footballer, they should be doing it for their fans.

Under Armour and Spurs use the language of loyalty to entice supporters. ‘Earn Your Spot’ at the Lane, ‘Love Your Spurs? Then Prove It’. ‘Your Spot In Spurs’ History is Waiting’. They understand the power and emotional pull of being a fan. They know what the club means to us but when it suits them, the relationship is only one way. We keep on giving, whether it be astronomically high ticket prices or creating an atmosphere as on Saturday or at most away games to lift the side from beginning to end. They reciprocate with all the depth of throwaway advertising copy about heroes and history.

When it comes to it, Spurs give us Stubhub. Tottenham On My Mind is part of Stop Stubhub, a campaign to end the club’s ties with the US based ticket reselling agency with the sole rights to sell on tickets for sold-out home matches that have been already been purchased by season ticket holders and members. The campaign by a group of Spurs writers and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust has gathered momentum over the last couple of weeks. The online petition is a simple way individuals can support us. Also, we have had positive feedback from other clubs and the Football Supporters Federation and Sharon Hodgson MP who has longstanding concerns about the operation of ticket resellers regarding concert tickets.

The Chelsea game has brought the issues into sharp focus, so let’s see where we are after a week and bust a few myths that surround Stubhub and the campaign.

First up: when the scheme was announced in the summer, many of us feared that by enabling ticket-holders to set their own price, this would lead to exorbitant profiteering far in excess of the wildest dreams of any street-corner tout. Spurs denied this would happen but the Chelsea game proved them totally wrong. Six days before the game, one pair of tickets was on sale for £1260. The day before, top price was nearly £1000 a pair and not one ticket was available for less than £95. Sellers sought a mark up of 10 and in one case 15 times face value.

We also said this opened the way for tickets to be bought purely for resale and profit. We have no way of knowing this to be true. However, we have heard of one fan who sold his tickets early on at face value plus just a recouping of the Stubhub fee, only to find them back on the site a few days later at a vastly inflated price. Buying to sell. So much for an honest price.

Is this what Spurs really intended? I can conclude one of three things. They could be staggeringly naive about the way fans buy and sell tickets, which from what little I know about the inner sanctum could actually hold water. It could be that they don’t care, which is to my mind negligent and shows their pro-supporter rhetoric to be the hot air it most certainly is. The third option is that they were prepared to tolerate it because they knew this is where Stubhub make their money. If Stubhub see the Spurs contract as attractive for this reason (the higher the selling price, the higher their fee), they are going to bid top dollar for the rights. So in this scenario, Spurs turn a blind eye while Stubhub rub their hands as fans are ripped off.

I don’t know which aspect of this deal infuriates me most: a company that ruthlessly exploits the low supply/high demand equation at Spurs with a popular, well-supported and achieving side that has a small ground, or the club that is apparently prepared to condone this sorry state of affairs.

What we also found out this week is that there are alternatives. Stubhub’s deal with Celtic does not allow reselling or tickets to be listed above face value. Parkhead is much bigger than the Lane, so Stubhub had less bargaining power. Spurs could and should have been stronger. The other alternative remains of course the ticket exchange, either in the same format as existed BS (Before Stubhub) or in a modified format.

The old set-up was open to members only, precisely those people who ‘love their Spurs’ and have paid up front to improve their chances of getting a match ticket. A few people have said, as did a commenter on last week’s Stubhub post, that it’s only a small proportion of tickets, less than 1%. But at least members would have had a chance of getting one of those 226 that were on Stubhub last week, and at face value rather than going to fans who could justify the huge premium. It’s expensive enough and hard enough to get a ticket in the first place. A benefit of membership has been removed but the price hasn’t fallen.

Last one: who could begrudge a fan who makes a few extra quid from selling his ticket? If someone is fool enough to pay, sod ‘em. Probably some stupid football tourist anyway.

There’s nothing about individuals in my writing on this topic or in the campaign statement. Do what you like with your ticket, although in reality you can’t because of the small print in the terms and conditions that means you can’t in theory give it to your daughter, son or mate but you can sell it on at a vast profit provided you go through Stubhub. The campaign is focussed solely on the club for allowing this state of affairs and to work with them to suggest an alternative where fans can sell on unused tickets without taking a loss.

If you are selling to pay for your season ticket, the club need to know about the absurdity of creating prices that force some people into this option. Finally, the sellers on Stubhub weren’t just making a few quid, they joined by unscrupulous resellers buying and selling purely to make a profit.

This week the club announced reduced price tickets for the Europa League and the League Cup, a significant success for the Trust who have lobbied for change on behalf of supporters. It shows that the club may be sensitive to feedback after all. Stop Stubhub has a realistic target of setting up an alternative for two years’ time when the present contract expires. Consistent consultation should become part of the fabric of the club. The new stadium is not so far away. More seats changes the whole balance: they will need to work harder with us fans to fill the ground. Now’s the time to continue the process that the revamped Trust have begun because Spurs will be making plans now. Remind them that they need us.

For more on this, read Total Tottenham and the Fighting Cock Sign the petition now: Stop Stubhub 

Stop Stubhub: A Fans’ Petition

This morning Tottenham On My Mind is proud to join fellow Spurs writers and the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust in publishing a statement condemning the club’s deal with Stubhub as not being in the best interests of supporters. We invite fellow fans to sign the petition opposing the reselling of tickets on the Stubhub site.

Last spring I was one of the first bloggers to criticise the arrangement which has drawn widespread complaints and damages the reputation of the club we all support. With a growing backlash against high prices in the Premier League, it is unacceptable that the club condones the reselling of tickets at an exorbitant premium.

Yesterday morning, there were 226 tickets available for the sold-out game against Chelsea this Saturday. One pair was on sale for £1265. There were 82 tickets each costing over £200, ranging from £200 to over £500, including one junior ticket for nearly £400, about 15 times its face value.

It’s plain wrong. We want Spurs supporters opposed to this state of affairs to sign the petition to demonstrate the strength of feeling about the scheme. We understand the club are tied into a two year contract, which of course we cannot change, so our aim is to establish a dialogue with the club and work together to create a fairer scheme to replace Stubhub when the contract finishes. Therefore there is a realistic, specific purpose and goal to this petition, as part of a campaign that will run throughout the season and beyond. With your help we can make a real difference.

Stop Stubhub – sign the petition here

We are Tottenham Hotspur supporters who believe the club’s deal with StubHub is not in the best interests of fans buying or selling tickets, and has serious implications for football supporters in general.

 

With a growing backlash against ticket pricing at the top level of the English game, a deal which best serves the interests of those wishing to make a profit from their fellow fans damages the reputation of Tottenham Hotspur Football Club (THFC).

 

The way StubHub works is intrinsically against the best interests of supporters. The absence of restrictions on pricing has led, in some cases, to tickets being listed at up to 1,000% of face value. The average list price for a ticket on StubHub vastly outweighs the ticket’s face value. THFC and StubHub actively encourage supporters to list tickets at high prices, emphasising the seller’s freedom to determine a ticket’s list price is a benefit in publicity for the service.

 

We would like to have seen an upper pricing limit introduced, in line with MP Sharon Hodgson’s attempt to introduce legislation in Parliament to restrict the resale of tickets to 10% above face value. THFC has an ideal opportunity to set an example by aligning itself with this initiative, therefore gaining respect and goodwill.

 

We note that secondary ticket agencies have been described as “legalised touts” by Malcolm Clarke, the chair of the Football Supporters Federation. Furthermore, we note that the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust has called for tickets to be sold at face value.

 

After the Swansea game, the first game for which tickets had changed hands via StubHub, we received reports of supporters having to wait for over an hour at the StubHub pick-up point, with some missing up to 35 minutes of the first half because they were still waiting to be handed their tickets.

 

We have concerns about the effect this deal has on the value of existing membership schemes because of the number of tickets that will be made available to members. We also have concerns about a number of security issues.

 

We believe the club’s deal with StubHub should be terminated at the earliest possible opportunity. It should be replaced with a scheme in which the club buys back and sells tickets at face value, possibly through an existing ethical ticket exchange. We would also like to see resale to existing club members prioritised.

 

We would like to see THFC work with fans’ organisations and other clubs to create an ethical, fair and safe secondary ticketing system, possibly looking to shape legislation to regulate the market.

 

This deal was agreed without consulting the supporters it directly affects, and has been implemented without their consent. Such actions undermine the efforts of everyone trying to build a constructive dialogue between the club and its fans. We therefore ask that, in future, proper consultation – which means more than informing fans after the event – takes place over any measure that directly affects fans.

 

Total Tottenham website

The Fighting Cock website

Dear Mr Levy website

Alan Fisher – Tottenham on my Mind

TottenhamBlog

Mel Gomes @ The Substantive website

Spurstalk website

Chris Miller – WindyCOYS.com 

Martin Cloake, author and fan

Supported by the Tottenham Hotspur Supporters Trust

 Sign here: www.change.org/stopstubhub

Background: if you’re not familiar with the way this all works, until the end of last season, ticket holders unable to attend a sold-out game could resell them through the club’s ticket exchange. Spurs deducted commission, the rest went to the ticket-holder. There are two key differences between this scheme and Stubhub:

  • the tickets were sold on at face value. On Stubhub, sellers can not only charge what they like, the freedom to do so is encouraged as a benefit of the service
  • the tickets were available only to Spurs members. On Stubhub, anyone can buy them, including away fans. This also reduces the value of being a member.

This opens up the possibility of away fans in home sections and of tickets being bought purely to sell on at a profit, as we regularly see on reselling sites for sold-out concerts.

The feeling is inescapable: Stubhub see Spurs as easy pickings. In the eyes of the supporters, we have a rich, vibrant heritage, a fine team and loyal fans with a deep attachment to our home ground. All Stubhub see is profit. Small ground, supporters desperate to see their team: high demand and limited supply, it’s ripe for exploitation.

We have links with supporters of other Premier League clubs opposed to similar deals and the Football Supporters Federation

I’ll keep you posted re progress. Follow the campaign on Twitter #StopStubhub

Thank you for taking the time to read this and I look forward to your support.

Regards, Alan