West Ham and Spurs chase London 2012 Legacy with Crystal Palace's fate in the balance

Full disclosure: Before we proceed, we should say we're about as conflicted as it is possible to be. Brockley Central is a Spurs fan, with friends who work at the club. In our day job, we work for Manchester City FC and LOCOG.

Next week, the London 2012 Olympic Stadium’s legacy mode will be decided, with two bids on the table: one from Tottenham Hotspur and AEG and another from West Ham United and LiveNation.

The Spurs bid involves relocating from White Hart Lane in North London to a new, purpose-built 60,000-seat home that would significantly expand the Club’s seating and hospitality. To compensate athletics for the loss of the Olympic Stadium, they would refurbish the existing athletics stadium at Crystal Palace as a 25,000-seat venue. Crystal Palace Football Club itself has spoken rather hazily of plans to turn the existing athletics stadium in Crystal Palace in to a new home for their club.

West Ham, by contrast, wants to relocate a short distance from the Boleyn Ground to a modified version of the just-built Olympic Stadium, which would reduce its capacity to 60,000, but retain the athletics track, thus honouring the spirit of the original Olympic bid, which promised a legacy for athletics at the heart of a regenerated East London.

Both clubs have ageing stadiums and average attendances close to capacity. White Hart Lane is the worst major football stadium in London for public transport. For either club, a move will give them vastly improved transport links and a comparatively low-cost new home. If neither bid is successful, then the majority of the stadium will be removed in any case, and a roofless athletics bowl will remain.

Some have suggested that Spurs are hoping to strengthen their negotiating position with Haringey Council. The argument runs that the club has spent years working with the Council to develop a new stadium and have finally come up with a proposal that could work for both sides, but think they could squeeze further concessions from the Council and don’t really want to desert their historical home. We don’t subscribe to that view. The club has analysed its fan base and thinks there are as many supporters from East London and Essex who would find the Olympic Park much more accessible as there are north London fans who would be disadvantaged. The iconic location of the Olympic Park, its ability to support a much wider range of commercial activities and a shorter, cheaper construction programme must be incredibly appealing.

What’s in it for West Ham is less obvious. Football clubs like Juventus and Bayern Munich, with home stadiums built to host athletics, realised long-ago that they create a terrible atmosphere, hated by regular fans and armchair supporters alike. They don’t have the season ticket waiting list of Spurs and a lack of atmosphere could deter new fans from coming. They could be the Blackburn Rovers of the south and the only club in the Premier League with a running track, spoiling sight-lines for fans and reducing payments from broadcasters, who’ll be less inclined to show their home games.

Athletics wants the prestige of being located in the Olympic park and a venue capable of bidding for the World Athletics Championships. Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the money to pay for any of this itself and athletics events don’t attract the crowds to justify a large stadium. Should London ever want to bid for the Athletics, then Wembley has been designed to allow a temporary athletics platform to be installed.

As for the suggestion that Crystal Palace is on the wrong side of town, that smacks of nothing other than vanity. London should have a high-quality athletics venue, but a rebuilt Crystal Palace venue could do the job very nicely, if Spurs are forced to deliver it before they can move in to their new home. Not only would it meet athletics' needs, but it could breathe new life in to a forlorn facility in South East London (which is the reason for writing this article).

Lord Coe supports the West Ham bid and his desire to stick as closely to the spirit of the original pledge to the IOC is understandable. However, as Qatar and FIFA are busy proving, lots changes occur between a bid being chosen and a major sports event being delivered. Indeed, the London Olympics already looks different to the one promised. The IOC extracts a high price from any host city and are getting a wonderful legacy in the form of the Olympic park. Better this country finds the solution that suits its own needs than be lumbered with a white elephant, which taints our memory of the Games and our view of the organisation that forced it upon us.

Whatever happens, it shows the wisdom of the ODA’s decision to build a modular stadium, short on architectural drama, but (relatively) cheap, flexible and recyclable, which means that London will pull off an almost unprecedented feat - building a venue specifically designed for two months of international sport that also works for the people of the city, forever after.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Would be nice to have something a bit closer than Wembley

Lou Baker said...

It's a bit of a joke that so much is being spent on this glorified running track, just for it to be half destroyed after a few months.

I support the Olympics, I'm delighted it's coming. I think it's great for London to have it and I think the Olympic Park, Aquatics Centre and Velodrome are great assets for our city.

But I question whether we really need the temporary facilities that are being built for handball and I think badminton or basketball.

And I wish everyone had sat down at the start and worked out what would become of the Olympic Stadium after the games. Instead they're trying to figure if out after it's built - significantly limiting options.

Like the Dome, which I also supported, I think we've gone about this in the wrong way. But I still hope it's a success.

Anonymous said...

Hey Lou, you'll be able to use the London Overground to visit the games

John "monkeyboy" Motson said...

Now over to the curmudgeon grand final. In lane one I'd di itri korolev, who qualified by his insistence that that Gorbachev was just like the previous chairman. In two is Brad Brindly who famously doesn't believe the Internet exists. Three has the french man Escargot, he's not convinced you can get a decent meal in London. Our own Lou Baker is in four. Lou worked his way up through the cynical selection trials (through general grumpiness) the regional (by his brilliant display of impotent rage) and blitzes the national by an outstanding denial that the ELL was of any earthly use to anyone. I expect Lou will use the risky but audacious tactic of slagging off the very event he's entered in. If he wins I expect his time will not be beaten in this commentators lifetime.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon 16.20 - how do you mean? The only thing Wembley might get used for in this scenario is a possible WAC, sometime in the next couple of decades. By that time, the athletics village will be flats and the media centre will be a business hub. all the other facilities being built, eg: aquatics, wouldn't be used for a WAC.

I'm not a Spurs fan but.. said...

I don't really buy Seb Coe's argument that we'll 'trash our national reputation' by rebuilding the Olympic Stadium. The IOC grandees' wish to have monuments to themselves all over the globe ought to be pretty far down our list of priorities here. If anything, Sydney and Beijing's reputations suffer by having Olympic stadia that sit very underused.

So I lean towards Spurs plan, as the one that gets London two new fit-for-purpose sports venues, built for football and athletics respectively. I do wonder what happens to West Ham in tha scenario though - will two Premier League clubs coexist easily located so close to each other?

PS well done on the declaration of interest. Inspires confidence when you do that. Even if you are a Spurs fan. We (N Forest) always beat you anyway, or we used to.

Brockley Nick said...

Forest and Leeds are the two teams that the PL really misses.

Anonymous said...

i think spurs prop is totally out of order

thisisengland said...

Anyone subscribe to the notion of supporting your local team? Around here that's Millwall.

Brockley Nick said...

No thanks.

I'm not a Spurs fan but... said...

@thisisengland - Yes, but I don't subscribe to the notion of giving up 30yrs support for a team when you move either...

@BrockleyNick - I agree, though sometimes I think that just shows my generation!

Jonathan said...

What I'm worried about, as a long standing Leyton Orient fan and season ticket holder, long since resident in SE London, is the impact that at Premier League club will have just down the road from us. Not good for us, as Orient's board of directors agree, particularly given the amount of community work that the club does that will no doubt be usurped by the clanking great railroad of a PL team down the road: http://www.leytonorient.com/page/NewsDetail/0,,10439~2273878,00.html

Brockley Nick said...

I can see that is a valid concern, but I'm not sure the impact will be very great. Leyton Orient has effectively had to compete with West Ham, Arsenal and Spurs for years. The appeal of a club like Orient is completely different (and gate prices are too).

thisisengland said...

I detect an anti local team bias. What has Brockley to do with Tottenham?

Brockley Nick said...

The article explains the relevance. It was suggested by a local person, who happens to be an Arsenal fan. There have been plenty of articles about Millwall's plans on here.

Thisisbrockley. said...

Well we can deduce that Nick suports tottenham. Not sure that ranks alongside the FBI being responsible for 9-11 or your kenyan asparagus theory of demographic terrorism but I'm a bit fick.

thisisengland said...

Couldn't bring myself to read the article beyond the intro by Nick. I can't stand football, its sooo boring and has a disproportionate hold on the
population, the male population mostly. I just wondered about the relevance thats all. Perhaps theres double mini roundabout in Tottenham I can bring in at sometime.

Its French beans from Kenya by the way.

Anonymous said...

So just a dog whistle like remark about "outsiders" in SE4?

Westsider said...

@TIE from now on, I shan't read your comments.

B Milton said...

It's looking increasingly likely that Spurs bid will be turned down in favour of the West Ham bid. Clear written promises made by the London Organising Committee commit us to keeping an athletics facility at Stratford - even if its unlikely to be used to its full capacity.

That leaves us with Crystal Palace FC's plan for the park. CRFC's plans are still a bit sketchy but from what can be seen at this stage they look pretty impressive. The problem now will be to persuade the various NIMBY groups around CP to accept a football club into their rapidly deteriorating park.

Anonymous said...

isn't this a greater London issue???

hardly a greater Brockley one...

Tamsin said...

@B Milton Well, it has to be better than the multiplex cinema and associated "leisure" facilities proposed a few years back.

BreakspearsEagle said...

Come on West Ham, Crystal Palace need you to do the business so we get a new stadium at our spiritual home.

The real Spurs fans I've met don't want to move to East London anyway.

NotSpursorW/H said...

Surely with today's technology they could make seats retract in and out from the running track without having to build a new stadium,they wheeled a whole pitch in and out in the World cup in the US.
Isn't it paid for by tax payers money in which case shouldn't we get a say.

NotSpursorW/H said...

Surely with today's technology they could make seats retract in and out from the running track without having to build a new stadium,they wheeled a whole pitch in and out in the World cup in the US.
Isn't it paid for by tax payers money in which case shouldn't we get a say.

Brockley Kiwi said...

Assuming there are around 20 days of use across the Olympics and Paralympics with an average attendance of 60,000 per da,y the £537m cost of the Olympic stadium comes close to £500 for every person who has the privilage to attend ...

... bargain!

Brockley Nick said...

@Not Spurs - if the seats retract in to the stands, you are left with the first row of seats being 20 feet up in the air and the athletes performing against the backdrop of a wall. It also means that people further back can't see any of the action that's near the wall nearest to them (eg: the runners in the outside lanes).

If the seats actually retract (rather than being expensively and time-consumingly disassembled) then where do they retract? In to the undercroft of the stands, which are normally used for nice things like changing rooms, technical facilities, storage, etc. You still need all those things, so they have to go somewhere else. That means one of two options:

1. Building a bigger stadium, which pushes up the costs massively.

2. Losing a lot of the hospitality and fan facilities, which make the stadium commercially viable.

It means you have a very expensive solution to accommodate perhaps one event a decade and deliver a very poor spectator experience. Do you want your taxes to pay for that?

Brockley Nick said...

@BreakspearsEagle - it was only last year that Palace were fighting off bankruptcy. I don't think anyone should expect them to pay for a new stadium any time soon.

As for "real" Spurs fans, they're like "real" Brockley residents. "Real" ones are the ones who hold views that are the same as - or conveniently reinforce - yours.

I imagine Spurs fans are sharply divided on the matter.

By the way, I'm not particularly advocating the move, but I think it is far superior to the West Ham solution.

Millwall said...

no one likes we don't care

BreakspearsEagle said...

@BockleyNick - A lot can change in a year. Palace is now owned by a consortium of 4 multimillionaires and owns Selhurst Park. This could be redeveloped to fund a large chunk of the build cost for a move.

NotSpursorW/H said...

Maybe your right Nick,but Spurs suggestion of building a new Stadium means the Olympic Stadium being used for just 4 weeks,that cant be good business.And Tax payers money bulldozed away again.

Lou Baker said...

It's really bad this wasn't all thought about in advance.

A sensible solution could have been incorporated into the design.

Instead we're left with a stadium which isn't suited for any purpose.

Except perhaps chariot racing and gladiatorial contests.

Convicts, chavs and low lives - plenty of those in Newham - could be pitted against exotic beasts.

D said...

As a Spurs fan and an athletics fan my 2 cents are:
- Haringey have made a mess of this and I can't blame spurs for wanting nothing more to do with them.
- The olympic site isn't ideal being over near west ham/orient territory
- West Ham plans to keep the athletics track is absolutely crazy. We only manage to fill the few seats at crystal palace a few times a year.
- I agree with whoever it was that points out that Spurs knocking it down would amount to a big lie on the part of the British olympic bid team. The only reason we got the games was because they promised that wouldn't happen.

- Hmm, so basically I can't decide if I support the Spurs move or not. For the club we NEED to do it to achieve long term success, but there are plenty of nagging arguments against.

Brockley Nick said...

@Lou - but it WAS considered in advance. Hence the stadium is relatively low cost and recyclable. A lot of the stuff that normally goes inside a stadium (eg: refreshment stands) has been externalised, so these pods can be carted away and used elsewhere.

The problem is that the Olympics creates a singular set of needs. There is no way around the fact that an 80,000 seat athletics stadium is only needed once in its life, particularly in a place like London, which has a wealth of major venues, like Wembley, the Emirates, Twickenham and the O2.

So, you just have to take it on the chin and accept one of two options:

1. We build something fundamentally temporary, accepting that as a cost of hosting the Games.

2. We plan to build and run something that is likely to be a white elephant, which will represent a drain on the taxpayer in perpetuity.

We originally chose plan 1. The Spurs plan is basically plan 1. The West Ham plan, is basically plan 2. Except that instead of the taxpayer footing the bill, the West Ham fans will in terms of loss of atmosphere.

I suspect what will happen if option 2 is chosen is that in a few years, when the Olympics has gone away. West Ham will say - look, this is silly, we are maintaining an athletics track for no reason. Why don't we just scrap it and we'll take some of the extra profits we can generate and use that to fund a new athletics stadium elsewhere - or grassroots sport.

In other words, the West Ham plan just seems like delaying the inevitable. The Spurs plan is more politically difficult, but ultimately much more sensible.

I don't mind the original plan (pure athletics, vastly reduced size) but no-one wants to pay for it.

Brockley Nick said...

@NotSpurs - as for whether it's good business, it's essentially the same as the Dome. Built for a year and then everything was ripped out and they started from scratch, apart from the roof. It wasn't just the attractions that were scratched, they needed to completely rebuild the supporting infrastructure, because it was fundamentally unsuited to being anything other than an Expo tent.

In the end, the taxpayer spent a lot of money and sold it for nothing to a private company in the end. You can say that it is a horrendous waste of money and we should have kept hold of it and reused it for something else, but it would probably still be sitting there rotting. Instead, we have Europe's leading entertainment venue, a major employer and tourism driver, and the centre of massive (if slow) investment in the peninsula.

Should we throw good money after bad, or cut our losses?

D "call me Norman Foster" said...

What they should have done is sink the pitch down 50 ft below ground level into a pit and put an extra block of seats over where the running track would have been, which extend right up to the pitch giving an awesome gladiatorial stadium.

Then for the olympics build the track suspended over the top of this front block of seats at ground level. It would be an engineering marvel!

Brockley Nick said...

@D

That is exactly how new Wembley was built (Foster and Partners being part of the design consortium, along with HOK - architects of the Olympic Stadium).

Athletics - and Kate Hoey - kicked up a massive stink, saying that it wasn't an acceptable solution, since installing the platform would be too time consuming to make it a regular venue for athletics. Wembley's response was that it didn't need to be a regular venue for athletics (a tarted up Crystal Palace could do that job) it just needed to be able to host a World Athletics Championship.

So history is repeating itself.

Athletics should focus on securing itself a top quality venue suited to mid-size events (25,000 capacity) and give up its obsession with a large venue.

They say "why is London the only European city without a major athletics venue"? The answer is that the rest of Europe (and the world) tends to pay for and subsidise these venues with taxpayers' money. England's stadiums pay their own way.

So, effectively, Athletics is special-pleading for public money to spent on a showpiece venue. Instead, they should be focused on getting more money for community sport. It's not like they're not getting a showpiece event in 2012 in any case.

Brockley Nick said...

@D

See here for the details of Wembley's configuration for athletics. You should be an architect.

http://bit.ly/fztjvR

pip said...

@D - erm, wouldn't that mean the field events taking place 50 feet lower than the track? I suppose the risk of runners falling over the edge would add a certain frisson of excitement to proceedings.

Brockley Nick said...

@Pip - you build a new field in the middle of the new platform. Doesn't last very long, but doesn't need to.

Brockley Nick said...

@BreakspearsEagle

Simon Jordan was a multimillionaire too. I hope you're right - I like Palace. It's just having worked in sport one way or another for over decade, I have seen a lot of such proposals and this one is at-best half-baked. Maybe it will happen, but you'd need to see a lot more detail than a piece of concept art to be confident.

D said...

I knew I was in the wrong job!

Anonymous said...

I think its more like kids dont do Athletics in this country,a lot of school sports grounds are now supermarkets and its so hard to get funding, and have to rely on the parents paying.

Anonymous said...

I think its more like kids dont do Athletics in this country,a lot of school sports grounds are now supermarkets and its so hard to get funding, and have to rely on the parents paying.

Danja said...

Dig the pit, put Spurs in it, fill the pit. Sorted.

Brockley Nick said...

@Anon - grassroots sport needs to be looked at separately. As you say, the grassroots of the game need more funding, but building a 60,000 athletics stadium doesn't address that problem.

Brockley Nick said...

@Danja - you're getting worried.

Ed said...

It was with great sadness that I read that Nick is a Spurs fan but considering the extremely high standard of quotes he uses I will find a way to forgive him.

In all seriousness though I think Spurs bid is a disgrace, utterly one eyed.

Tamsin said...

Golly, football has universal relevance. At work - my office door open - and in the adjacent kitchen there are a couple of elderly ladies (one in her nineties) who've come along for their weekly bingo and they're talking about just this subject - whether the bid by West Ham or Tottenham should be favoured...

Danja said...

Not really Nick, not until Levy/Lewis find their middle-eastern plaything buyer. Not that Lewis and his mysterious friends are averse to splashing cash, but it's not quite at City levels.

Anonymous said...

Football is a universal bore more like.

Brockley Nick said...

Funny all the people moaning about football, when actually the main issue is about athletics.

Tyrwhitt Michael said...

Full disclosure: I am a Blackheath fan so no Football Axe to grind but I am also a registerred Games Maker.

Having declared that this is an outside observation recording the viewpoint of the eight yes 8 Spurs fans who sit all around me in my office.

To a man sorry person they would prefer the redevelopment of White Hart Lane (the North London Project)to a move to the Olympic Park.

I fear Spurs would alienate many of their fans despite what has been stated above.

Brockley Nick said...

I suspect most fans will say that it's a betrayal of everything good and true and then, like every other set of fans that's been relocated, they'll mostly get over it.

Anonymous said...

At least its diverting away from the Brockley development shenanigans.

Anonymous said...

Yup, out of 52 comments, 2 moaning about football

Crofton Park Ranger said...

"brockley central is a spurs fan"

Could this please be corrected to say that Nick is a spurs fan whilst Brockley central is just a big fan of team sports...

As a gooner I don't think I am allowed to read a spurs blog...

mb said...

What happened to the Dodge Ball team? how are we doing?

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