Tottenham Hotspur chairman Daniel Levy is an intensely private person. While he is often seen in the stands at Spurs’ stadium and is known as a tough negotiator and fierce advocate for the club, he rarely speaks in public and almost never gives public interviews.
So you can imagine the pressure he must be under at the moment. Levy gave a rare interview with Tottenham’s in-house media team just after the club confirmed the appointment of managing director of football Fabio Paratici. And while Levy didn’t single out individuals or admit to any mistakes over the past few weeks and months, it was what he implied between the lines that will make the most headlines.
The biggest implication was that the club is prepared to take a firm stance on the departure of Harry Kane, with Levy saying that Paratici will be involved in player transfer decisions, and that Kane’s situation will be made with the club’s best interest at heart.
“I am never going to talk specifically about an individual player in public. All I would say is [Kane’s] frustrations of us not winning is shared by me and I am sure all the fans and the players. Clearly we all want to win.
“I think one of the items that Fabio will have to deal with when he comes in is which players are being retained, which players will be asked to look for other clubs. But obviously there is a market out there and what we want, and what somebody else wants, is not always possible to achieve.
“We will do whatever is right for the club.”
Considering the interview was done with prepared questions from Tottenham’s in-house media team, it’s no surprise at all that Levy was fully prepared to answer them, and that the questions weren’t exactly difficult. They were, however, interesting, especially when Levy commented on the financial status of the club. Levy did not mince words when describing how the global pandemic affected Tottenham’s bottom line, though he made a point to say that since the club’s debts are structured for the long term the club’s financial picture is not as dire as others in Europe.
“The financial consequence of buying and selling players, that’s one area that if you don’t get it right it can have dire consequences. We have to be realistic as to where we are today. We’re still in a pandemic, the consequences for this particular club have probably been more severe than for any other club in the Premier League. Over £200m in lost revenue, that we cannot recover. Our timing on opening a new stadium could not have been worse.
We have the most expensive stadium in Europe, the highest level of debt of any club in Europe. But luckily for us it’s all long term. We’re in a good financial position in that sense. But we’re not getting the revenues that we hoped for from our stadium and as a consequence we’re going to have to be careful over the next coming years.
“We need to be prudent because our duty is to protect the club, even though obviously we want to win.”
Notably, Levy made it very clear that the Spurs would invest funds into transfers this summer, but stressed that stability and sensibility would be the watchwords in order to keep the club’s financial status as healthy as possible.
“Sustainability is clearly one of the biggest things that football clubs throughout Europe are now facing and there are a number of clubs that are in very severe financial difficulty. We will spend. But we’re a self sustaining club. We have to be sensible. Sometimes fans thing we ought to be spending but there have been circumstances where sometimes the coach doesn’t want us to spend on a particular player.
“All I will say is that we will make investment in this club.”
Finally, Levy directly addressed the recent protests against his tenure as chairman of the club, something that has always been in the background among some segments of supporters but have risen to a fever pitch lately after the disastrous hiring and sacking of Jose Mourinho, and Tottenham’s equally catastrophic decision to break away to form the ill-fated European Super League. Levy pushed back vociferously on the assertion that he and the board are all profit, not glory, referencing Tottenham’s trip to the Champions League final two seasons ago and calling it “unfinished business.”
“I often read in the media from some of our fans criticizing that we don’t care about the club, that we just care about money. What I’d say to them is that every single penny that goes into this club, whatever the revenue source is, whether that is purely football or whether that is third party events like conferences or concerts, it’s all going back into the team.
“All we want now, having spent all these years getting the infrastructure at this club into the most fantastic position, is to invest in the team. We take a long term view. We have to protect this club. We are custodians of it. Everyone on this board, we are fans. When we go to a game and we don’t win, it ruins a complete weekend. We feel the pain when we don’t get success.
“We also say that patience is a virtue, and that’s something that we definitely need to have in football because things can change so quickly, positively and negatively.
“We all know where we were two years ago. Are we satisfied where we are today? Absolutely not, and we need to turn it around. But we need to make sure that this club is still in a sound financial position in the years to come.”
We need that success on the pitch now. My view is that we’ve got unfinished business.”
It was a good video. Some will call it a puff piece, and they would not be wrong. However, it’s also important that fans hear the club side of things as well, and hear it from the chairman. In some ways, Levy’s reluctance to speak publicly makes it significantly more impactful when he actually does.
Levy is a chairman who clearly feels a deep responsibility to ensure that Tottenham stays at as high a level as possible for as long as possible, and while he certainly appears to be sympathetic to fans who are frustrated, he is also uncompromising in doing what he believes is in the best interest of the club. His words are unlikely to sway anyone who is hardened in their position one way or the other, but it is still important to hear from him, especially now with the club at an important transition point. I hope he continues to speak to the fans more often.