After writing a bunch of very serious, yet important, posts this year about the public money being wasted on poor scientific research in the UK into myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome, I thought a bit of light relief was in order. Something more positive, more fun, but also focused around how much something costs.
I am a football fan, a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. It’s one of the only joys I have left in my life since I got sick, and it distracts me from the terrible symptoms I get bombarded with each and every day along with 250,000 others sufferers in the UK. For 90 minutes while a game is played, I almost forget how sick I am.
Or judging by yesterday’s game against West Ham, 90 minutes plus injury time; how many times have we beaten them late on in the game? Last night’s game was another classic!
Until someone (probably not in the UK) figures out this disease and develops a treatment, I can only watch the games from my bed, but I look forward to a treatment making me well enough that I can visit White Hart Lane in person — though by the time that happens it will certainly be the new White Hart Lane, and that is what I want to talk about.
To many fans it will always be White Hart Lane, and after years of uncertainty I am pleased we decided to stay put and build a new stadium on the existing site. No forgetting out roots and losing our identity like Woolwich or West Ham have done.
But of course, in today’s big business commercial world the stadium will be called something else officially. The naming rights to the stadium will be sold to a sponsor. So who is it going to be and how much might the deal be worth?
The club is playing things close to their chests, but it’s been said they are in talks with lots of potential sponsors. This is no surprise as the English Premier League is a global brand that everyone wants a piece of. But there has already been some speculation.
QUATAR INVESTMENT AUTHORITY/QUATAR AIRWAYS: talk of a six year deal worth £150 million (£25 million a year). Or according to other outlets it’s worth more than the £400 million Manchester City agreed with Etihad Airways for their stadium. There is some discontentment among fans who point out the Quatari government has a poor stance when it comes to human rights. I don’t know if this would have any impact on a deal being struck by the club, but I think it’s fair to say that many fans would feel more comfortable with someone else being the sponsor.
UBER this is another potential sponsor that has been rumored to be in talks with the club, thought it sounds unlikely to result in agreement. Apart from black cab drivers, fans don’t seem to have any problem with this idea.
AIA are Spurs’ current shirt sponsor, a massive pan-Asian insurance company and with the growth of football and the Premier League in Asia and the club having the most popular and talented Asian player in it’s first eleven, it seems likely that they’d be interested in continuing their association with the club’s brand. The only downside is the red logo – not the favorite colour of Spurs fans. I guess we could live with it, it’s not a major problem, but some would be happier with a different colour plastered on our new stadium.
I’m sure more potential sponsors will appear in the press over the next year, but how much might the deal be worth? Here is a look at other deals for comparison:
That £400 million deal of Manchester City’s, over ten years (£40 million a year), was agreed in 2011, commercially and in terms of viewers, the league has moved on since then. So it is not unfathomable that Spurs would achieve a bigger deal even though they are a smaller club, especially when you consider the plus points of the Spurs offering (which I’ll come to in a moment).
Woolwich’s original stadium deal back in 2004 was for around £100 million over 15 years (£6.6 million a year) and was a big deal at the time but it now looks quite small. It goes to show that if you are going to strike a long term deal you really need to be agreeing a higher price because the league continues to grow, else you aren’t getting a good deal as a club. Unlike Woolwich, Spurs chairman Daniel Levy is good at this sort of thing. It may be more commercially sensible for Spurs to agree a smaller overall deal for a shorter period of time and then sell the rights again in 6 or 7 years time. Woolwich’s latest deal includes shirt sponsorship so is more complex to work out in terms of stadium naming rights. If anyone has an accurate picture of what the latest stadium deal is worth, feel free to comment and let me know.
But the new Tottenham stadium has certain advantages that are likely to make the deal more attractive to sponsors.
– London: it is impossible to overstate how significant an advantage it is to be a London club. There are some big clubs across the country but London and the surrounding area contains the highest population in the country, there are simply more people here, more customers to reach, than say in Manchester. It has good transport links and is a big, modern, international city. People want to do business here, to visit here and to live here, and everyone has heard of it. It’s a big commercial advantage for any team to be based in London and I think that advantage is only going to grow in the next decade or two. It follows that this makes it more attractive to potential sponsors.
– The stadium itself: Why would you chose to sponsor a decent, though generic and now somewhat dated-looking stadium like that of Woolwich? Or an athletics bowl used for football with stands held up by scaffolding with gaps in between, and big concerns over crowd control and safety? It’s said that the owners of West Ham’s athletic’s home, hope to get £6 million a year for it. That’s less than Woolwich achieved more than a decade ago, and to be honest I don’t see West Ham even achieving that. The Tottenham stadium is unique, it’s ground-breaking (if you’ll excuse the pun) and modern. It’ll be the largest club stadium in London with its 61,000 capacity. It’s just so much more attractive to a sponsor to be associated with something so special compared to what else is available.
– NFL: Even though the Premier League is ahead in terms of commercial revenue, the NFL boasts the largest overall revenue of any sport in the world. There have been some NFL games at Wembley but no club ground has hosted such games. And Wembley was designed solely for football, it does not meet the needs of the NFL, which requires different facilities such as much larger changing rooms. NFL is also normally played on an artificial pitch, playing on Wembley’s grass is a compromise. What Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has smartly done is agreed a deal to play a minimum of two visiting NFL games at the new Tottenham stadium in a ten year deal, which in addition to the football facilities will have additional facilities purpose built to cater for NFL – both changing rooms and an NFL style pitch, which will retract so you can transform the stadium from a football pitch into an NFL pitch at will. The best of both worlds, without compromising the suitability of either mode. The fact Daniel Levy has gone so far to accommodate NFL alongside football suggest that there are plans for a London based team at the Tottenham stadium in the future.
So a stadium sponsor not only gets access to global customers from the most watched football league in the world, which continues to be watched by more and more people (see last weeks mammoth China deal for example) but they also get their name out to a globe full of NFL customers also. This alone makes this deal much more appealing than that offered by anyone else in world football.
– The Spurs brand: Spurs is a big global brand, but one of the things that I think makes it particularly appealing for sponsors is that we are a growing brand, we have not peaked, we are not going downhill, we are on the up. In terms of value for money you don’t want to pay top price for something that is no longer worth top price. You want to pay and then find your investment is worth more than you paid for it, you’re getting a good deal. There was a time 10 or 15 years ago when Spurs were a mid-table team. We were pleased if we qualified for the Europa league and we had no squad depth, only the occasional star, and managers being sacked left right and center. That is all in the past, and our rivals can’t stand it.
We have retained our attractive style of play, while toughening up mentally, and defensively. We have the best training facilities in the country, and we have an academy that produces players like Harry Kane, top scorer last season, despite being so young still. The attention our players bring commercially is only going to grow as our young players mature and increase in ability.
Spurs were the biggest challengers to Leicester City last year for the title but last year came too soon for us, our squad was the youngest, still is, and we need another three or four seasons to peak as a team. If we win something before then it will be ahead of schedule. A deal struck in the next year or two is likely to look good value for money a couple of years into the deal.
– Additional facilities: The new Spurs stadium is not just a ground where games are played, and concerts hosted, it also offers other unique commercial attraction such as the tallest indoor climbing wall in the world and a huge scuba diving tank. What is being built is not just a stadium, it’s an experience. A hotel, new homes, a massive public square, a medical center. The whole project is carefully designed to draw people to its facilities, not just when a match is on.
So although we may not easily achieve a deal as significant as the very biggest, top bracket clubs, could in our shoes, I would not be surprised if we struck a deal that will surprise some people. I think the club will get at least £35 million a year for the naming rights, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we struck over the £40 million mark. Levy is innovative, don’t be surprised if we see him strike some type of deal not seen before. A few years back when we reached the quarter-finals of the Champions League, Levy struck two shirt sponsorship deals, one for the Premier League and one for the Europe, which no one had done before. I imagine that deal worked out to everyone’s advantage. Who can say what he will come up with this time. Could we see a mammoth deal for shirt manufacturer, main shirt sponsor, merchandise and stadium all in one deal? Some kind of auction of naming rights similar to how the Premier League sells it’s TV rights? We’ll have to wait and see, but there is every reason to think Tottenham Hotspur will be knocking on the door of that top bracket as a result of whatever deal is made. The club has made a huge investment, likely to cost £750,000 all in all, but that investment is going to pay off.
The new stadium is going up, and you can watch it take shape live via webcam on Stadium TV. It’s the most viewed construction site on Earth at the moment and pretty interesting to watch it take place.
Watching Spurs keeps me going while I wait for a research breakthrough that will treat my disease. One day I hope to visit our home stadium and see the team play in the flesh. If you want to help make that happen, you can check out the Open Medicine Foundation and donate if you like what you see. It is headed by Professor Ron Davis who is director of the Stanford Genome Technology Center. They are already making progress with the disease but they need help to get there.