West Ham United have finally ironed out a deal to move into London’s Olympic Stadium come the 2016-2017 season. The deal puts an end to a stop-start struggle that has lasted almost as long as construction on the Stratford ground itself.
West Ham’s East End neighbour, League One’s Leyton Orient, vigorously fought the move. Its owner Barry Hearn has vowed to move the club out to Essex should the move go through. Daniel Levy, Tottenham Hotspur’s chairman, will look southwest to Arsenal’s seven-year-old cash cow Emirates Stadium, and southeast to West Ham’s Olympic Stadium, and feel White Hart Lane’s walls closing in ever tighter. Roman Abramovich, whose recent bid for the Battersea Power Station site failed, will be equally antsy to move Chelsea into a ground that can hoover up more cash from fans.
What’s troubling about the deal is that public money will be spent to re-make the stadium, which just opened in 2011 at a cost of around around £500 million, so that it may host both athletics and football. While West Ham’s faithful bubble blowers may enjoy the glitz and glamour of their new ground, they’ll be leaving behind a home and history they’ve enjoyed since 1904. The in-debt club now face an Olympian struggle to maintain their Premier League place in the coming years. Hosting Championship sides such as Derby and Burnley or worse won’t cut it in a 60,000 seat stadium come 2016 in an ever-more-competitive London market.