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Page last updated at 13:46 GMT, Friday, 11 February 2011

Where now for Spurs?

Tottenham Hotspur
Tottenham Hotspur celebrated their 125th anniversary in 2007

By Leon Mann

It is back to the drawing board for Tottenham Hotspur. West Ham have been selected as the preferred bidder to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford after London 2012, meaning Spurs will remain at White Hart Lane - for the time being at least.

The public relations battle between the two London football clubs ahead of Friday's announcement by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) raised a number of interesting issues affecting both sets of fans.

Does football territory mean anything anymore? Is football officially now more about business than the heritage of a club? How important are local people to a football club?

The latter struck me at an entertaining Spurs news conference with manager Harry Redknapp three weeks ago. Amid stories of him being mugged in Madrid, transfer targets and the weekly Ledley King injury update, the Spurs boss told the press that local people in Tottenham do not support the team. He went on to say 1% of those in the local area come to matches - according to Harry the same was true at the Hammers.

Just because a club is massive and has fans that are largely not from the local area I don't think that means you've got the excuse to start ignoring everything that makes the club what it is

Tim Framp, We Are N17

Having been brought up in Haringey, trained at Spurs as a youngster and attended plenty of Tottenham games in my capacity as a journalist, I wondered how true this was.

I recounted this line from the press conference to Tottenham MP David Lammy, who warned: "We must be very, very gentle when we are talking about the poorest area in London with the highest unemployment and a club that has some of the highest ticket prices in the Premier League.

"Football has become a modern phenomenon. It's become a phenomenon that has priced a lot of people out of the game. But just because it's priced those people out of the game - and prevented them from being able to go and sit in the stands - in a constituency like mine, let us not get into a situation where we then whip the club away from the community and rush somewhere else for hospitality boxes and expensive naming rights."

Lammy believes Spurs would not be the club they are today without the local community.

"It is the quintessential north London club. It was begun by a bible teacher and some young lads from All Hallow's church 127 years ago. That counts for something," he added.

"Tottenham is a community where many immigrants have come. Spurs is a club built on the back of that. And, for all of those reasons, keeping Spurs in Tottenham is hugely important."

Tim Framp, spokesperson for We Are N17, a group of Spurs fans campaigning against the club moving away from White Hart Lane, saw Friday's announcement as, "the end of the first chapter in a slightly longer story."


He went on: "Just because a club is massive and has fans that are largely not from the local area I don't think that means you've got the excuse to start ignoring everything that makes the club what it is.

"It's hard to put it into the context of football clubs because they are businesses now. But where do you draw the line? As soon as you start taking that view you get into the issue of who makes up the majority of Manchester United fans. Is it 200 million Chinese people? So should United be going out to China and building a 200,000-seat stadium and playing half of their games there.

"So much of what makes football such a beautiful and romantic game is being eroded away."

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy had defended the club's ambition to move to Stratford by stating very clearly that staying in Tottenham - and following an original plan to develop White Hart Lane which would increase the capacity to 58,000 - is not financially viable.

Levy told BBC Sport earlier this week: "We are desperate to find a solution for a bigger stadium. We haven't actually said we'll move out of the borough. What we have said is that we will have to consider other options because the current plans on the new White Hart Lane are just not financially viable."

The members of We Are N17, some of whom held a private meeting with Levy in recent weeks to discuss the issue, do not accept the chairman's view.

"Two years ago we were told that it wouldn't even impact on our transfer budget let alone be financially viable. It is tough to marry up what we were told before and what we've been told now. Unless we can understand why the club can't be in Tottenham - that's where we want to be", Framp commented.

Olympic decision weak and cowardly - Sugar

As part of the PR battle during the Olympic Stadium bid, Levy urged fans to "remove the emotion" when considering Spurs' bid to move east. He also spoke about having the support of 99% of his fans.

The snap shot of reactions on social networking site Twitter show supporters are generally in favour of the OPLC board's decision.

@dwoodley1990 Over the moon over Olympic stadium. As a Tottenham fans majority of fans didn't want it no matter what Daniel Levy says.

@tim_aston so, Mr Levy.... Plan B??

@DarrenLA Spurs Fans must now unite and push for either the NDP or a redeveloped WHL.

@ThisIsSammy Maybe #Haringey will cough up a bit and make the #NDP more affordable. Otherwise it will still be a move from WHL

@ThisIsSammy As a #Spurs season-tik holder I can clearly see we need a new stadium. If a new WHL then great but only if affordable & w/ transport.

@tobi_316 Time for Haringey Council to stop hindering the club and assist us instead.

@Gaza_r2 So West Ham have been awarded the Olympic Stadium and having just heard what the 5 criteria were, I fail to see how we met only 3. #thfc

@Fountainjohn Very pleased that #THFC are not moving. Good riddance the East End.

@markhifh north london is oursssssssssss

@gavinp23 I'm not pro-Stratford, I'm not pro-NDP, I'm pro-Tottenham, please, do not embarrass us by embarking on a legal challenge.

@Mr_Malark Shame. Shame on all the people who held THFC back and pretended it meant anything to the vast majority of the Tottenham community

@MarkTilley10 Glad Spurs avoided moving to Stratford but would like clarity on club's new stadium plans now OS isn't happening.

So where do Tottenham go from here? With a season-ticket waiting list of more than 35,000 fans, the club needs a solution.

Levy had said there was no plan B if a move to the Olympic Stadium failed, which would suggest the north Londoners have no option but to remain in the area. That would certainly please some of their fans.

But moving forward you wonder whether the club would consider following a move made by Everton in 2007.

The Merseysiders balloted 36,000 supporters on a proposed move from Goodison Park to a new ground in Kirkby. While the new stadium did not materialise, a similar approach by Spurs would keep fans happy as they would be fully consulted and play an integral part in their clubs future. But would Levy consider it?

Lammy is unequivocal in his vision. He wants to consign the proposed Stratford move to the past and work together with Spurs to keep the club in the N17 area. Planning permission was granted for development of their current stadium on 30 September 2010, and Lammy wants to return to that plan and work through any issues.

"The last few months has been a kind of a digression but I want to turn the page on that digression to where we were," Lammy continued.

"There are other super clubs in Manchester and Liverpool that have stayed in their area - often very poor - and still gone on to grow, and I think Spurs can go on to do the same thing."

Whether Levy, and the club, agree with Lammy's vision remains to be seen.

Mentions of Olympic stadium bids across social media

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see also
West Ham 2012 stadium bid chosen
11 Feb 11 |  London
Olympic verdict delights West Ham
11 Feb 11 |  London 2012
Athletics boss hails 2012 choice
11 Feb 11 |  Olympics
Olympic bosses back West Ham bid
10 Feb 11 |  London
Brady critical of Spurs 2012 plan
07 Feb 11 |  London 2012
IOC 'doesn't care' about legacy
26 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs & West Ham fans in the dark
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012

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