Football breathed a huge sigh of relief last week when the Olympic Committee voted in favour of the West Ham bid to become the new tenants of the Olympic Stadium. There was widespread acceptance that the government and mad Boris will quickly sign off the documents required to make the decision official.
So, did they make the right decision? What now for Spurs? What now for Leyton Orient?
From a neutral stand point the Spurs bid was doomed to failure. Anyone not involved in football emotionally looking in could see two very clear points that gave Spurs little hope of winning the bid, namely:
1. Spurs are traditionally not from that part of London
2. The decision not to retain the track in the stadium
Although point one would entail some emotional response, generally it makes no sense to move the club from one borough to another, especially to one with which the club has shared so much animosity over the last few years. The Spurs fans outcry of rejection for the proposed move highlighted this.
The second point I think was more impactful, the Olympic Committee clearly outlined in its bid to win the Olympics that a stadium and facilities, from the Olympics will remain in place after the games on the site of the Olympics. I feel that AEG and the Spurs board grossly underestimated the issue, thinking that simply renovating a stadium in another part of London constituted an adequate substitute. Had the Olympic Committee taken the Spurs option the Olympic Games would have been dogged with accusations of broken promises and would have severely dented the reputation of the country globally as to being trustworthy and capable of fulfilling its promises.
There is no denying that Spurs would have made better tenants, the board spends money like its going out of fashion, one of the top four spenders on players consistently in the Premiership for the last ten years. They are financially sound thanks to a rich benefactor, and as such are unlikely to drop into lower league football.
West Ham on the other hand are a yo-yo club, narrowly avoiding relegation in the last few seasons and nearly going into administration thanks to some Icelandic banking issues. The issue is less can they fill the stadium as some have commented. At most home games the empty seats are in the sections of the away support, and there is a five-figure waiting list for season tickets. The real danger I feel is that the board do not manage the new venue effectively to keep the club afloat. I have some hope in that they created a fantastic business model at Birmingham, but this is a different kettle of fish and dare I say it maybe a bit more than they can handle.
So what of Leyton Orient? Barry Hearn is currently spending plenty of waking hours with his lawyers looking at how his club can leverage something from move. Clearly he feels that his club will lose local support (although Redknapp argued at a recent press conference in support of the Spurs move that most premier league clubs support come from outside any catchment area – this much is true) and this much could be true, I do feel for Orient and rightly so they should do everything they can to ensure their financial future. I do though feel that Leyton Orient could have been doing more to gather local support before now, their website looks like it has been designed by me one saturday afternoon in the pub, there are no offers or news on there of how they are interacting with the community – maybe I’m wrong but the perception doesn’t show anything to indicate that they have been actively looking for more local support, until now.
Most multi-sport venues in Europe have failed with the exception of maybe a couple in Italy, so the gauntlet is well and truly thrown at the door of messers Gold and Sullivan. Because it hasn’t succeeded on some occasions in other countries that does not in any way draw a line under it. I have been to stadia in Japan where the pitches are stored in separate buildings to the stadia kept in perfect conditions and wheeled in for the match. Hell, man landed on the moon forty years ago. It must be possible to overcome an 8 metre wide running track to make football an entertaining and atmospheric place to be – lets just hope they remember the fans as they fill their wallets.