West Ham and the Olympic Stadium

By Derek Van de Ven

It has long been known that West Ham would take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London after the Games. Boris Johnson and the government have repeatedly stated the need for it be sold rather than used for various national events, as it would become (and has been) a major drain on the taxpayer. The battle for ownership of the stadium was fought out between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham, with Leyton Orient even arguing that due to their location they should be part of any deal, for fear of fans being taken away. Spurs would have perhaps had a much better chance of filling the stadium, given their possible partaking in the Champions League, and of late, competition for the Premier League title. However, despite West Ham’s relegation worries of a few years ago, they won the rights to the Stadium, largely because they planned to keep the running track (or most of it). The move from current home Upton Park to the Olympic stadium is expected to take place in time for the 2016-2017 season, providing construction is completed. However, up until today, where the necessary funding would come from has been a bit of a mystery. Now it all seems to be in place. The club will have the stadium on a 99 year lease.

In reality, West Ham, despite being guaranteed major occupants of the stadium, will pay only very little of the enormous cost estimated. The Treasury will contribute about £60 million, today confirming an extra £25 million on their part, which is the main reason the move can go ahead. The London Legacy and Development Corporation will provide a loan of £20 million, and another loan from Newham Council will provide 40 million. Boris Johnson is also expected to make a contribution. The go-ahead was finally authorised when the club agreed to up their part of the budget from £10 million to £15 million.

There are several areas that the money will go towards. The venue is not ideal for football, and especially for West Ham who struggle to fill the 35,000 capacity Upton Park, and thus the capacity of the Olympic Stadium will be reduced from 80,000 to 60,000. The main problem with athletics arenas is that due to the running track, fans feel far away from the action. Thus it will be partially brought forward, but not all the way. The roof will also be extended to cover all fans, and this must be completed by 2015 in time for the Rugby World Cup. West Ham want the stadium to be used for athletics in the future and intend to keep the Olympic legacy at the stadium, as well as use it for live music performances. This is the only reason West Ham’s bid was successful.

West Ham of course must pay back these generous loans. They will also pay £2 million annually to rent the ground and have agreed to share 50/50 all catering and hospitality revenue with LLDC, but will keep all ticket and merchandise sales revenue. The club directors, David Gold and David Sullivan have agreed to make a one-off payment to LLDC if they sell the club within ten years, and a proportion of any future sale after that. They stated that “the public should benefit from any money made” by West Ham’s future sale of the stadium.

The move giving West Ham ownership has always seemed an odd decision. Firstly, it is a huge stadium, it will be as big as Arsenal’s Emirates’ Stadium, and the third biggest football arena in England and West Ham are not as big a club as Arsenal. Thus if they can’t fill the stadium on a regular basis there will be little or no atmosphere inside, only harmful to the club. However the main question is of course regarding public money – Boris Johnson made it clear that the future use of the ground must not drain the public purse anymore than it already has. The Tottenham plan for the ground would have been largely privately funded, not costing the taxpayer a substantial amount more. West Ham are planning to contribute approximately 6-8% of the overall finance of the stadium’s conversion, hardly fair given that they will be the principal users. The decision seems to have been made on the emotional grounds that West Ham would preserve the “spirit of the games” something which could have been done much more cheaply. Spurs’ plan would have saved the public a lot more money and would have likely been much more successful for the club. Whilst geographically it makes much more sense for West Ham, in times of austerity it makes much more sense to allow Spurs to move. Thus it was emotions, rather than rationality that won the bid for West Ham.

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6 Responses to West Ham and the Olympic Stadium

  1. Peter Whitelock says:

    The tax payer will benefit from West Hams 99 year tenancy to the tune of £10m a year,( £2m rent plus income from naming rights & catering) that’s a whopping £990m ! Without the clubs tenancy, the stadium would be costing the tax payer in the region of £6m in maintenance costs. The stadium will also host other events such Athletics & rock concerts,with a possibility of Rugby too, with the income generated going to the tax payer. Now that’s what I call a good deal!

  2. hudsey says:

    What you have neglected to mention is that when the stadium was being planned, West Ham (owned by the Icelandics at the time) offered in the region of £100m to have it designed with retractable seating, but was turned down out of hand by Lord Coe et al. You have also neglected to mention that had the “sale” of the stadium to West Ham not been overturned 2 years ago, West Ham in conjunction with Newham Council, would have funded approx £120m of the conversion costs.

  3. TommyHarmer says:

    But Spurs supporters rejoice at our ‘failure’ to beat Wet Spam to the Olympic Stadium ……. good luck at the new ‘Academy of Soccer’ (long-range version) – you’re going to need it!

  4. John Sharp says:

    Yet another article that is strong on vitriol and short on facts.

    West Ham do not struggle to fill Upton Park. It is a sell out for every game, apart from the visits of teams like Wigan and Reading who fail to take their compulsory allocation. You incorrectly state the seating capacity of the completed stadium as 60000 rather than the actual 54000 in an attempt to bolster your flawed arguments.

    Stratford will regularly add 15000 to West Ham gates without fail. I for one will be returning to watch games having given up on the Boleyn Ground due to the difficulty in travelling there from Suffolk. There are many thousands like me who will take advantage of reduced priced season tickets, particularly for children and pensioners. Stratford has transport links second to none in the capital. Furthermore the away team allocation will be huge. The place will be a sell-out for London derbies, plus Man U, Man City, Newcastle and Liverpool. All the latter have enormous support in the South East. Why do you think Tottingham, a team fro North London, wanted it so badly

    Who says that with the benefit of bigger crowds West Ham cannot match Arsenal within 10 years: after all they have won nothing for years. They can certainly overtake that other bitter little team from N17.

    Newham Council’s loan of £40m has nothing to do with West Ham football club. This is for the legacy facilities for educational, social and leisure facilities for schools and local people, much of which is not in the stadium, but in the Olympic Park, such as state of the art training tracks. London children are to use the stadium running track and field facilities throughout the summer. What mean minded individuals would deny them that, other than perhaps Daniel Levy and Barry Hearn.

    What should be of greater concern is how much UK athletics has contributed to the conversion costs. This organisation must have made multi-millions from the Olympics and many of the gold medal winning athletes have become millionaires as a result of sponsorships and advertising. Perhaps they should start putting something back. As usual, athletics expects a free ride. Let us not forget that the problem with having an unsuitable legacy stadium and spectacular conversion costs is entirely due to the ridiculous promise made by Seb Coe and the then Labour Government, that we would have a 25000 seater legacy running track. Thank you Seb and Richard Caborne, how much are you contributing.

    Also how much are the RFU paying towards the retractable seating if the same facilities are to be used to stage Rugby World Cup games in 2016.

    Little Leyton Orient and their bed-partners Tottenham successfully scuppered the first deal that West Ham struck whereupon West Ham would have bought the stadium and paid a lot more up front. Time to blame Hearn and Levy perhaps! Strange how Hearn was quite happy to have Tottenham on his doorstep rather than the team simply moving within its own Borough. This was always a shady deal worthy of further investigation.

    I have never heard of you Derek van der ven and hope never to again. Perhaps the very last sentence of your peurile article perhaps gives the game away. Are you by any chance a bitter little Spurs supporter.

    John Sharp (Adult)

  5. jamesspur says:

    So how much exactly is coming from the public? and how much did Arsewipes get from the public? AND exactly how much are Spurs getting to help fund our ground ? You’ll find not much , is it just the station that the council are helping towards !! IT seems a little unfair that out of the 3 clubs , Spurs are doing it the right way , obviously we can not see behind closed doors , and i am not criticizing the clubs for it , but the higher powers . It should be down to the club to foot any and all bills , as the public already pay for the clubs to do this by getting ripped off by high tickets prices ! As it is I am sure that the public(fans of rival clubs) would definitely not want to contribute towards another clubs ambitions of funding transfers or improving their grounds . I am positive that both Arse/Wet , would not want to help Spurs in any way ? So why have both clubs been helped so heavily ?? This is not a swipe at them , but the government , or higher powers(council/Johnson) . Also , WHAT about Leyton Orient ! they have had the door firmly shut in their faces , no real reason why they cant ground share (i realise they are not a prem team ) , why cant they benefit from the Olympic Legacy , it would not effect Wetspams plans , and it will help a low division team , which i take it the FA are still wanting to help (grassroots football and all that ) . Anyway thats my moan for the year , respond how you see fit , but use a bit of decorum ! COYS…

  6. GAVIN says:

    ARE YOU A SPURS SUPPORTER BY ANY CHANCE ?

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