Hammers challenging balance of power in London

Whether or not they take full advantage of the opportunity that has been granted to them remains to be seen, and there is still a legal challenge to be considered. But there is no avoiding the facts. Handing the keys to the Olympic Stadium to West Ham United will change the face of football in the Capital.

Whichever way you break this down, there is no escaping the fact that the Hammers will be paying just £15 million pounds for the keys to an iconic stadium with a 54,000 capacity and that could catapult the East End club into Champions League contention.

Purely based on capacity, that will give the Hammers the potential for more matchday revenue than Chelsea or Spurs. It will also put them close to being on a par with Arsenal, who invested £390 million pounds in building the 60,000 seater Emirates Stadium and have consequently struggled to hold off the challenge of neighbours Tottenham as the dominant force in North London.

It remains to be seen if West Ham fans, and most do not want to leave the Academy of Football at Upton Park, will fill the Olympic Stadium. By the time the Hammers are scheduled to take up residence in 2016 they may be watching a team back in the Championship.

keys to Olympic Stadium better than winning lottery every week for year

But owners David Gold and David Sullivan, and vice-chairman Karren Brady, in agreeing such an advantageous deal with the London Legacy Development Corporation, have been handed a golden ticket that is better than winning the lottery every week for the next year.

As far as business deals go it is pure genius because when the new owners took control the club was in financial meltdown. Now there is an extremely bright future ahead if the Hammers can build on the solid foundations that have been put in place and continue to make progress on the pitch.

If West Ham play their cards right they could be knocking on the door of the Champions League within the next five years. But there is still much that can go wrong with this master plan and much will depend on the legal challenge  being mounted by neighbouring Leyton Orient owner Barry Hearn.

There is something obscene about the ruthless way the League One club have been dismissively brushed aside by the LLDC. And you have to ask why London Mayor Boris Johnson has been so vocal in his support of West Ham at the expense of both Leyton Orient, who want to ground share, and Tottenham.

The financial facts are simple. The Olympic Stadium has been paid for by the public, the total bill topping £600 million pounds. The cost of extending the roof and adding retractable seats could be as much as £190m. And all but West Ham’s £15 million contribution is coming from the tax payer.

ACADEMY OF FOOTBALL: Many Hammers fans want to stay at Upton Park

While Tottenham have the financial resources to search for an alternative, West Ham’s move – and whichever way you break down the figures they are getting it on the cheap – looks like a death sentence for the Os. It is hard to ignore the complaints by Hearn who quite rightly argues his small club are being trampled on.

“It is a mess, the whole thing has been a mess for the last six years, horribly handled by lots of different people,” said Hearn in an interview with London’s Evening Standard. “We are at the point where we are seeing if the club that is 750 yards away from the Olympic Park are being abused, ignored and sledge-hammered by a massive club.

“We think they have over-stretched their mark and the taxpayer will have something to say about it, but in the meantime we want to preserve the independence and existence of Leyton Orient Football Club.

“It is unbelievable, I remember four or five years ago one of the Olympic organisers said the tenancy of the Olympic Stadium would be decided four months from that point.

“Although West Ham have been confirmed as the tenants, there are still so many questions that need to be asked.It looks to me like there has been a deal done through a back-door somewhere and I have plenty of questions that need to be answered.

“Newham Borough Council have come up with £40million and in the difficult world when you are closing hospitals and libraries and putting people out of work, is this the right money to spend? West Ham are selling Upton Park but only contributing £15million to the stadium, should they be given a free home like this? I’m just asking a question.

“It does seem unfair that Arsenal and Tottenham are spending hundreds of millions of pounds on their own stadiums because they are stand-alone commercial enterprises and West Ham are being levered at huge discount and you have to ask yourself the question why. What has gone on for them to get that deal?”

Hearn is banking on a judicial review in his favour that will force the LLDC and West Ham to discuss the idea of ground-sharing. Whatever the outcome, questions will be asked by the public and the media for years to come.

– BY JOHN GUBBA

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