With construction on Tottenham Hotspur’s new stadium now well underway – you can see the framework of the lower terraces now! – speculation has now turned to naming rights. Specifically, fans and observers are curious as to what company will pay millions of pounds to splash their name on the roof of the new building.
Today, the Times of London is reporting that Tottenham officials are in negotiations with the government of Qatar to secure a naming rights deal with the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the country’s private investment arm. If completed, the deal could bring in £150m over the life of the deal.
Unfortunately the Times article is behind a paywall, but football blog Outside90 has a decent summary of the article’s contents. Reportedly, the deal is not final, but the two sides are in negotiations. Tottenham apparently were hoping for £25m/year over the lifetime of any naming rights deal, but have had to negotiate that down due to current market conditions. Outside90 doesn’t state the length of the rumored contract.
Qatar has been investing heavily in sports for a few years now, as have other oil-rich countries in the Middle East. QIA and Qatari businessman Nasser Al-Khelaifi finalized the takeover of Paris St.-Germain back in 2013, and most football fans are aware of the huge kit sponsorship deal Qatar has with Barcelona, a deal that expires at the end of next season. If these reports are to believed, Tottenham’s shiny new stadium with its corresponding deal with the NFL make it a prime target for Middle Eastern investment.
The deal isn’t finalized and we don’t know many details yet, but on the surface a £150m sponsorship deal plus Tottenham’s arrangement with the NFL would take care of a good chunk of the stadium costs. Arsenal’s naming rights deal with Emirates Airlines was £100m over 15 years, so this would be worth significantly more money. That’s good news for Tottenham’s bottom line.
However, many football fans are already nervous with the idea of significant investment in Tottenham from a country that effectively bribed FIFA to host the 2022 World Cup, has been mired with allegations of human rights abuses in the construction of its football stadiums, and has had (to be fair, nebulous) ties to the financing of terrorist organizations.
Tottenham’s Champions League participation, its new stadium, and its increasing footprint in the international football scene makes it a tempting target for investment. It should be no surprise that some of those investors are going to be foreign ones. While the small #AgainstModernFootball part of me (yes, there is one) initially reacts with unease to these reports, another part of me doesn’t want to overreact to what is already a part of global football, and one that could help jump-start Tottenham’s ascension into the highest reaches of the club football hierarchy.
The naming rights for the new stadium was always bound to be a controversial and divisive issue, and the probability that Spurs would end up with a somewhat odious stadium sponsor was already ludicrously high. However, would we rather see Spurs play in a stadium named for Paddy Power, StubHub, or some huge investment bank? It’s only a name, it will increase the club’s earning power, and the Etihad and Emirates stadiums already exist in top-flight English football. At this point, what’s one more?