The debate about who is to move into the Olympic Stadium post 2012 is raging with Barry Hearn the latest person looking to throw a spanner into the works. It is a tough decision for OPLC and few could blame them for deciding to delay their final verdict.
I want to make it clear from the off that I think it is a shame that the Olympic Stadium isn’t remaining a standalone athletics arena. While I understand the decision is solely due to financial reasons, I really feel it is a shame that athletics will become a secondary consideration in the very place where it will be showcasing one of the greatest sporting occasions in the world. Football is moving itself in, whether we like it or not.
A lot has already been written about which club is most deserving of the Stratford site, including a little bit of mudslinging between the rival clubs themselves. They all present a decent case, but who deserves the keys? Geographically I would give the stadium to West Ham, although I totally understand why Tottenham are sniffing around it.
The reasons Tottenham want to move in are obvious. They need a bigger stadium and the subsequent revenues it would bring would make a huge difference to the club’s quest to establish itself with the top clubs in Europe. I have seen a lot of negativity from Tottenham fans towards the move to Stratford, and it is understandable, but I believe that the board’s pursuit of the stadium is with the best interest of the fans at heart and not, like Karren Brady said, a ‘spur of the moment decision to make money.’ They want the best for Tottenham Hotspur football club; even though they know for supporters it will be a wrench to leave N17. Sometimes things need to be sacrificed for the sake of progress, despite how hard it will be to take.
The same could be said of West Ham and there are certainly sections of the Upton Park faithful who are less than impressed with the potential move. As I have stated I think West Ham deserve the stadium for no other reason than its location and their promise to use the arena for athletics throughout the year. I know the counter argument towards West Ham is that there is no place for a running track in football; however I don’t remember it affecting the atmosphere in Rome when I played there against Lazio. The old Wembley was the best atmosphere I ever played in despite how far the stands were from the pitch. It seems a weak argument in my view; yet seemingly a bandwagon that everyone is jumping on at present to knock the Hammers’ bid. I’m sure West Ham fans won’t mind how far away they are from the pitch, as long as the team are successful in the Premier League.
So what is the solution and the way forward? West Ham, Tottenham, or who knows perhaps Leyton Orient can gatecrash the party. One thing in Barry Hearn’s favour is that all the original plans for the Olympic site will be retained and they have a chance to build themselves a bright future in a new 25,000 stadium. Unfortunately for Barry I fear on this occasion money will talk as the OPLC will see the financial potential of the Premier League boys a little too hard to resist.