West Ham have reportedly beaten Tottenham Hotspur in the Olympic Stadium battle, and as the bidding process for the stadium nears its conclusion, neither club has been able to get backing from the majority of their fans.
For Spurs supporters, the argument is simple. How can the board justify moving the club out of its borough in North London to East? The general consensus amongst most Tottenham fans is that they want the club to push through its original plans of building a new stadium adjacent to their current White Hart Lane home, although Spurs chairman Daniel Levy has now claimed that this plan, which already has full planning permission, is not financially viable.
Although West Ham supporters’ opposition to a move to the Olympic Stadium isn’t quite as fierce as their North London counterparts, the retention of the running track in The Hammers’ plans has caused some ire among fans. They claim that the famous Upton Park atmosphere will be lost in the multi-purpose arena, which in addition to football and athletics will host some Essex County Cricket matches and concerts.
Support for Tottenham’s bid is sparse, with a recent poll by ComRes for the BBC showing 81% of Londoners polled were in favour of West Ham’s bid, with the remaining 19% supporting Spurs plans. There is also political backing behind The Hammers’ bid, with dozens of MPs pledging their support for the East London club’s plans, including the Olympic Minister at the time of the successful 2012 bid, Tessa Jowell. West Ham’s partnership with Newham Council could also be potentially pivotal in addition to crucial support from UK Athletics and Sebastian Coe.
Those opposed to West Ham’s bid have claimed that football and athletics can’t work together, and doubt as to whether they could fill a 60,000-seater stadium. West Ham’s Chief Executive Karen Brady has hit back, saying that the Irons already have around 20,000 people on a paid season ticket waiting list, for an Upton Park stadium that is known for being difficult to commute to and from due to its location. The improved transport links should encourage more supporters to attend games, and there would also be the incentive of cheaper prices, which would be possible with increased capacity. The plans released by West Ham on Tuesday also show how the ground will look with its improved roof to retain atmosphere, and showing how no seat in their plans will have a worse view than those at Wembley – a stadium praised for not having a bad view in any area of the ground. For Spurs, the planned removal of the running track, and the aim to demolish most of the stadium, could well be a deal breaker, something Brady has brandished a
Whoever wins competition for the stadium, there will be a domino effect that will be felt by two Football League clubs. Leyton Orient, the club closest to the Olympic Park site, have been vociferous in their opposition to either club becoming tenant of the stadium, citing a fatal effect on their club should a Premier League giant move to the area. O’s Chairman Barry Hearn has made sure he has had his voice heard, claiming Orient are being treated like ‘the lost tribe of East London’ , and has threatened legal action should either club become the tenant, pleading with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), who will make their recommendation this week, to stick to their original plans of making the stadium a 25,000 capacity athletics venue. Should Tottenham Hotspur win, then Crystal Palace’s hopes of moving from their Selhurst Park ground to Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in South London could be affected, as this is the site Spurs have pledged to redevelop to retain London’s promise on delivering a legacy for athletics.
West Ham have reportedly won the support of the OPLC board members, and the decision is likely to end up being settled in court with both Spurs and Leyton Orient threatening legal action. The confirmed decision by the OPLC is expected on Friday, however, the mayor and government have the chance to overturn the decision.