Tottenham entering a defining period, on and off the field

As important as these games are, there is another date, Dec. 8, ringed on the calendars of Spurs’ fans. That’s the day that Spurs hope to have their revised plans for a new 61,000-seat stadium come before the Planning Sub Committee of the London Borough of Haringey.

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With a present cap of just 36,000 spectators, Spurs are ill-equipped to match the revenue generation enjoyed by the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal, and the White Hart Lane replace/retrofit/move saga has been a long-running tale of plans, revised plans and even more revised plans. But finally it looks like the latest version is going to be given the green light by the authorities. The current plan has a stadium opening date of 2018, with Spurs having to ground share during the 2017-18 season. The current estimated cost is over $616 million which puts it in the same “ballpark” as Emirates Stadium, home of Arsenal that opened in 2006.

The Spurs financing model is not substantially different to that employed a decade or so ago by their greatest and bitterest rivals – the sale of naming rights, some portion financed by property development, and bank financing picking up the rest. Given Arsenal’s experience in navigating the high-wire act of stadium development, it is easy to draw the conclusion that Spurs’ experience will be analogous.

Chairman Daniel Levy’s assurances that the stadium development won’t impact on Spurs’ ability to buy players echoes statements from senior Arsenal figures over the last dozen years. Some people point to the escalation of television rights-fees since Arsenal embarked on the Emirates as a buffer now available to Spurs, as well as a benefit of lower borrowing costs. Both certainly offer Spurs a leg up in terms of managing the risk, but there is another significant difference.

Prior to the development of the Emirates Stadium, Arsenal was not a selling club. They quickly became one with the likes of Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry, Cesc Fabregas, Robin van Persie, Kolo Toure, Emmanuel Adebayor and Samir Nasri all leaving, most for large fees and seemingly greener pastures. Arsenal dropped from perennial contenders for silverware to a team that targeted Champions League qualification.

On the other hand Spurs have been a selling club for some time. Michael Carrick, Dimitar Berbatov, Luka Modric and Gareth Bale come readily to mind. A look at Spurs financials for the five years to 2014 tells the tale. Over that time Spurs generated a before tax profit of $108 million; during the same spell the profit from selling players was $251 million.

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