Sunday 7 August 2011

Tottenham, the stadium, a letter to Daniel Levy

Dear Mr Levy

We have not met, so let me first establish my credentials as a fan. I am a lifelong Tottenham supporter since around 1960, though I have never lived locally to Tottenham. As I was becoming aware of football, the Nicholson era was in full swing. For me there has never been any other club and never will be. Over the last couple of years I have been a reluctant agnostic on the issue of the stadium. While much preferring my club to remain in Tottenham, I could see that there might be a business case for a relocation. I must say I was pleased when the decision on the Olympic Stadium went to West Ham, and disappointed when Tottenham continued to pursue it.

Last night's events in Tottenham have changed the game. There could not be a better time than now for Tottenham Hotspur to commit itself to Tottenham. It is possible that last night's events were just a flash in the pan and do not speak to some deeper malaise in the area, but the scale of violence and destruction suggests a level of deprivation and disengagement that needs to be dealt with. The police say that relations have been good since the 1985 riots, but that really only hides deeper issues. Guns are still easy to obtain, gang culture is rife. Tottenham Hotspur has a part to play. By committing to rebuilding the stadium at White Hart Lane the club will be saying – we will bring regeneration, we will bring jobs, we will bring infrastructure, we will bring new opportunities, we will bring back respect, we will play our part in bringing the streets back to ordinary people to help them live their lives without fear.

I appreciate that a football club is a business, and that decisions must be made on a sensible businesslike level. But perhaps last night has changed the business environment. If you play your cards right, you now have Haringey and the national government over a barrel. Times are tight, there are cuts everywhere. Indeed, some are already saying that Haringey's 75% cuts in youth services have contributed to the disaffection that is now on display, as young people have nowhere to go but the street. But we can apparently afford £30 billion for a high speed rail link. We should be able to afford a few million for infrastructure round White Hart Lane. It seems distasteful to suggest profiting from a riot, but you have been given a card, Mr Levy. You should play it.

Finally, a football club is indeed a business, but also more than a business. A football club has a soul. If you lose the soul, the business will suffer, possibly not immediately, but inevitably as the years pass the soul will wither, the passion of the fans, rooted in their identity, will diminish. Tottenham Hotspur's soul is in Tottenham. Please don't desert it.