When is it that a club's fans become a commodity? Many supporters of Premier League clubs may be asking themselves that question. As the cranes circle over White Hart Lane, Spurs have been quick to apologise to fans over the delayed opening of their Tottenham Hotspur Stadium, in the process completely failing to apologise for the delay of the announcement. A marquee day for supporters has been cancelled at short notice, and if you think "postponed" is a more accurate phrase try telling that to those who have already paid for travelling to their opening game in their new home. Expecting such an ambitious plan to be completed on time is foolhardy, but only alerting fans of the delay with so little warning is beyond foolish.
To the backdrop of season ticket price rises, cheeseboards and a team that had Moussa Sissoko playing in central midfield in the absence of any on-field investment, it is hard not to feel some sympathy for the Spurs faithful. And yet the ambition of the club - to compete domestically, to challenge in Europe - is partly what has led them here, a dream shared with the fans. With Spurs one of eleven clubs in the 2016/17 Premier League season who could have turned a profit without any gate receipts, is it any wonder that fans are now an afterthought, and do we only have ourselves to blame?
When is it that a portion of the club's fans stop being such a valuable commodity? To paraphrase Orwell, not all fans are created equal. A recent phenomenon is the rating of fans on their authenticity - or plasticity. But while some football purists of a certain ilk will claim the real fans sit on top of the tree, as far as clubs are concerned they are the low-hanging fruit. For all the green and yellow scarfs, protests outside discount sport shops and planes flying banners overhead, it is almost unheard of for the "real" fans to turn their back on a club. Exhibit A - Leeds United still attract north of 30,000 people at Elland Road despite their long-term absence from the top flight. Clubs instead focus on attracting, and then appeasing, a global fanbase.
What started as jaunts to the Far East has evolved to full-blown pre-season competitions across three continents. Sponsors are attracted more to social media interactions than performances or who goes through the turnstiles, evident in the push by some European clubs to build a following through long-term social media strategies, with Roma and Bayer Leverkusen leading the charge, and what cost the occasional social media faux-pas? Inevitably these all bring more exposure, more shared posts, and more quasi-supporters in the click-led economy.
Spurs are probably building their new stadium too late, catching up with other Premier League clubs in attendance size as these same figures decline in importance. The fans caught in the cross-hairs are nothing but test subjects as clubs see how far they can push their support away before it hits the balance sheet. La Liga have recently announced the hosting of games abroad, a move the Premier League toyed with in the last decade before abandoning. This follows in the footsteps of NFL games being played at Wembley, and coincidentally the new Tottenham Hotspur Stadium will also be kitted out to host NFL bouts just as Shahid Khan eyes a permanent NFL residency at the home of football.
Whether the derided 39th game will ever happen is anyone's guess, but if Spurs or any other Premier League team ever end up playing a couple of "home" games at Giants Stadium in the coming years we can't see we didn't see it coming,
Globalisation comes at a cost after all.