Get real with the Olympic Stadium… it's West Ham or a white elephant
23:40 GMT, 27 November 2012
Something for nothing. That is what it is presumed West Ham United are getting out of the Olympic Stadium deal. A free ride. A gift from a grateful nation.
So consider the alternative. Boris Johnson, the London Mayor, is supposed to make his final announcement about tenancy a week today. If he does not award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham, what are his options Not West Ham, basically. That is what is out there. West Ham or Not West Ham. West Ham or white elephant.
There is no coherent rival plan. The Formula One future envisages a grand prix that does not currently exist and ignores a long-term contract with Silverstone. Leyton Orient’s average league crowd this season is 3,785, which should play well in a 60,000 arena. The University College of Football Business in Burnley would get some nice classrooms out of the executive boxes.
There is only one serious bidder. There has been all along.
Let there be light: the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics but are there dark days ahead
The NFL franchise discussions came to nothing. Tottenham Hotspur just wanted the land. Only a madman would hold pop concerts in a stadium with no protective roof in Britain. While those who masterminded the Olympic process continue their orgy of self-congratulation, the in-built flaws of their mighty stadium are increasingly apparent. This is a structure that has no legacy in its present form. It is not fit for post-Olympic purpose. They can’t say they weren’t warned.
So far from getting something for nothing, West Ham would prevent something becoming nothing. Here’s the reality. A stadium was built for the Olympics. It was paid for because of the Olympics. The Olympics are over. Now what
Grand plans: David Sullivan (left) and David Gold (right) plan to relocate West Ham in Stratford
Every Olympic stadium without the legacy of a core tenant from a major sport is in financial ruin. The iconic Bird’s Nest in Beijing is currently a Segway race track. You know, those upright motorised scooters You can race them at the Bird’s Nest for 12.50 a pop. Before that, there was a snow park with man-made ski hills. The annual maintenance cost is 6.8million. That’s a lot of Segway action to break even.
Manchester City were considered to have got something for nothing out of the Commonwealth Games stadium, too. Yet consider the venue without its football tenants. What would it be now
The Olympics were never coming to Manchester, the IOC made that clear. After another failed bid, Great Britain’s Olympic Committee were as good as told to come back with a proposal from London and there might be some interest.
So maybe Manchester would have got a World Athletics Championships, or the Europeans. A busy two weeks and then what A large arena in an unfashionable sector of a provincial northern city, gathering dust at huge cost to the public purse.
Manchester City didn’t get something for nothing. As a result of the potential in that facility, they attracted major foreign investment from Abu Dhabi and the new owners continued the development of the east Manchester area with a world-class sports complex.
An 80-acre swathe of industrial wasteland is to become a 100m campus with a 7,000-capacity stadium for youth and reserve football and a first-team training centre. City cleaned polluted land to assemble the plot required. Now that’s legacy. A legacy that is in danger of being lost in east London if the Olympic Stadium is allowed to stay dormant while men in suits squabble.
The problem with London’s stadium is that it was designed for a summer event and is unsuitable for use in an English winter. Money has to be spent. Any tenant with plans to use the venue throughout the year is going to have to extend the roof and any football tenant will require retractable seating over the athletics track.
We cannot keep pretending the future won’t cost. Without a roof, nobody is interested. Without a roof, the legacy is an 80,000-capacity athletics venue sitting empty for years on end incurring enormous maintenance.
Not what the designers had in mind: Beijing's Bird's Nest is now being used as a Segway race track
There are some real geniuses out there, though. ‘If the 2012 Games have taught us anything it is that football doesn’t quite matter any more,’ sniffed a writer on the Huffington Post, who really thought handball fever was going to last for ever. So let’s get real. West Ham’s final offer was to pay 15m up front and a further 8m a year to cover the cost of redevelopment. The Government pays for much of this initially and then gets its money back over time.
Anyone who thinks this is unreasonable might wish to consider how many houses are sold without the buyer obtaining a mortgage. In addition, West Ham will pay 2.5m-a-year rent, and allow their landlords to keep the catering revenue and the naming rights, with benefits estimated at a further 6.5m annually.
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Now consider those naming rights. Providing West Ham remain in the Premier League the stadium has a global television audience in the region of nine billion, before the summer athletics programme is taken into consideration. One imagines the reach of the University College of Football Business in Burnley is somewhat smaller.
So when the naming rights come to be sold it rather figures that the Government, and therefore you, will be better off discussing potential exposure to nine billion around the globe, rather than six blokes called Tony who want to be football agents. The same goes for Leyton Orient. The recent deal struck between Arsenal and Emirates Airlines for Ashburton Grove amounted to 150m until 2019: 30m per year. Alternatively, sign the Olympic Stadium over for a one-off annual grand prix event that might never take place and see how far you get.
Some think West Ham and Leyton Orient could be made to share, but there is no tradition of successful joint occupancy in English football, certainly when there is such disparity in size between the partners.
The Olympic Stadium should not be a test case for future projects on Merseyside or in Bristol, and it would be hard to see the partners working harmoniously together when Orient chairman Barry Hearn has been an obstacle to West Ham’s tenancy for so long.
The disaster for the stadium would be if the final decision was overtaken by politics of the kind that booby-trapped the project from the start. Nasty old Premier League football. Why does it always have to be about them Here’s why. As a Premier League football ground, with summer use for athletics and other one-off events thrown in, the stadium will accommodate in the region of 1.2 million visitors per year.
Alternatively, the London International Segway Centre has a nice ring to it. Last one to leave, park up and turn out the lights.
I shall say zees only once
Joey Barton's French accent Wat waz ’e thinkin’ Ooh, mah achin’ sidez.
Ryan’s giant leap too far
Ryan Shawcross had another outstanding game for Stoke City against Fulham on Saturday. His team-mate Charlie Adam immediately used it to endorse his England selection, claiming this happened 18 months too late.
Yet Shawcross’s senior England debut was unimpressive. His brief time on the field came when Sweden and Zlatan Ibrahimovic were rampant. England led 2-1 when he arrived on 75 minutes and trailed 4-2 when the final whistle blew.
Some players are just short. Shawcross is a wonderful central defender for Stoke, but international football, like the Champions League, is a step up again and may be beyond him. Shawcross started out as a Manchester United player and if Sir Alex Ferguson felt him capable of competing with the likes of Ibrahimovic, no doubt he still would be.
Just short: Stoke captain Ryan Shawcross (right) looks a level below an international class defender
DIY lesson for Scottish rugby
Following the resignation of Andy Robinson, the various speculative lists of contenders for the job of Scotland rugby manager did not include a native.
Nick Mallett and Jake White (South Africa), Sean Lineen and Todd Blackadder (New Zealand), Scott Johnson (Australia), Michael Bradley (Ireland), even those working north of the border were not nationals. And right there is the problem.
If the country is not producing the coaches it cannot produce the players, and if it isn’t producing the players, it gets beaten: by Tonga.
Contrast this with the vacant post at the top of Brazilian football. We all know who is free to succeed Mano Menezes as Brazil’s manager, because every elite team in the Premier League is after him.
What could be more perfect An architect of the beautiful game at the home of the beautiful game; the greatest manager with the greatest players, delivering the World Cup to Brazil, in Brazil. Yet Jose Maria Marin, president of the Brazilian federation, ruled out a move for Pep Guardiola on simple grounds of nationality. ‘All five world titles won by Brazil came with Brazilian coaches,’ he said.
Too proud, you see. Do it yourself, or don’t do it at all.
Sexton's blasts could give Fergie a run for his money
Dave Sexton was a great football man. Thoughtful and innovative as a coach, yet never bogged down in mere theory. He was passionate about turning his ideas into wins, never more so than when managing the Under 21s. When England won an end-of-season tournament in Toulon under his stewardship, he could not have been happier. Excusing his young charges for the night, he said: ‘The bus for the airport leaves at 8.30 tomorrow morning. Make sure you’re on it.’ Before play, there had to be work.
Only news of the death of local hero Dave
Sexton placated the Chelsea crowd before Rafa’s first match on Sunday.
Chelsea are at home again tonight. Kerry Dixon and Ray Wilkins may wish
to lie low until this one blows over.
At the same tournament several years later, England’s goalkeeper was Peter Shilton’s doomed protege at Plymouth Argyle, Alan Nicholls. After the first game, there was a raucous gathering in one of the rooms, in which Nicholls demonstrated his party piece: he could smoke 20 cigarettes at once. He would clasp his lips around the top of the pack, pull the box away and then proceed to light, and smoke, the entire contents.
Midway through, there was an urgent knock, which Nicholls assumed to be a team-mate with more beers. A lager in each hand, and 20 lit cigarettes in his mouth, he opened the door to be confronted by an incandescent Sexton. Party over. Whispering Dave, he was called at Manchester United, but that was only one side of him. The public dressing-down by the swimming pool the following day made Fergie’s hair-dryer seem like a gentle breeze.
Forget outrage, let’s end the vile chants
Anything wrong that is not stopped is encouraged, so the outcry over the vile chants heard at White Hart Lane on Sunday, while understandable, is hardly pre-emptive. So, too, the Premier League demand that the Crown Prosecution Service take a stronger line.
‘We have created safe, welcoming, liberal environments where, frankly, people are allowed to behave badly,’ Premier League chief executive Richard Scudamore admitted earlier this year, and therein lies the problem.
Credit to West Ham United for banning a supporter for life, following his police caution, but the idea that the club could face severe censure from the Football Association over the behaviour of their supporters at the weekend ignores the fact that equally abhorrent attitudes have been struck for years, as authority figures stood idle.
Action: West Ham have banned a supporter for life over anti-Semitic chants at Tottenham last Sunday
No group is innocent: supporters of Liverpool, Manchester United, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, Leeds United, Millwall and the rest have all had their day.
The clubs do what they can — Norwich City banned a season ticket-holder for life during the last campaign, for racist abuse — but are powerless unless the officers on duty, the game and the CPS wish to act.
If a line in the sand is being drawn, that is a good thing, but it cannot be placed retrospectively. Those who impose order on football have been complicit in this deterioration for too long.
They cannot pretend what happened at the weekend was the worst outrage. It was merely the latest. The challenge from here is to make it the last.