Andrew Warshaw finds out how the transformation of Tottenham’s stadium is having a far wider impact across the local area both economically and socially.
He is an intensely private man who shuns the limelight and is rarely interviewed, his expressionless face giving away few clues about his thoughts and emotions whenever the television cameras zoom in on his seat in the directors’ box.
But Tottenham Hotspur’s Daniel Levy, winner of Premier League CEO of the Year sponsored by SeatGeek at the Football Business Awards 2017, prefers to let his actions do the talking.
While Levy may in the past have divided opinion, with many fans bemoaning Tottenham’s image as a selling club that can never emulate past glories, times are rapidly changing. Much of that is down to the skills of manager Mauricio Pochettino and his courageous willingness, rare among top-flight coaches, to bring through exciting home-grown talent.
But behind the scenes it is Levy, one of the canniest and most savvy operators in the game, who pulls the strings and deserves equal credit – if not more – for Tottenham’s progress over the past couple of seasons and, more long-term, for what promises to be a buoyant future at their eagerly anticipated, state-of-the-art 61,000-seater new stadium following years of under-achievement.
Talk to the Tottenham diehards and most of them will tell you there has never been a better time (perhaps apart from the 1960s) to be a Spurs fan, notwithstanding something of a blip at the time of writing that saw the club fall out of the top four. Ah, that phrase, top four. It is a measure of Levy’s commitment to the club he has supported since boyhood that the barrier has been raised in terms of what constitutes success. Tottenham are no longer happy to punch above their weight and occasionally dally with the Champions League. The goal is to do battle with Europe’s elite on a regular basis.
Easier said than done of course when most of Tottenham’s rivals are paying fatter wages and enjoying greater revenues. Which is exactly what makes Levy’s sharp business acumen all the more pivotal to the club’s ambitions. His reputation as a hard-nosed businessman when it comes to pulling off last-minute deals is legendary but it belies an uncanny ability to strike that all-important delicate balance between keeping the club on a firm profitable financial footing whilst at the same time maintaining competitiveness on the pitch.
It is a challenge that will become all the more acute when Tottenham move into their swanky new stadium due to open at the start of next season barring any unforeseen circumstances. Knowing Levy, he will put together the best possible plan that accommodates bank financing. And with match day revenues certain to rise considerably, there is only one direction of travel and that is up – not only in terms of being able to hang on to the club’s marquee talent, and add to it, but also with regard to the entire fan experience and the Tottenham community as a whole.
Indeed, no stone is being left unturned to use the stadium project to improve the environment and enhance the local economy. Hundreds of job opportunities are being created and it’s easy to understand why so much emphasis is being placed on changing the landscape off as well as on the pitch. While White Hart Lane has long been one of the UK’s most iconic grounds, evoking tear-jerking memories of some of the greatest players and historic matches the English game has seen, the area is among the most deprived anywhere in London, hardly a place families would choose to visit.
That is all about to change, regeneration being the byword for everything the club is trying to achieve.
“People associate Tottenham the area with Tottenham Hotspur, but I think as part of the regeneration plans here you will see major changes in this area and a lot of tourism,” Levy has been quoted as saying.
“The stadium sits at the heart of a major project which is going to involve significantly increased housing and increased jobs that will really change Tottenham over the next 20 years. This is not just significant for the club but the local area; it will create a focal point and we want to become a real leisure destination for London. This is an area that needs regeneration and to have that you need activity so the more events we can have at our stadium, the more people that come to the area, the more jobs we can create.”