In out, in out, shake it all about. You know the rest…The ENIC Group, owners of Tottenham Hotspur, run by British billionaire Joe Lewis and hard-headed businessman Daniel Levy have been lauded and castigated in equal measure by the Spurs faithful. In recent weeks, some have even called for Levy and co. to step down. But have ENIC really done a good job for Spurs? Or is it a case of one step forward and two steps backwards?
To judge how far Spurs have come under ENIC, you must look at where they were before. The nineties was a difficult decade for the club. The take-over by Alan Sugar in 1991 led to instability on and off the field. Seven managers in the space of nine years, not one top six finish and the solitary trophy. The dizzy heights of Champions League football seemed a long way off.
Sugar sold up in 2001. ENIC came in and Daniel Levy was appointed chairman. The aim of the new owners was (and still is) to ensure Tottenham are competitive on the field whilst being financially stable off it. When you look at it in that respect, ENIC have delivered the goods. In the past five years, Spurs have finished fourth in the league on two occasions and fifth twice. Supporters have had the pleasure of witnessing the team lift the League Cup in 2008 and enjoyed a marvellous run in the Champions League which saw the Lilywhites reach the quarter-finals. The latest financial figures mirror the club’s long-term strategy. The owners recouped £106.75 million in the summer of 2013, a large portion of that attributed to the sale of Gareth Bale. In return the board spent £103.7 million on seven new players to mould a new team. If Tottenham Hotspur is a business, as many have labelled it, then it’s certainly a successful one!
Some argue that financial stability has come at the expense of the supporter. The controversial introduction of StubHub has angered many fans which see the ticketing service as a form of legal touting. From personal experience I can’t quite see the issue – twice I have listed tickets at face value and on both occasions they haven’t sold. Unfortunately, this isn’t a problem confined to Tottenham Hotspur but rather a sign of change in modern day English football. It’s worth remembering that two other Premier League clubs have a partnership with the ticketing company.
Many supporters have bemoaned the amount of time taken to start work on the new stadium. Plans for the Northumberland Project surfaced in 2008 – a 56,000 seater arena, state-of-the-art facilities along with the regeneration of the local area. At an estimated cost of £400m it comes as no surprise that the building work hasn’t started overnight. Projects as big as this take time. The discontent surrounding the new stadium is a prime example of the impatient nature of Spurs fans.
Ultimately, the ENIC In/ENIC Out debate boils down to how well the team are performing on the field. Spurs win – Sherwood was a brilliant appointment and the seven players bought in the summer are world beaters. Spurs lose – sacking Villas-Boas was an awful decision and the board is showing no ambition. It is the typical knee-jerk reaction to blame the guy at the top. But you should be careful what you wish for. The next time you find yourself calling for ENIC or Levy’s head, just think – would you really want Spurs to be run by a erratic character such as Vincent Tan or Assem Allam? I’m sure you’ll agree, the answer is a resounding no.