Date: 8th April 2018 at 11:07pm
Written by:

In his book Parklife, journalist Nick Varley traced the relationship between football and the British working classes, from the inception of the professional game to the then-present day of 1999.

The big split between the sport and its principal supporter base occured ten years prior to that.

After years of (mostly Tory) governments using the bad behaviour of a minority of hooligans as a cudgel with which to beat all football fans (who were mostly working class), this changed following the Hillsborough disaster in 1989. Investment started pouring in. The Premier League was founded and, suddenly, the working classes had been entirely priced out of the sport thanks to extortionate season tickets and television rights sold to premium satellite services.

Tottenham’s Trojan Horse? acts almost as the missing final chapter of Varley’s book. In the intervening twenty years since Parklife was published, football’s status as an economic force to be reckoned with has only grown, and its utility as a means for creating class division has increased along with it.

Adapted from Mark Panton’s doctoral thesis with art by Melbourne-born, London-based Amanda Lillywhite, it’s a comic case study of football stadium regeneration being used as a “trojan horse” with which to smuggle gentrification and social cleansing.

With Lillywhite putting faces to names and sensitively illustrating the activists fighting against the destruction of property, mooted as part of a projected new stadium for Spurs FC, it’s a powerful, blood-boiling work of sequential art.

Comics have proven a malleable enough medium to encompass fiction of all genres – journalism, autobiography, literary and film adaptation, history, pornography, even critical theory and copyright law. I’m hard pressed to think of a precedent for an adaptation of an academic thesis, but you can understand the impulse.

Where Panton’s original thesis — of which the Tottenham Stadium was only one illustrative example of a wider trend — was clearly aimed at an academic audience, its translation into a more accessible form is pitched at a wider readership.

The gentrification of areas surrounding football stadiums/the gentrification of football is a topic that can be appreciated by those outside of both the traditional academic publication and comics-reading audiences.

The current state of Spurs, who have been playing at Wembley this season after their former home at White Hart Lane was demolished in anticipation of this new stadium, is known to many. The state of Tottenham the area, less so.

Like many parts of the city outside Central London, the district of Haringey is largely underfunded, underemployed, undeveloped. Following events including the 2011 riots and devastating budget cuts made under the auspices of “austerity” by the coalition government, it’s in an even more desperate state than ever before. Which is where the regeneration/gentrification plan comes in.

Back in 2010, Haringey Council gave Spurs planning permission to build a new stadium. A couple of years later the council announced “regeneration” plans which included the demolition of local homes and businesses to make room for a “fans walkway” from the relocated local train station entrance to the new stadium.

Those most affected by the proposed changes — the homes and business owners who would soon lose their properties to demolition — were not once consulted during the decision-making process. Lillywhite evocatively illustrates the scale of these changes with a bird’s-eye-view of the proposed new stadium, in the blue of the Spurs cockerel, and a huge raft of homes marked for demolition in red.

Lillywhite’s artwork is similar in style and effect to the comics journalism of Sophie Yanow, Kazimir Lee and others published on The Nib. There is a looseness to her linework that has the appearance of being a sketch, something produced on the fly in the field.

Her style, however, is resolutely Angophile in its inspirations — I got shades of Posy Simmonds and Janet Ahlberg in her portraits of locals, Spurs board members and councillors. Putting a face to the quotations from Panton’s thesis humanises them considerably.

All it takes is the addition of a soft caricature and a speech bubble to remind you these are real human beings, authentically furious and heartbroken about what it being done to their community. It makes them far less easy than dismiss than if they were treated as mere statistics, as one suspects Haringey Council and Spurs find it easy to do.

There may be a disclaimer up top that there are “no intentional resemblances to real people” in this comic, but the wild-haired Boris Johnson and chinless David Cameron that make cameo appearances are inspired works of caricature.

The quotations from the Eton-educated pair, as well as from Nick Clegg and a handful of Haringey councillors, are where the mask slips. Despite public proclamations about the regeneration of Spurs stadium heralding a flood of investment into an area that sorely needs it, it quickly becomes clear that predatory new planning laws, housing legislation and a focus on money over people is what is really spurring (pardon the pun) this whole thing.

Never didactic, there is nonetheless something of the polemic about Tottenham’s Trojan Horse?

A book with an extended quotation from Engles is never going to be on the side of the wealthy. Panton and Lillywhite lay out the facts of the matter with a calm and collected confidence, going chronologically through events from the initial announcement of the new stadium, and allowing both sides to say their piece.

When one side is families, business owners and locals who have lived in the area for years, and the other is Spurs executives attempting to shirk responsibility or unsympathetic “fans” who watch the team from a sofa in Dubai, though, it’s not hard to ascertain where your own sympathies lie.

It’s a frustrating story, but by no means an uncommon one. The legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly once said “Some people think football is a matter of life and death. I assure you, it’s much more serious than that.”

However, Shankly was also a committed socialist, describing his political leanings as a belief in “everyone working for each other, everyone having a share of the rewards. It’s the way I see football, the way I see life.”

One has to wonder how he would feel about a version of football that is very much for the few, not the many, where it is considered more important than people’s lives, the sort of football that is presiding over gentrification not only in Tottenham but also his beloved Anfield, and further afield in Brazil and Qatar.

Tottenham’s Trojan Horse? – Mark Panton and Amanda Lillywhite Provide Dire Warnings About Gentrification in the Name of Football

  • Aside from cerebrospinal fluid, what's on your mind?

  • is Gascoigne gonna have a crack? April 9, 2018 at 12:31 pm

    Very much so. With the spectre of Lewis looming behind this was never about THFC. He got a property developer to run it. They’ve knocked down our ground and build an NFL stadium/entertainment complex under our nose as the centre piece of this “regeneration”. Cheered on by most, its a Trojan Horse indeed. A new world is being built and many, many people will be trampled in its wake. RIP my beloved Spurs.

  • Bob April 9, 2018 at 9:58 am

    Agree with ‘too much fun’. Put simply, imagine how the area would be if Spurs had moved away. The local authority is useless anyway. I lost patience with them when they stopped all match day parking on the industrial estate – but you can park there any other time! Pure spite and resulted in all the business owners with parking spaces making money instead of the people of the area. They don’t deserve us there really.

    • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Yeah, because Haringey’s been having it off ever since we moved in 1882. You pilchard.

    • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 10:02 am

      The people/area that made the club dont deserve the club?? Daaaaamn!

  • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Man u likely to be relegated from PL2. Good gosh 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Mad Carew April 9, 2018 at 9:02 am

    Harry Kane is certain He got a hair on Victor Wanyamas goal at Anfield.

  • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 8:30 am

    ENIC have obtained planning permission to build a shopping center (with non affordable homes) at the peoples ally pally. Well it wouldn’t surprise me!!

  • too much fun April 9, 2018 at 6:23 am

    Harry as someone who grew up in Tottenham spitting distance from the ground i now meet no one who is not delighted with the redevelopment when i return to visit my mother.
    On previous match days local non spurs fans had to stay inside whilst sometimes violence happened outside. The area outside football days was and still is very rough, i do not not know anyone growing up who was not a victim of crime.
    Things had to change to get better and this is now a change.
    Not everyone is ever going to be happy and some complainers are simply Arsenal fans or someone who is now seen the house prices in their road double whilst they rent and this is pure resentment.
    An example of local businesses could be a fast food shop that has made its main business out of the trade from Spurs fans but are now failing to evolve.
    I am afraid this is no different to farmers in Edmonton 150 years ago who had to move, it is now there are more platforms to shout from.

    • Ronan April 9, 2018 at 7:11 am

      What is it that’s delighting the local residents, you don’t say.

    • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 7:57 am

      thanks for this propagandist horseshit; no business not a single one in N17 has made a living out out of Spurs or the fans. Even the pubs are closing down.

      Chick King – who are being demolished – have scraped a living by selling hot cheap much to locals who use the place to get a hot meal for £2.

  • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 4:12 am

    I wonder if our under 17s could beat the England ladys first team?

  • MiT April 9, 2018 at 3:38 am

    3 things in this world that grieve me.

    A power-drunk official
    Short corners
    Shit fans


  • Legoverlass April 9, 2018 at 1:49 am

    This is all part of a neo- liberalist globalisation ideology. The people have no method of protest or representation. The media is now controlled spewing out government spin and propaganda. The political and financial systems of the major economies are a busted flush with an elite slice of wealth and power looking for a one world government and control over everything and everyone.

    • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 7:58 am


    • Frontwheel 2 April 9, 2018 at 9:45 am

      I don’t like oven chips

      • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 10:00 am

        Great when using an air fryer. Bad in ovens.

  • ronwol196061🇨🇦🕎⚽🎷🎥 April 9, 2018 at 1:35 am

    Just that one billionaire? Don’t you think other billionaires are flexing their power? The boss of Facebook springs to mind, but many others are chipping in.

    What has happened when the people have ruled themselves?
    All of a sudden an elite develops.

    Its all bullshit,idealism,nonsense.

    The answer is to add to society in positive ways including the individual

  • ronwol196061🇨🇦🕎⚽🎷🎥 April 9, 2018 at 1:31 am

    Anyone see Lord of the Flies.

    • melcyid April 9, 2018 at 3:10 am


  • Legendary greavsey April 9, 2018 at 1:27 am

    Can’t wait for sexy beast to enter this conversation?????

  • Caveman April 9, 2018 at 1:26 am

    Harry, I admire your concern for the Tottenham community and deeply resent ENIC and the Eton educated conmen that are shaping Tottenham to satisfy greed as against making life better for the people who made it their home. I’m supposed to visit a Spurs game in September with my son’s and hope it will be to an away ground.

    • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 8:00 am

      You’ll have a better time away. Unless it’s old Trafford. I’d suggest a game like Hudddersfield or Villa if they come up…

  • gloster1861 April 9, 2018 at 12:54 am

    Can’t believe how Chelsea have folded in the last two months. I thought they would really make a fight for a CL place. It’s now feeling like Spurs are getting it by default.

  • gloster1861 April 9, 2018 at 12:49 am

    If the population of the area need to take direct action independently of their elected representatives, that’s a shameful verdict on the state of democracy. Councillors either wilfully, or ignorantly, making bad decisions for their locality. Sadly local politics is a mixture of self interest, stupidity and contempt.

    • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 8:01 am

      It’s a mess. David Lammy has been bought off by developers and Labour have had to insert Momentum members into the council in order to add some players that aren’t as bent as he is.

  • jvd April 9, 2018 at 12:22 am

    I feel the angst of the people and your post/comments has/have a lot of merit. The answer is most definitely communication. I hate when there is no communication between groups. We are all so different and have different perspectives about everything, that communication and open discourse is paramount anytime peoples lives are impacted. Unfortunately for all of us there is a group of extremely rich people and spineless politicians who all too easily do things autonomously and without considering the effect their actions have on others. I admire your position on this matter and highlighting it in your forum. Not many would bother.

  • Stevo1987 April 8, 2018 at 11:57 pm

    Ok, define working class?

    • melcyid April 9, 2018 at 12:00 am

      a class of people called workers

    • gloster1861 April 9, 2018 at 12:45 am

      Yeah, let’s spend ages defining things and not discuss what’s happening? That’s called deflection, and is a technique to avoid dialogue.

  • Nick April 8, 2018 at 11:45 pm

    I do not claim to know directly about the issues in Tottenham & other under funded over criticised areas of London but I do know that the way things are going we will end up in the era of land owners controlling work & home life with no say for the working classes.Only difference to the 17/1800s is instead of aristocracy it will be foreign investors & conglomerates.

    • ronwol196061🇨🇦🕎⚽🎷🎥 April 9, 2018 at 12:38 am

      Democracy is being attacked by the working class billionaire in the White House and a bunch of IT companies

      • gloster1861 April 9, 2018 at 12:52 am

        Just that one billionaire? Don’t you think other billionaires are flexing their power? The boss of Facebook springs to mind, but many others are chipping in.

      • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 8:02 am

        Trump was voted in fair and square Ron.

        • Mad Carew April 9, 2018 at 9:07 am

          Shame he couldn’t afford a sprinkler system for Trump Towers, one man dead and 7 Firefighters injured.

          • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 9:12 am

            It wasn’t over cost. Try reading the source articles.

            Do you have sprinklers in your home? I don’t.

            • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 9:19 am

              Shouldn’t the question be “do you have sprinklers in your tower block?

              • Mad Carew April 9, 2018 at 9:26 am

                Trump led a delegation of developers in 1999 against retrofitting of sprinklers claiming they were unnessary and expensive.

              • Tappaspur April 9, 2018 at 9:27 am

                Actually it should be said (horrifyingly) “do you NOT have sprinklers in your tower block!!

                • Mad Carew April 9, 2018 at 9:30 am

                  Commercial floors, the bottom 10 have sprinklers, the remainder only have a hard wired smoke detector system.

                  • Harry Hotspur April 9, 2018 at 9:58 am

                    The apartment with the fire was residential.

    • gloster1861 April 9, 2018 at 12:43 am

      You mean a return to a kind of modern feudalism. Probably so, I wonder if Karl Marx saw that coming? I don’t think so.

      • melcyid April 9, 2018 at 2:17 am

        Mot from his grave in Highgate cemetary anyway

        • melcyid April 9, 2018 at 2:17 am