grounds for change ?

Next week, the future of the club might be changed, when the Olympic Park Legacy Company make their
decision about the use of the Stratford stadium after the 2012 Games.  So, what will be the outcome ?
The prospect is not one which fills Matt Tyler with glee.

22.01.2011

With the 2012 Olympic Games coming ever closer, the need for some clarity on what is happening then and thereafter is ever pressing.

Tottenham's interest in moving into the Olympic Stadium is to cut costs on the new ground they want.  The one at Northumberland Park has risen in cost and there are a lot of add-ons, which might make it less favourable to the board.  Haringey Council spin the story that they have turned the planning application around in record time, but for years they have been less than welcoming to Tottenham's proposals for the ground.  Not to say that Newham might be any more amenable, but if it is a question of having a football ground in N17 or letting that already deprived area sink even further, you would have thought that one of the major employers and major revenue generators would have been offered a little encouragement to stay.  With no grant funding to assist Tottenham, they might see Stratford as a viable option in terms of saving some money for bolstering the team for future success ... or maybe it is just a ploy to move the ground to a location closer to the City and nearer to lots of good transport connections, to make it more saleable.  I would hope that Daniel Levy wouldn't be doing it for that reason, but I have been following football too long to view it with nothing more than a hint of cynicism.

The club has been built up over the last ten years to move forward and be one of the major players in English football ... and hopefully European football come to that.  To then sell up and leave it in the hands of opportunist investors, would be selling the club and the fans down the River Lea.  Don't do it Daniel ... or you might have to face some hungry lions. 

A tool to force Haringey's hand was how it was first seen, but as time has gone on, the Olympic flame has been burning brighter in the thoughts of those in the board room at THFC.  In the heat of the move, 112 years of history could be extinguished and where will that leave 'XXXX' (no not Fosters) Hotspur if even the name has to change ?  Perhaps the money that can be raised from the stadium naming rights could be doubled by selling the name of the team to the highest corporate bidder ?

So, with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) sitting in judgement on the bids submitted by West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur, which will be the lucky party who get to turn one white elephant into a shiny new venue ?

The sheer fact that this discussion is taking place a week before their decision speaks volumes of the lack of planning in the preparation for the Olympics.  Let's chuck up a stadium to host the event and then think about what we will do with it afterwards.  Well, whoopie-doo.  now we are there and suddenly, everyone is turning holier than thou in saying "we must keep a running track", "we must keep it for the legacy for the people of Newham" or "we must make sure the Olympic organisation don't think badly about us."

Go back six years to the home of the Olympics ... Athens.  Would it be ready in time was one of the main questions on people's lips before the Games.  Not what will happen afterwards.  As it turns out, the lack of interest seems to have been echoed by the home authorities, who found that within four years, the majority of the structures built for the Games had fallen into disrepair.  There were some good things that came out of those game, but they were in infrastructure and not as a sporting legacy.

Go back further to Barcelona in 1992.  Huge amounts of money pumped into schemes to build new roads, structures, housing and parks, but what happened after the circus moved out of town ?  The wonderful promise of jobs was only there as long as the Games were on and the infrastructure was well-needed, but to bring in the hordes of tourists they do now, has involved years of investment into the city to make it a place that is one of Europe's premier destinations.

Sydney 2000 ... a fantastic Games, but within a year the main stadium had fallen into receivership, as there were few events held in the 110,000 capacity venue.

Closer to home and closer in time, the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Manchester left what sporting legacy ?  A new shiny Velodrome, which has helped the country win gold at the Olympics, but other than that ?  An indoor tennis centre and Eastlands Stadium, which has been taken over by Manchester City and ... surprise, surprise, ... no running track, as it is for exclusive use as a football stadium.  Now City have to pay 50% of all profits on attendances above 32,000 and 60% above 40,000, which has helped sport in the area and perhaps this is the way to go with Stratford.  Any revenue raised can help in the vicinity.

Tottenham's latest pitch (for the stadium, not a piece of grass) is to use funds to build a sporting centre elsewhere ... in this instance Crystal Palace.  Not a bad idea, as there was a National Sports Centre there once (to mis-quote Keith Burkinshaw), but the need for a sports venue to hold World Championships in is high on the United Kingdom Athletic Association's list of priorities.  But his is the organisation that could not come up with the planning and money to build one back in 2005.  And where was the location of the stadium they had in mind ?  Picketts Lock ... just a stone's throw (by Tessa Sanderson, who has had to step down from the OPLC as she is funded by the London Borough of Newham, the partner of West Ham United in their bid) from White Hart Lane.  There was still a planning application for a stadium on the site when I was last working that way.  They have built the Elite training facility there, called the London High Performance Centre, so wouldn't it make sense to build a stadium for these elite athletes to run in ?  Back then, Crystal Palace was viewed as a back up plan to Picketts Lock.  So, if Spurs were to leave the area, then they could leave a legacy by leaving an athletics stadium of an appropriate size.

Let us not forget that following the Olympics, what is left will become the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, which will be redeveloped to contain a mix of leisure use and social housing.  Any football ground usage will have to be good neighbours with the residents and the community use of the park and the remaining buildings form the Games, which could be put to a variety of diverse uses.  Work in the perfect combination would probably not be football and AEG organised music concerts, but the need to repay the tax payer might be one thread which takes some sort of precedence, with income being a major persuader in the decision, as community use is all well and good, but it hardly over-fills any coffers.

But cashing in on the Games is not the sole provenance of the Olympic movement.

Hotels have sprung up in and around Stratford, some of which are nothing more than converted houses calling themselves Olympic Hotel and offering "en-suits" which will quickly be sold on after the Games, when people have made a quick buck.  Everything is "Olympic" in Stratford and the environs at the moment and the lawyers who operate trademark rights enforcement will no doubt be clearing the area of every hint of the name that hasn't been licensed at great cost. 

And that is the flip side to the Olympic movement.

It is not about amateurism and sport anymore.  Like the World Cup and most things in life, it is about money.  Why else would there be an OPLC ?  A company ?  To make money after the Games for years to come.

I would wager that corporate sponsors will make sure your food and drink is mostly deprived of you before you go in, so that you are trapped (Disneyland like) inside with only the sponsors food and drink to buy.  You will be bedazzled by adverts for everything from banks to travel agents as they brainwash you with sponsors names and logos.  Security will probably be keeping a sharp eye out for "ambush marketing" as the World Cup has seen people ejected for wearing the wrong sponsors clothing or in one case in South Africa, for wearing the wrong colour clothing that was associated with a rival's beer !!  So, above everything else, make sure you watch what you pull out of your wardrobe before heading down to Stratford.

At least that is one thing that won't be an issue whoever wins occupation.  It will be polyester replica shirts all the way, as that will be de rigueur wear for any self-respecting fan.  And you might need it if you are sitting in the front row of the stand and you have the wide open spaces of the pitch and a running track in front of you for the elements to sweep across.

It may work elsewhere, although I am yet to see an example where it replicates the intimacy of an English football ground, but the idea of football in an athletics stadium is one which does not appeals in the least.  So, Tottenham's bid may slap the original idea of the legacy of the stadium in the face, but it is honest, as it is the only way to go.  It probably also means that the stadium will go to West Ham, but not many of their fans want to go there either.  And if they do, will they have to change their name, as they originated in Canning Town and then moved to East Ham, so have never really been a West Ham club.

Whatever happens, the move of one club or the other will make headlines for many more years than the Olympics has been in the planning.

For Spurs, it could take them to stellar status and regular Champions League football, filling the stadium and riches for the owners and for the Olympic Park Legacy Company or the government.

For West Ham, it cold see them playing in a concrete and metal bowl that is half-filled if they get relegated and the owners fail to maintain a legacy in investing in the team. 

But then, that could happen to Spurs too, if they fortunes of the team start hiding like West Ham's.

Like the stadium not being used for what it was hoped to be used for after the Games ... there are no guarantees in life.

Matt Tyler

 

Have your say about the whole debate about the move to the Olympic Stadium. 
E-mail us at mehstg@blueyonder.co.uk

 

21.01.2011

How long is this decision going to take until it is made ?

First of all it was the end of January and now, because Tessa Sanderson doesn't know who she works for, it may be stretched out until the end of March.  And Daniel Levy's "open letter" on the club's website hints that staying at N17 might take even longer to sort out, with some landowners obviously holding out for the top dollar for their sites.

Why not just let West Ham have it and then see how proud the athletics world will be when they can fill the stadium once every ten years while the home club have the same problem.  And the view will be somewhat distant with the nearest seats being 45m from the pitch.  That would take Usain Bolt five seconds to run.  How long would it take him to run from the seats in the back row to the pitch ??  Even he might be out of breath.  Not that anyone would know he had got there, as he would be a miniscule dot in the middle distance (which is not really his event).

Tottenham director Sir Keith Mills said it is about whose bid is more financially viable and that if West Ham's is, they will probably get it, but being bailed out by the Council to the tune of £40 million might raise some questions from the residents of the borough (who may not all follow the Irons) and by the group making the decision, as more public money will be seen to be thrown into the money pit that the Olympic Stadium is becoming.  And for West Ham, this is about bailing them out of their debt-ridden situation.  Public money bailing out private companies in the shape of football clubs ?  Why, they'll be giving tax payer's money to banks next.

It is interesting that Lamine Diack now comes out and says that the stadium shouldn't be used solely for football.  Well, what else in this country will fill it on a regular basis ?  If Mr. Diack thinks that is athletics, then he is seriously mis-guided in his view in my opinion.

Football is the mass spectator sport in this country and we have been sued to watching football in tight little grounds and not open athletics bowls where the rain never falls, as they do in some other countries (who also might have the odd moat thrown in for good measure ... that might fit the bill for 'legacy' if we make them so they can double as castle theme parks too).  Football can only be rivalled by music concerts for filling venues, but not many reach the capacity of the Olympic stadium and how often the local residents would want to hear Snow Patrol or the Eighties revival tours drifting through their windows, I don't know.  Not once a week I would guess.

I think that the original planning for the stadium is flawed and little time was devoted to what would happen after 2012.  No sliding seats that could come in across the track.  No thought to sight lines for football rather than athletics too.  No concept of what would be acceptable for anyone to occupy the stadium in terms of a roof or outer skin.  It was a bit like "build it quick, build it cheap."

But in the long run, it won't be cheap.

Maybe the best solution is that neither team has it.

Then Mr. Diack and his like-minded colleagues in the athletics world can marvel at another great legacy they have left the world (just ask Sydney, Barcelona, Athens, etc, etc.).  Money is no object to them.  Just like it is with FIFA, who have left some hulking great stadia across Korea that are used for K-League football matches, where the capacities dwarf the attendances.

Even white elephants should be up in arms (or legs) in having to have their name associated with the Olympic Stadium. 

Phil, Cheshunt

 

21.01.2011

Matt,

Good article and I didn't know about the Picketts Lock situation.  If true, it would be a good solution for the athletics world, as if it was (nearly) good enough for them back then, it could be a practical way out of the problem if Spurs do want to move to Stratford.  Trying to find a spare piece of land in East London to build a similar facility won't be easy these days.

Don't know why West Ham want to move there.  Maybe it is because the wide open spaces on the terraces will be just like those in their defence.  Although it will be a great thrill for Barnsley and Chesterfield to play there. 

Sparky Marky

 

21.01.2011

Interesting that you mentioned Barcelona.

Not sure how many made the trip out there when we played in the Kappa Cup a few years back, but that was held in the Olympic Stadium.  A vast concrete bowl (click here for a picture) that on one side of the ground, you had great difficulty seeing anything because the sun was directly in your eyes and almost too hot to sit out in (not that this will be a problem in Stratford).

According to WIkipedia (not a totally reliable source I understand), but the ground has only been used for seven major sporting events since 1992 and two of those were Andorra internationals (which didn't fill the ground) and one was the European American Football "World Bowl" final.

Hardly the legacy the Olympic movement were looking for I would guess.  It was revamped for the 2010 European Athletics championships though.

It was an old ground renovated for the Olympics, but the tenants after the games, who were Espanyol, moved out to a purpose built stadium in 2009.  Guess what ?  It does not have a running track around the pitch !!

Steve (Cambridge)

 

21.01.2011

Sir Keith Mills (a Spurs non-executive director and a member of LOCOG) said on the BBC website ...
"Someone has to pay for the next several decades for the stadium, and if West Ham have found a way to work that economically, the OPLC will look on that favourably. But I find that difficult to see."

Not half as difficult as it will to be for the West Ham fans to see across the running track !! 

Benny The Ball

 

AFTER THE DECISION TO GIVE THE STADIUM TO WEST HAM UNITED

 

11.02.2011

So, the Irons won the bid 14-0.  Surely that must be their biggest victory ever !!

With the bid book obviously being more of a bible than worrying about what will happen to the future of the Olympic Stadium, the Olympic Park Legacy Company have handed West Ham a new ground, with a running track around it that will separate the crowd from the action and allow the game to be played without any influence of the fans.

The 20 days that will be allowed for athletics in the ground will most probably consist of Newham Council's Community use, with school sports days in front a few hundred teachers and family.

As for the football, it might not have too many more inside the ground watching if the Irons go down.  They will find it harder to come back up, with a lot of their players fleeing for the Premier League and with the financial burden weighing heavy, a return to the top flight may not come as soon as they imagine.

While Sullivan, Gold and Brady all see this as a way to line the gold lined path to the promised land of Stratford, they might find themselves chasing pavements that do not shine with gold, but turn out to be a more slippery slope.

Pete (Romford)

 

 

11.02.2011

I for one am glad that Spurs are not going to Stratford.  it might have financially been a good move for Spurs, but it is not where we belong.

No doubt it would have been a corporate boon to be in that location, but frankly, I like Tottenham, as run down and crappy as it is.  Haringey Council haven't actually done much to attract Spurs to stay for all the rhetoric of their Councillors and MP David Lammy spout.  They now need to act like a wife whose husband has been unfaithful and now wants him to know that he does not need to look at the next bit of skirt that passes by.

As Daniel Levy looks for alternative spots to build a new ground, Haringey need to make sure that Tottenham Hotspur stay in N17 by offering them the chance to make the area special for the fans of the club and more importantly the people who live there.

For the Council, there are benefits in being able to attract grants and financial investment in an area where people are attracted to.  Without the pull of a Premier League club, Haringey might just spiral into a run down area without much hope of pulling out of it.

For Tottenham, the designs for the Northumberland Park development look good, but the opposition from some sections must be assuaged and the issue of improving transport links to the ground is vital in sorting out the whole thing.  For goodness sake, just build a platform or two in the Victoria Line sidings at Northumberland Park and run tubes up the line to there, giving more access to the stadium to move 60,000 people in and out of the area on a match-day and to allow more homes in that part of Tottenham to have better access to London, thus increasing property prices and raising the tone of the area.

Bill Lodge, Woodford

 

 

11.02.2011

The edited comments of Wyart Lane to the Guardian can be found here.

The full, unedited text ran ...

 

I don't think West Ham necessarily put in a better bid. They are reportedly only offering twenty days of the year to be allocated to athletics, so to say they are preserving an “Olympic legacy” is over-egging it a bit.  But they are the local team and Newham Council are putting in a £40 million loan to back them. Tottenham's bid was privately funded, so it would have saved money from the public purse.  

Tottenham wanted a state of the art multi-purpose project with space for sports and concerts and an extreme sports centre. They would have also regenerated the old National Athletics stadium at Crystal Palace and the White Hart Lane site, spreading the legacy to other areas across London.  I'm not sure if that would necessarily be the best for Newham, as to have two Premier League teams in one borough would have been beneficial to the area, as there would be a massive influx of football fans every week, as opposed to every other week.  For Tottenham moving to the Olympic Stadium would have been a move from their traditional home, but a way to increase their revenue streams.  

But I'm not too disappointed, because moving Tottenham away from its roots isn't what most fans want. If Tottenham had got it, Haringey would have been left with a gaping hole – the team's current ground brings in a lot of revenue to what otherwise is a very deprived area. Haringey is hoping that Tottenham will rebuild the stadium there instead, but chairman Daniel Levy has indicated Spurs might move away from Tottenham anyway, whether it is to the Olympic Stadium or otherwise.  

Only time will tell whether this is the best outcome.  Plenty of Olympic legacies have fallen into wrack and ruin. The privately funded Tottenham bid is probably more financially robust and would perhaps be longer lasting. West Ham's bid is aided on Council money  whether or not the team stay in the Premiership. If they get relegated they'll find it hard to fill the stadium and revenue may well fall.  And their fans will need to be long-sighted to see across the running track !!

Wyart Lane

 

 

12.02.2011

Taking the long view (which is what West Ham fans will have to do now), the move to Stratford might not have been such a great thing.

All you hear from some West Ham fans is how this will wipe out their debt and make them a top four side.  I am not sure how this will happen ... and it will certainly take a good few years if it ever does happen, but the tenancy of the Olympic Stadium without Champions League football is a bit of a crime.  Not that I would want to move to E15, but surely a top class stadium deserves top class football.  As it is, there may be more entertaining football played at the Hockey Stadium.

But a lot of West Ham fans fear this is the end of their club.  The move will give them a spectacular ground, but what will be left to put in it ?  The lack of financial clout that Gold and Sullivan hold might mean that the team suffer as Arsenal have (in comparison to what they were used to before) since moving to their new ground.  The conspiracy theory amongst some Irons goes that once installed, Sullivan and Gold will sell up to line their pension funds and a rich investor will come in to take the club to new heights.

OK a new stadium near the City and having the kudos of being a former Olympic Stadium has an attraction, more than buying into the Green Street experience they currently have, but the big question is how much with the owners want and how much will investors be willing to pay for a side which might be who knows where by then in a half filled ground ?  The fear among some of their fans is that they will not be a prize possession ... for all of the guff blurted about how they built up Birmingham City and how they all love West Ham.

When the sound of money talks, it screams and all thoughts of loyalty is put aside.

The move for West Ham could well be a decisive one in more ways than one.  The club that harps on about the Academy of Football and how they love playing football, will have the burden of playing on a pitch that hosts shot putt and javelin competitions in the close season, along with pop concerts, which will affect the playing surface.  I am not sure of their design, but many new stadiums suffer with lack of light and wind across the turf, leading to it not binding properly and it cost them a lot in re-laying the pitch like at Wembley, the San Siro and the Amsterdam Arena.

Plus, what are the Council going to want in return for their £40 million loan ?  It might be use of a lot of the off pitch conference facilities, but if they are seriously putting money in for a sports legacy, then they will be asking for use of the stadium for all sorts of things.  It will be interesting to see how "multi-Sports use" it becomes in the future.

A move to E15 would have meant an up-rooting of the club and while I can see the monetary benefit of moving into a ground which was mostly all already there, the move would have caused a lot of grief with fans.  I know they are not always the prime consideration in club matters, as there are always new ones to replace those who don't want to go and pay their money to watch, but disenfranchising supporters is not a good move.  It is on a smaller scale and over a longer distance, but MK Dons have a stadium worthy of a place in England's last World Cup bid, but currently their latest home crowd totalled 8,636.

West Ham will struggle to fill  60,00 stadium, thus further watering down the atmosphere and the only way to remedy that might be to sell more tickets to away fans, thus effectively making matches in the Olympic Stadium away games.  And it seems like clubs are hugely over-estimating their appeal, with Crystal Palace jumping for joy at West Ham getting the Stratford ground, as it means they can push ahead for a 40,000 stadium at the old Crystal Palace Sports Centre.  The capacity there would be a push for athletics to fill (even if they intended to share it), but for Palace, it would be a chilly old afternoon for a lot of their fans as the wind whistles through the empty plastic bucket seats.  Their last home match against Middlesbrough (perhaps not the club with the most fervent away following) was attended by 14,060.  The Eagles sit one place above the relegation zone and last season avoided the drop to League One on the last day of the season.  Another relegation will see crowds of less than the one quoted above, so why do they think they need about 25,000 red and blue plastic gaps showing at their home games ?

Palace were taken over by a consortium backed by the fans and having gone to the limit in almost going into liquidation, you might have thought that fans would temper any grandiose plans.  If Spurs can't afford to rebuild White Hart Lane a few hundred yards up the road with a 56,000 capacity, then could Palace finance a 40,000 stadium away from Selhurst Park ?

It seems like football is going mad again.  £50 million for Torres, Man. City paying players £200,000 a week and now the chase for Elysian Fields, but only as long as they can build walls around them and get as many of the paying public in as is possible.  Where will it all end ?

Oh and if we had swapped N17 for E15, our local derby would have ended up being against Leyton Orient !!

Stanford Rivers

 

12.02.2011

Has anyone noticed we have three players on loan at Leyton Orient at the moment.  Any chance it might be to ease the way to join forces with Barry Hearn in a legal challenge ??

We have one player on loan at West Ham though, although with his form being so off recently, perhaps that was just designed to make sure they get relegated.

The Funky Phantom

 

15.02.2011

I would go for a new stadium on the current site as added to by the land bought to the north of it. We must have about 90% of the land needed and even if we have to pay over the odds for the balance I would go for it. Alternative sites in North London would probably cost just as much and take perhaps another decade to get to where we are today at the current site.

Would also go for capacity 60,250, so that attendance hit headline 60,000 figure, rather than current planned 56,250. May also be minimum capacity for any future European League.

Would wish to review contribution to stadium costs made by supermarket, hotel and housing which is included in current project. Need to allow for extra 4,000 on stadium capacity, which may reduce these developments slightly.

Finally, my net Budget for the stadium. Latest Forbes values for Arsenal and Spurs are £738 and £232 millions respectively - so Arsenal ahead by £506 millions. They already have a modern 60,000 capacity stadium and if we had likewise would be worth approaching their value - say £600 million to be on the safe side.

So Budget arguably £600 less £232 million - say £368 million - say £400 million absolute maximum.

The 60,000 stadium at Stratford was costed at £250 million. The £450 million quoted for NDP includes, I think, the supermarket, etc. which is only being done to make profits towards the stadium cost. With a Budget of £368 millions have £118 million for additional land, and other add-on costs.

Funding would be a combination of development profits, naming rights, borrowings or self-financing by Spurs’ owner. Would be a good investment, in my view.

A new stadium and happy fans. What a combination !

On the other hand, if this is all built on incorrect assumptions perhaps someone would set out what the real position is !!!

Chris Gray

 

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