Much has been made of an announcement Tottenham Hotspur Football Club made last week. No, not the announcement capture of Toby Alderweireld from Atletico Madrid, though that could prove an impact signing in the seasons to come.
No, it was that other announcement that caused the biggest stir: that Tottenham had updated their new stadium designs to accommodate two National Football League games a season for the next ten years.
Predictably, many have rallied against the deal.
Those in the “Against Modern Football” movement loved to hate on this deal. There’s the anti-American movement, too. Some of my American brethren with anti-NFL stances thought such a deal would tarnish the club’s legacy. And there were even some concerns expressed that Tottenham Hotspur FC would even remain the primary tenant of the stadium. To be fair, there are a lot of valid concerns about the deal overall — but its here to stay whether we want it or not.
Not everyone, however, is in the “against” camp.
Many — myself included – feel this is nothing but good for the club, provided the deal is primarily designed to have additional revenue earned through hosting two NFL games a season funneled back into the team. The NFL was going to pick a home in London eventually, and its forward thinking of Spurs to put themselves in a position to benefit from that. In a league where multiple teams will soon play in sizable new homes with increased match day revenues, alternative streams of funding will be imperative to continue to compete and improve.
But there is one aspect of the updated stadium plans that I’ve not really heard much talk about.
Recall back to September and October of last year when Spurs were the subject of a potential takeover bid from US-based investment firm Cain Hoy.
Ultimately, that deal fell through as Cain Hoy weren’t willing to meet ENIC’s valuation of the club. Reportedly, Joe Lewis, Daniel Levy and company thought the club was worth staggering £1 billion. That included the club itself, the shiny new training center in Enfield and the investments into the new stadium project.
Though it has a rich history all its own and a growing global footprint of fans, it’s no secret that Spurs aren’t exactly in the “elite tier” of clubs in the Premier League. And as such, that massive valuation raised more than a few eyebrows. Many expected a number like that for clubs like Liverpool (who were sold for a peanut-esque £300 million in 2010) or Manchester United (for a then huge £790 million in 2005). But for a “small club” like Tottenham, it seemed a little — ahem — steep. That said, ENIC were and still are entitled to value the club at whatever number they like, and they clearly aren’t in a position where they have to sell.
But the main point to glean from that process was that ENIC were indeed willing to sell the club, provided someone paid them what they wanted.
And when the stadium revamp and NFL deal were announced last week, it immediately seemed obvious to me that the decision to make those changes was mainly driven by that willingness to eventually sell the club.
Think that’s absurd? Take a moment to mull it over.
As already mentioned above, we know that being able to host two NFL games a year provides a huge influx of revenue for Spurs on a yearly basis. That alone would be a sweetener for anyone potentially interested in the club.
But by selecting a stadium design that enables an easy swapping of the football pitch for the gridiron field, that makes it significantly easier to host more than two games a season, too. Like a whole lot more. Maybe even a season’s worth.
It’s practically common knowledge that the NFL has long eyed London as a permanent expansion location. The regular hosting of games at Wembley in recent NFL seasons has been an experiment to gauge the interest in doing so, one that’s proven wildly successful. Teams like the Jacksonville Jaguars have been mooted as potential relocation candidates, particularly since they’re owned by Fulham owner Shahid Kahn — though Kahn has been quick to deny he’s pursuing swapping his West London club for one in North London. But you can guarantee he’s at least thought about it.
And it’s that line of thinking that formed the basis for my theory: an easily convertible football stadium drastically increases Spurs’ value to potential buyers. By purchasing Tottenham Hotspur Football Club and all that it possesses, any potential owner isn’t shoehorned into a single revenue stream. They could potentially have two: Spurs and a permanent NFL team.
And that could easily make a few billionaires reconsider whether £1 billion would be too steep an asking price for Spurs.
Given the value of the new Premier League television contracts, the increase in popularity in the club and league, and the possibility of being the only NFL team in Europe — well, you’d have a hard time convincing me there wouldn’t be at least a few NFL owners who wouldn’t be interested in that kind of an investment.
Is that for sure what Levy, Lewis and the rest of ENIC’s investors have up their sleeves? Who knows. But it paints an interesting picture, at bare minimum.