This is perhaps the most important issue in decades for West Ham United and Tottenham Hotspur. Who gets the keys to the Olympic Stadium Site in Stratford. As it stands West Ham United have been awarded the Stadium after a comprehensive 14 – 0 vote by the Olympic Park Legacy Company, those responsible for delivering a viable and thriving legacy to the 2012 Olympic Games.
Since then though, relations between West Ham and Tottenham Hotspur have plummeted quicker than Cristiano Ronaldo in the 18 yard box. Mudslinging, Private Investigators, Court Cases and now West Ham are suing Tottenham for hiring Private Investigators to try and find something to stop West Ham moving to the Olympic Stadium, Illegally acquiring copyrighted information and selling to the public domain.
One thing West Ham and Tottenham fans have been known for is the pride and passion of their clubs, and frankly it’s embarrassing the way these two clubs have behaved.
Tottenham have plans of their own, to redevelop White Hart Lane, the ground where they are situated. But surging costs are now making the project unviable. One thing’s for sure though, West Ham United will be in the Olympic Stadium, and rightly so. In my personal opinion West Ham had the only viable bid for the Olympic Stadium to ensure the promise we made to the IOC in regards to the Legacy of the games, and to ensure maximum return on the investment we, the tax payers, have made.
West Ham, have agreed a deal in principle with Newham Council in regards to funding for the Stadium via a Loan to the Stadium Management Company that will be set up to run the Stadium in a joint venture between West Ham United and Newham Council. These are the key points in regards to this loan taken from Newham Councils Website.
Where is the funding coming from?
The proposed loan of up to £40m is capital expenditure, which it is assumed will need to be funded from borrowing. To be affordable the cost of borrowing (interest and providing for the repayment of the loan) will need to be at least matched by the interest and repayments by the Stadium Company. The risk of non repayment has been managed through the development of a business case that has undergone due diligence.
How can the council afford this loan in this financial climate?
The Council has not agreed to invest funds that could be used at the expense of the revenue budget. The council is not allowed to borrow to fund the revenue budget. Therefore the borrowing to finance the loan to the stadium company could not be used to support services funded from the council’s revenue budget. The provision of a loan is only affordable because there will be an income stream from the stadium company. Therefore the resources could not be used to fund other council capital projects. Once the loan is paid off, the Stadium Company is expected to make ‘surpluses’ from the operation of the stadium. All such surpluses will be reinvested in community services including sport, culture and jobs.
The council is not allowed to borrow to fund the revenue budget, therefore the borrowing to finance the loan to the Stadium Company could not be used to support services funded from the council’s revenue budget
Will the borrowing impact on council services?
The funding we will provide for the Stadium is a commercial loan provided on the basis that it will be repaid with interest. Any borrowing the council undertakes to finance the loan for the Stadium should not cost our taxpayers a penny, nor will it impact on services. It has nothing to do with our revenue budget, which is for the council’s day-to-day spending because repayments from the Stadium Company will cover the cost of council borrowing. One of the reasons the council is involved is because the deal should deliver long term income to invest in community services. Once the loan is paid off, the Stadium Company is expected to make a surplus from the operation of the stadium. All such surpluses will be reinvested in community services including sport, culture and jobs. The agreements also include investment in the community from day one, before the loan is paid off, from both West Ham United and the Stadium Company. These included tickets to West Ham United matches for deserving community groups as well as commitments to invest in sport and culture in the local community.
West Ham’s proposal, in partnership with Newham Council, involves keeping the Athletics Track, and building a retractable seating solution, therefore maintaining the pledge we made to the IOC when bidding for the games that a viable Athletics legacy would be kept in Stratford, at the Olympic Stadium. It also features LiveNation, the largest live entertainment company on the planet responsible for putting on some of the biggest concerts with some of the world’s biggest stars. Essex Cricket Club have also signed up to get involved with the Olympic Stadium by playing t20 games there, and the discussions remain ongoing with NFL as to making the Olympic Stadium the base for all London based NFL Games.
Tottenham’s plan, contrary to most media reports does not involve demolishing the Olympic Stadium, it involves removing the upper tiers of the Olympic Stadium and reusing the upper tier in rebuilding Crystal Palace, the home for UK Athletics. This plan however has 1 major flaw. Transport, ironically the main issue Tottenham have with the Northumberland Park Project. Although Crystal Palace is only situated a few miles from Central London, the Rail Links to and from the Stadium are poor to say the least and at this moment in time, could not handle the amount of people that would attend a major Athletics Event.
Why the stadium is so sought after…
Leading on from that, this is the reason why both parties want the Olympic Stadium, and are prepared to drag their great names through the mud to get it. The Olympic Stadium is served by direct rail links into Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk, Kent, France and Belgium. It has the UK’s only High Speed Railway directly serving the Stadium at Stratford International. It is also served by the Jubilee and Central Underground Lines, throw the DLR and the planned Cross Rail into the mix London City Airport, Stansted Airport and suddenly you have the best connected Stadium in Europe for Transportation Links.
Also the Stadium is situated right in the middle of the Olympic Park, and behind one of the biggest urban shopping centres in Europe, both will be a tourist magnet when the games are finished, Tourists have money, Tourists love the Barclays Premier League and English Football. Needless to say the Olympic Stadium is a potential cash cow that just needs milking, it’s a prestigious Stadium in a prestigious location. This is why the Olympic Stadium is so sought after, I would compare it Old Trafford and Anfield, whilst Manchester United redeveloped Old Trafford to the levels it is today, Liverpool underestimated the effect it would have on Manchester United and the benefits it would bring. Now I am not for one moment suggesting whoever gets the Olympic Stadium is going to be like Manchester United, far from it.
Is it right for The Hammers…
Will it be home though? For me I am a traditionalist I love the Boleyn. I love the walk from Upton Park down Green Street on match day, popping into the supporters club for a couple, then going into the Boleyn to throw some beer around and have a laugh, before taking my seat in the Bobby Moore Lower, these are some of my fondest memories, but I am also a realist. Football has changed to almost beyond recognition. Teams all around us are improving the infrastructure of their clubs. We cannot be left behind if we want to compete and to progress to the next level as a club.
This will be the making of West Ham, and although I am positive about the move, I will only be for the move if we get a suitable retractable seating solution. Otherwise it will be appalling, something we need to trust the owners/board David Gold, David Sullivan and Karen Brady with.
As a message to Gold, Sullivan and Brady, we have been entrusted with delivering a viable legacy for the games and to London, but for me that’s not important, you are entrusted by thousands of West Ham United supporters to deliver a fit for purpose Stadium we can eventually call home, mess this up like you did with Avram Grant, and your reputation will forever be tarnished as football club owners.