The Thick of It


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

London Olympic stadium farce

The London Olympic Legacy Company is no longer selling the 2012 stadium to West Ham. Cue sigh of relief to West Ham fans. Cue worry from Spurs fans. Cue a sigh of relief and worry from Leyton Orient fans. As a football whore I fall into the latter two categories.

Fans of none of the clubs want to watch football behind a running track. Spurs fans don't want to move to East London and Orient fans deserve better. Having a bigger club dump themselves on your doorstep and then give away thousands of free or reduced tickets to fill an overly large stadium threatens Orient's very existence.

The football authorities should know better. They got it badly wrong in letting Wimbledon "move" and become a new club, with a ready made football league place, with MK Dons in 2004. Letting either West Ham or Spurs move in just a mile away from Orient would be a disaster. Orient are a fantastic example of a community club, having won awards for their work with the locality.

Spurs are playing a game of high brinkmanship. They want to get as much money provided from the public purse for improvements to the Edmonton area to make their own Northumberland Park stadium project "viable". At the same time they don't want anyone else getting a helping hand. They are of course technically right that Newham's proposed £40m loan to West Ham looks very much like a "state aid" (government hand out) to a private company, which is banned by EU law.

The mayor and Olympic legacy company won't want an empty stadium to rot after 2012. That looks likely if a deal for West Ham to rent the stadium doesn't come through. That leaves the same problems, that will be unpopular with fans because the running track will remain and threatens the future of one of London's oldest clubs.

Throughout the whole saga nobody has successfully argued how a 60,000 capacity athletics stadium would be viable in London. I just don't believe there are enough people in London that would want to pay to watch athletics live more than once or twice a year.

The scramble for the Olympic stadium is a race that will have losers whatever the outcome:

  • West Ham move in: Orient struggle, Hammers fans bemoan lack of atmosphere
  • Spurs move in: Orient struggle a bit less, Spurs fans upset at move east
  • Orient move in: Orient struggle in huge stadium
  • Athletics only: huge, over capacity stadium rarely used, taxpayer loses

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