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Tottenham must evolve or sell

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Daniel Levy wants the Premier League to ‘review’ the transfer system (O rly?).

Tottenham may have agreed to drop their ‘charges’ against Liverpool and Manchester United in return for 50m, a striker on loan and a donation to charity, but the scars remain and the London club are understandably furious at having their Champions League tickets ripped out of their hands.

But what will the Premier League do? There are three things they can do, none of them which will be accepted by the members.

Any rule introduced to prevent agents from hawking their players to richer clubs is going to be resisted as a restriction of trade. Regulating agents is the way to go forward but the FA and Premier League have moved at a glacial pace. The third option is to introduce better financial regulation, but that only stops leveraged takeovers a la Manchester United and Liverpool and encourages the likes of Roman Abramovich and Abu Dhabi United Group to jump into football.

Rule changes can make it easier but realistically speaking no wage caps or transfer caps will happen unless there is extremely drastic change, and the people in charge are incapable of change.

So what’s left to do? It’s up to the clubs now to create an environment where players develop a loyalty to the club and commit to working with the club for success over a few years instead of jumping ship to be successful overnight.

It’s not easy – even the biggest clubs lose players along the way, and if Tottenham think they are the only club held hostage to money this summer they are naive, delusional and sadly mistaken.

The time to complain about ‘money ruining the system’ is long gone. Now Levy and every other football chairman have to work overtime to protect their clubs against crazy money offers. How to do it? Here are 5 simple rules:

  1. Develop your own players – when things get tough and players don’t get games, homegrown players are more likely to stick around than players brought in when they’re older.
  2. Work on your branding – it may surprise you but Arsenal do NOT play the best football – however, it’s a story that sells well and Arsenal have built a strong brand around that idea, so much so that even the players buy into it. Find out what works for your club in your situation and build your brand around it.
  3. Value character – the pretty Portuguese boy sells a lot of shirts, for sure, but the real test for him and his club is when he starts playing again. Does he have the character to give the club 110% like before? I’m betting that he will, just as Barry will give his best to Villa and Gerrard has given his best to Liverpool. When the going gets tough, does the player honour his contract or throw a strop?
  4. Keep your promises, or don’t make them – clubs can get carried away when trying to buy players, promising them that they will be qualifying for the Champions League one year and winning it the next. The clubs that keep their players make them promises that can be kept.
  5. Build a family, not a superstar brotherhood – players generally get along – you have to if you’re training together every day – but building close ties means matching personalities, complementing abilities and creating an environment where players can work through their initial difficulties in settling in and bond together; then you’ve got the foundation for loyalty.

It’s not easy, and players will still end up leaving if you don’t meet your goals. But building a solid foundation and playing for the long term, you’ll be better placed to resist when oil money comes calling. You’ll keep more players and then stand a better chance of qualifying for/winning in Europe and then challenging for the league.

Or if all this is too difficult, sell your club to a billionaire. It’s your choice, Mr Levy.

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Ahmed Bilal created Sportslens in 2006. He is a business consultant and entrepreneur who helps businesses identify and overcome their biggest challenges. He’s also the founder of Football Media, an online advertising agency that specialises in sports and male audience targeting, with a monthly reach of 100m+ sports fans in the UK and US. He’s also the previous owner of Soccerlens.com – a sports news site that reaches 3m+ readers / month.