‘Technological singularity’ is the name given to the potential, balance tipping moment at which technology becomes self-aware, possibly having disastrous consequences for humanity.
At Tottenham Hotspur, there exists a type of footballing singularity wherein their ambitions to become one of the biggest clubs in Europe might soon be blighted by the very nature of their success.
Stories emerged in mid-August that the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, a £1 billion development on the site of their former White Hart Lane would be further delayed due to safety concerns and not available for use by Tottenham until November at the earliest.
These delays will result in further leasing fees for Wembley and the loss of one up one third of the potential earning power of their new stadium in its debut season. Tottenham completed the first ever Premier League transfer window without a new signing this summer.
It is unlikely that this was the desire of manager Mauricio Pochettino, who in May urged his Chief Executive Daniel Levy to “be brave” in the coming months, presumably with an eye on transfers.
The new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium is a 62,062 capacity arena with an NFL pitch beneath a retractable grass pitch. Levy has secured a ten-year deal with the NFL ensuring at least two NFL games a year are played at the stadium.
Levy is no doubt banking on the promise of an NFL expansive franchise, expected in London in the next decade, providing a minimum eight games per season.
Levy’s plans to attract an NFL franchise depends greatly on the success of Shad Khan’s proposed bid to purchase Wembley Stadium.
Khan is the owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars, the team considered most likely to be moved to London were an NFL franchise relocated there. Should Khan be successful, Levy would be losing a large potential revenue stream for the new stadium.
The idea of repaying a £1 billion debt is a daunting task. No doubt Levy’s first port of call will be the name: the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, which will offer manoeuvrability when dealing with corporate clients wishing to lend their branding to a famous venue.
Arsenal were paid £100 million in 2004 for a fifteen-year naming rights deal of the Emirates Stadium and it is conceivable that Levy will look to treble or even quadruple this number.
While Bayern Munich announced last year that they had repaid their Allianz Arena debt fifteen years ahead of schedule, their earning power through corporate sponsorship is far superior to Tottenham’s.
Similarly, Levy cannot hope to continue without spending on the football team.
Mauricio Pochettino’s reserved manner is long established, though his calls in May for Levy to ‘be brave’ were an aberration for him.
Pochettino had just signed a five-year contract, and his spell at Tottenham has made him one of the world’s most in demand managers.
The Argentine’s self-belief is evident and his declaration in the book he co-authored with Guillem Ballague last season that he could never manage Barcelona due to his Espanyol roots was neither arrogant nor unwarranted.
Pochettino is the calibre of manager who will be sought by the world’s biggest clubs and the statement betrays an ambition to manage at the highest level.
While some might have been awed by Tottenham and Pochettino’s title contending seasons in 2015 and 2016, arguably the more impressive feat of Pochettino’s tenure has been the way in which he has redeveloped his squad in light of the departure of Kyle Walker and the unavailability of Danny Rose and Toby Alderweireld. Tottenham also navigated the Premier League for two seasons without a recognisable second striker.
Pochettino deftly developed the likes of Dele Alli, Kieran Trippier, Harry Winks and Harry Kane into outstanding talents with relatively little outlay. In many ways, Pochettino has been a Chief Executive’s dream.
Which brings us to Daniel Levy and his defining, balance tipping moment of singularity. Tottenham’s success warrants a new stadium welcoming Champions League football every season, yet the task to repay the debt is onerous.
Pochettino has developed a fantastic squad at Tottenham Hotspur over the past four years but every squad requires continual development and investment.
Should Shad Khan manage to purchase Wembley, it will have long term financial implications for Tottenham’s NFL revenue aspirations.
The singularity question raised is very plain: can Levy have it all? Can he develop both an expensive, state of the art stadium and club while also hanging onto the manager that many other clubs covet?
When discord happens in Madrid and Manchester, it is very possible that Levy’s most testing moment will be when an enquiry comes about his most valuable employee, Mauricio Pochettino.
Pochettino never vied for the title of the world’s most expensive player during his playing days, though it is possible that a bid to make him the world’s most expensive manager would give Daniel Levy food for thought as he aims to balance the books in North London.
It will come as a cruel blow to Tottenham Hotspur fans should their new stadium come at the cost of Pochettino, but the Argentine will also need to consider for how long he intends to operate in financial frugality and whether this will satisfy his ambitions in the game.