Football

Olympic Stadium - dream or reality?

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The debate regarding who moves into the Olympic Stadium after 2012 resurfaced this week with a rumour that Tottenham Hotspur had made an enquiry, which seems late in the day since bidding was closed months ago.

West Ham along with Newham Council and a possible tie up with Essex County Cricket Club remain hopeful that their bid remains favourite, after all their bid alone has cost them £250,000 to put together - yet they have failed to poll fans as to whether we would like to leave Upton Park or not.

On the day they purchased West Ham the chairman made it clear that their aim was to move to the Olympic Stadium, as long as the running track was removed, and they would open negotiations as soon as possible and with the backing of the local council they seem to be the front runners.

Last week West Ham's chief executive Karen Brady said in an interview on radio the Hammers were the logical choice to take over the Olympic Stadium as they are the nearest Premier League club to the stadium.

She also revealed that the prospective move would come at a cost of £150-£180 million pounds. The reasons for this are that the original 80,000 capacity will be reduced to 60,000 and the roof that will only cover 25,000 seats would have to be removed and updated to cover every seat to meet football stadium regulations.

Also, there are no turnstiles at the ground and they would have to be built, the toilets are only temporary so they would have to be made permanent, and new hospitality suites would have to be added.

This in part will be funded by the proceeds of the sale of Upton Park, loans provided by Newham Council and money from the increased revenue larger crowds would bring in. No mention was made of removing the running track, one of the original criteria the chairman made for moving into the stadium and the main argument by most fans I have spoken to not to move into the new stadium.

Most football fans don’t like change, we all think that football was better when we were children and we don’t like to let go of the old routines: eating in the same café, drinking in the same pub even parking the car in the same street game after game. We picked up these habits from our fathers as they did from theirs.

West Ham's current ground Upton Park has already been vastly transformed in the past 17 years. Three new stands have been added; replacing the old West Stand and the tired stands behind each goal.

Only the old East Stand remains and, if it was redeveloped as originally intended - for which they have planning permission for but was put on hold after relegation in 2003 and change of ownership - the current capacity of 35,500 would be up to 40,000.

When I first started to attend regularly in season 1977/78 (relegated) the average home attendance were just over 25,000 - well under the capacity at the time of 42,000 - and last season we averaged 33,631 - only just below the capacity, but this could be off set by the fact we had a poor season.

If the East Stand was replaced as planned, these figures show West Ham could easily accommodate the extra fans that may attend if we had a successful team. Yet a move to the Olympic Stadium makes good business sense as the extra capacity may allow the club to grow and if the chairman are true to their words may also mean lower prices at the turnstiles.

The decision is due by the end of the year and I for one would be very upset to leave the Boleyn Ground. This is mainly for social reasons having been born within a mile and a half of the ground.

The area is not just where I go to watch football but was also my home, and the decision will affect nearly every business in the vicinity of Upton Park, perhaps causing a few to close their doors.

But that is of no concern to West Ham as they have to do what is right for the club to move it forward. I just hope they make the right decision.

*Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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