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Posted by Billy Blagg on 01/13/2011

Well it was the season of peace and goodwill towards men – providing I take the King James’ version rather than James Moffatt’s ‘goodwill towards those whom he favours’ that I seemed to hear continually over the past month. I’m not sure any of us ‘favours’ talking to a Spurs supporter but that was what I found myself doing on New Years Day - and I have to say I found the result of that conversation deeply disturbing.

I need to get three things straight here before I continue: Firstly, this article isn’t primarily concerned with the rights and wrongs of West Ham’s attempts to move into the Olympic Stadium post 2012. I will say, in my opinion, despite all the inherent problems – and there are a lot of them – not considering at least a move to the site itself would be a major mistake but, this though is more about what happens if we don’t do anything or, as it seems a majority of West Ham supporters seem to indicate, simply shelve the plans and think on developing Upton Park..

Secondly, I am not claiming that the bloke I spoke too is a Tottenham shareholder or any type of mover and shaker in the Spurs hierarchy; This is not intended to be a ‘I met a man who knows a man… ‘ type tale. All that I can say for certain is he is the type of powerful businessman whose ideas and requirements are courted by football clubs nowadays and he seemed to know people who are influential and, more importantly, believed his thoughts mirrored those of a lot of his contemporaries. I do know I was sober though and I wasn’t suckered into anything.

Finally, as if regulars didn’t know, I was weaned on the pre-Heysel / Hillsborough days of suicidal tackles, silly haircuts and a belief that anyone could win the league. I find much of Premiership football to be distasteful and, at times, bizarre so I’ll admit that perhaps I’m just being naïve in finding this Spurs supporter's views disturbing. Nevertheless, his thoughts were from an angle I’d genuinely not thought about and I found them both fascinating and aggravating in equal measure. Those who think Tottenham fans have ideas above their station my not want to read on.

Rather ironically, I wouldn’t say this Tottenham supporter had much ill-feeling towards the Hammers, worse, I actually found his views patronising, as if the club at the Boleyn was a minor irritant that needed to be dealt with without undue fuss. His belief that Spurs were now a fully-fledged member of the top-table Champions League set-up will only be confirmed with time, I guess but it would have been churlish to pretend there is any immediate likelihood of them scrapping down the bottom with the Irons so I let any discussion on the footballing merits of one side against the other pass.

I obviously don’t want to quote this guy verbatim – I couldn’t anyway – so I’m just going to paraphrase his comments.

‘I’m a Spurs supporter and always have been, I was born in North London and used to go and watch them when I was a boy.’
Fair enough, I’ve always been dismissive of glory hunters and at least this bloke’s prepared to nail his colours somewhere.

‘I only watch them on TV now or in a corporate environment. I’d never buy a ticket for a seat to a match on my own or with friends as that’s not what football is about nowadays’.
An anathema to many, but I’d say it’s the price that football has paid for all-seater stadia and rocketing entry prices. Many of us have been forced out of a regular match-day experience although the use of the word ‘never’ makes me uncomfortable.

‘I need to take business associates and prospective clients to matches. White Hart Lane is difficult to get too and, anyway, I don’t need to see Spurs in North London. The Olympic Stadium is on all available road and rail routes, isn’t far from the City and Canary Wharf and is big enough to accommodate the crowds Spurs could attract. I’m not bothered about staying in North London, football is a global game now and I’m not interested about where a team is based. It’s easier for me but, more importantly, makes it easier for me to use the club for corporate entertainment.’
This is where I start feeling uncomfortable. I know few people who still reside in West Ham or even the Borough of Newham but I still believe if we disassociate the club from the area it represents then we’re at the thin edge of a miniscule wedge.

I’m not condoning or trying to glamorize the football violence of the ‘70’s / 80’s but, back then, the taking of another club’s ‘manor’ or ‘end’ was a crime on a par with anything Gary Glitter can admit too. Here, at a stroke, Tottenham will not only be in our manor they will relegate the Hammers to a bit part in our own backyard. Spurs moving to Stratford would be a kick in the teeth that many of us would simply find unacceptable. There are no shades of grey on this for me; Spurs should not even contemplate moving into another club’s heartland. But then I’d taken that as a given, not only in terms of what West Ham supporters would want but also those from Tottenham. This fan was suggesting - and I’ll admit I was genuinely surprised by his vehemence that, although there was a groundswell of fans who found the idea of leaving North London abhorrent, there were an equal, if not greater, number for whom THFC was now a ‘brand’ and’ as such, could not only sit where it wanted but had a rightful stake in what would be one of the UK’s premier sporting arenas.

‘The Olympic site is a massive incentive to Spurs. The main investors in the club want to move there and they are putting an awful lot of money into the project. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes and there is no way we’d miss out to a club like West Ham.’
OK resisting the temptation to wrap a bottle round the bloke’s head but this was the part that bothered. No names were mentioned and I’d admit that if it was so much flannel I’d probably not even know, but there dark rumblings about political machinations going on at this point. It wasn’t only the large financial muscle that could be thrown behind this bid but also the suggestion that serious pressure was being given in Government and Olympic circles that bothered me.

(N.b Since writing this it has come to light that that Boris Johnson himself may have suggested Spurs bid for the Stadium so there was something in that)

What’s worse though is the entirely new concept that I’ve not seen elsewhere that suggests that not doing anything is no longer an option for West Ham United.

Let’s say that West Ham listen to a majority of fans and decide they don’t want a stadium they can’t fill with a running track they don’t want and pull out of the Stratford bid. Does this leave Spurs an open season on the site? Of course, Lord Coe and the Olympic Committee are very quick to point out the legacy promise of the site and suggestions that Tottenham may pull down the Stadium at Stratford, rebuild another purpose-built football arena and make everyone happy by also building a nice new Athletics track at Crystal Palace have already been dismissed as ‘unacceptable’. But that suggests that the site will remain empty and the trouble for me is that if I agree with that notion then I’m contradicting an argument I’ve been putting up since this move was first mooted.

Simply put, I’d say ‘Remember the Dome’. A massive legacy site post-Millennium this was going to be one of the major highlights for a visitor to London back in 1997. By 2002, it was a white elephant that came that close to being hauled down before being successful resurrected as one of the UK’s top venues. Now the O2 is a great place, and I’d never argue otherwise, but the old ‘Millennium Dome’ became an embarrassment initially and was within a whisker of even worse. We may all be proud, flag-waving supporters of the World’s biggest sporting event now but wait until all you can hear on the Stratford site is the trains running to Liverpool Street and then see how bullish the Politicians and Committees are then!

Public opinion, Government influence and political machinations count for everything nowadays. If neither West Ham nor Spurs won the right to play football at the Olympic site and the area becomes a Ghost Town as happened in North Greenwich then can you imagine how that will play politically? I’ve argued long and hard that post-2012 it will be much easier to deal with legacy promises, in fact I long-ago suggested on this very site that West Ham could probably build their own purpose built stadium there alongside the Athletics area and was roundly turned on by people saying it was a waste of money and it would never happen.

It may not, of course, yet here we have Tottenham Hotspur PLC suggesting that very thing and – you know? – when large heavily-backed UK corporations start to put the pressure on, doesn’t it look different from the usual posturing of any of West Ham’s recent boardroom combatants?

This conversation left me feeling decidedly uncomfortable. I’d long assumed that, if a move to the Olympic site were to take place, then it would only be by West Ham United. Failure by the Hammers to reach agreement on the stadium would leave it empty. This corporate raider’s suggestion that the Spur’s hierarchy see this as being on a par with Arsenal’s move to the Emirates is deeply concerning. Would the FA get involved? Of course, they should but why haven’t they already? Is it conceivable that someone hasn’t already sounded them out before Spurs started investing in proposals for the move? It seems extremely unlikely. My guess is the FA will prove as toothless against the powerbrokers as everyone else.

The proposed Olympic site is close to my heart. I’ve long argued – in ‘Nightmare’ as well as here – that, for decades, West Ham’s previous boardroom owners have let down both club and fans by failing to realise the enormity of the Hammer’s catchment area. With proper investment 40 or 50 years ago, West Ham could have been the first big team of choice for an area sweeping out in a triangle from East London to the far borders of Essex and Kent. The Olympic site is an opportunity to change that.

But and that BUT is huge, If we don’t move there then Spurs may occupy the very spot that West Ham should be taking, what then?. Think on from there; if that were to happen what is the point of West Ham being an east London club situated in Newham at all? We may as well sell-up and move to Dartford or Basildon – anywhere away from that bloody roundabout off the Newham By-pass would help surely? I mean, we could easily be the biggest club in Essex and that is one of the largest counties. Essex Hammers FC anyone?

Now, I don’t want and I suspect most of you lot don’t either but, be assured, that could well happen if Spurs attempts to become a muscular MK Dons succeed. I think us fans should be mobilised for what could be a very nasty fight. It may not come to it hopefully – but if it does then we need to be ready. And, to be honest, from what I’ve seen on this and other sites, I’m not sure many of us are!

Comments

Posted by Paul Cross on 01/13/2011

Interesting article and I agree with what the Hammer says in that Spurs should not be looking to move into the Olympic stadium.
As for the so called Spurs fan...how would he know what the majority of Spurs fans want when he openly admits to not going anymore or buying tickets??
I think Spurs are using it as leverage with the local council to force them to do something about the local infrastructure as it is a joke on matchdays now!!
If the Hamers want it....let them have it...but charge them for it as you should have done to City with the commonwealth stadium. In fact...bill them for it now as they have rich owners I am sure they can give something back...might get a few people liking them again rather than thinking they are just throwing their money around like Chelsea!!

Posted by Dean Chambers on 01/13/2011

Not that I rate him. But sell scott parker to tottenham and spurs will forget about the olympic stadium. Other than that Westham can berely fill the stadium that they have now. Why would they need a bigger one.

Blagg: I rest my case...

Posted by N5spur on 01/13/2011

You were talking to a plastic mate. All Prem clubs have them, even ours (Spurs & West Ham)

SAY NO TO STRATFORD!!

Posted by Arry on 01/13/2011

Come on you Spurs !!!!!

I reckon we should share the stadium, granted when West Ham go down it will still offer you a chance to have a top side visit in the cups. That would give you a chance to make some cash. Also, the Spurs trophy cabinet would be visible as part of the stadium tour for deprived Spam fans. Good day to you. :0))

Blagg: This must be the type of Tottenham with we hear so much about. Another reason they shouldn't be allowed into East London IMHO.

Posted by Anonymous on 01/13/2011

im a Spurs fan and totally against this proposed move (as are the majority of spurs fans). We are a North London team- the 'pride of north London' well so we have been saying for the last hundred years or so!! Woudl we chnage our name to Stratford Spurs if we moved there? We might as well becasue Tottenham woudl be dead to me if we go ahead with it.

Posted by We are N17 on 01/13/2011

I'm a tottenham fan and i totally disagree with this guy he sounds like a twat and its people like him why football has gone the way it has. I and almost every spurs fan i know are completley against the stratford move, although i understand the financial/commercial benefits IT'S STRATFORD WE ARE TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS NOT STRAFORD NOMADS!!!!! so don't take this guys word as a majority.

Posted by Kenn on 01/13/2011

I am a very long term Spurs supporter, pensioner in two months in fact, and firmly believe that we should not even be contemplating anything other than the 'White Hart Lane' option. Greed and the desire to make football nothing more than a money maker, a good investment, is killing the game. What happens on the pitch is paramount. I'm delighted with what we are doing there and wish for it to continue on our own midden. We should not be trying to poach someone else's.

Posted by James on 01/13/2011

I still find it hard to believe any Spurs fan, owner or board member would actually want the club to move out of its home.

Look at the complete loss of identity Wimbledon suffered when it moved to Milton Keynes. I know Spurs wouldn't be moving as far, but still...

Surely this is just a tactic by Spurs to gain leverage over their local council, so they can get their own way over all the details of the Northumberland Project?

Posted by Matt Buckle on 01/13/2011

This is the view of one man! he has openly admitted he does not attend WHL as a supporter of the club, has no interest in the Football aspect and see's it as nice touch to win over his corporate clients with prawn sarnies! if you wish to quote a "spurs supporter" as you put it, do us all a favour and go out and find one rather than contradicting yourself with the "i found a spours supporter who admitted he doesnt support them he just takes advantage of their facilities" drivvle that you have posted here! check out www.wearen17.co.uk or better still go to Tottenham and obtain some views of ACTUAL spurs fans, its always handy to do some proper research into the matter before plastering, your views all over the net in a bid for your 5 minutes under the journalistic spotlight!

Blagg: To be fair Matt, the whole point of the article isn't to do a straw poll of Spurs fans (I wanted and expected replies on Soccernet to do that). This was an unexpected meeting with someone who IS a Spurs fan and is the type of corporate raider that Levy and others are looking to woo. It's easy to claim he is 'plastic' I know supporters of all clubs who have these but it is no longer an option to say 'he doesn't go every match and buy a pie and a pint like me and doesn't represent my club'. I wish they didn't but sadly these people DO represent your's and mine - (although we don't have as many) clubs.

Posted by duckie on 01/13/2011

why cant we all just get along? even if spurs move to the OS surely west ham fans will still be west ham fans? Do you need a new stadium? would you fill 60k? spurs are in desperate need of a new stadium whl is not great to look at the capacity is too small for a champs league club and the transport links are awful. nothing has changed with west ham for some time I dont think your fan base has enlarged and as such the capacity you have already should still suffice, I dont wish to provoke an argument here im just asking the question. Nice article btw if a little on the long side but nm I got there in the the end :D

Blagg: Do we need a new stadium? Yes, needed one for a good while. Something along the line of 40 - 45k I would estimate. I think you're wrong about WHU's fan base though and one of the arguments that frustrates me about the Olympic site is why it is argued that Spurs will benefit but West Ham won't! I understand Spurs want to muscle alongside Arsenal and Chelsea but WHU want to so the same (even if we have further to go)

Posted by KayBee on 01/13/2011

Many of us Spurs fans are very much opposed to the Olympic Stadium move, and consider the notion of doing to West Ham what Arsenal did to us (and what we still hate them for 90 odd years down the line) wholly unacceptable.

I don't know ANY Spurs fans who share this corporate fan's views, but there seem to be a worrying amount of people trying to spin the move online.

Objectively speaking, I think the OS will be as unsuitable for you, if your dodgy owners (who aren't good enough for West Ham in my humble opinion) win the OS preferred bidder thing and force you to watch footie over a running track, as it will be for us uprooting and leaving home.

I used to cling to the notion that the OS was being used as leverage by the Spurs board to push through the new WHL, I'm now extremely worried that they're deadly serious.

On another note, good luck for the rest of the season, I sincerely hope you guys stay up.

Posted by Shane on 01/13/2011

Im a spurs fan who's always admired WH.You & your fanbase are much nearer, Your doing more with it for community & athetics and you do need it more than us - but only if you can fill it. And with your current squad and owners -hmm?
Im not too bothered if we go or not - but being at the olympic park means we attract more fans as a top 5 club, fans from abroad flying to london city/stanstead, fans that will visit as part of their visit to London package, fans that will do stadium tours that are a few tube stops from their central london hotel, and fans that will visit to see a concert (AEG link) and come away with merchandise/special offers....I could go on....But the simple fact is West Ham (and theyre amateur owners - who spend more time slagging off spurs & their own managers rather than managing their club/debts) have been naieve and partnered their stadium project with non-commercial partners - athletics and community doesnt sell - AEG and Champions Lg do - And thats football today!

Blagg: So that's OK is it? Shame on you...

Posted by IHaveSeenTheGlory on 01/13/2011

Do you think this muppet speaks for most Tottenham fans?

I haven't spoken to a single Spurs fan who wants to go to Stratford, but then I don't spend time talking with corporate suits who care more about the bottom line than history and tradition.

I'm from north london not essex and I don't want to move to bloody stratford or anywhere that isn't in Haringey or Enfield at a push.

If we do move though the future looks bleak for west ham, though I suspect it will make spurs much stronger as a club.
But then i'm a spurs supporter and things like success on the pitch are secondary to how the game is played for me.
I'm not a goona after all...

I hope you win this battle against spurs, but that it's the only one you do win this season or any other.

Blagg: Well, mate - I have to say he does speak for a strong pool of Tottenham supporters. Perhaps we're speaking to different fans - which was the whole crux of the article.


Posted by Paul on 01/13/2011

Good article. I'm a Spurs fan who used to go to games when I was younger, I am hoping that we do move to Stratford, it's so much easier to get to than WHL. I don't think West Hams vision for the stadium will work; who wants to watch football from 50m behind a goal? You lot will hate it. Our stadium rebuild on the other hand will be spectacular for the fans. If you want a great stadium then somehow you will need to rebuild it as well, otherwise don't bother. I have a gut feeling however that this is already a done deal, money talks I'm afraid, unlucky.

Blagg: It's an argument I've long had and also alluded to in the article. I believe the legacy will become irrelevant if the site becomes a ghost town post 2012. But I've always believed that West Ham would need to renegotiate after the Olympics. Spurs are not even pretending but saying straight off 'We know about the legacy but we're not interested'. Another point; if you can just move into the site and rebuild on it then West Ham may as well build next door to any prospective Spurs stadium. Wonder what the FA would think of that?

Posted by Russ on 01/13/2011

A good piece very thought provoking, I'm a Spurs fan and it's nice to get a perspective from a proper hammer rather than the constant drivel from tbe porn kings. I have to say I'm probably in tbe minority that thinks it will be a good move, I probably go to the lane maybe three or four times a season so could be classed as an armchair fan,But getting there on a Wednesday night after work is a total nightmare so the OS makes a lot of sense, but for me football has now taken on a new mantle. It's no longer about local rivalry and a pint in tbe pub before a game, it's gone corporate and unless teams embrace this they risk being left behind.The OS is definitely spurs preferred option now as Haringey council has tried to royally shaft us with tbe Northumberland development and when we move lock stock and barrel to East London then
they will only have themselves to blame.

Posted by Adeel on 01/13/2011

Realistically, West Ham wont ever fill the stadium. Spurs are moving forward and this proposed movement is in line with the progress the club has made. We all started with a clean slate once upon a time. and whilst the ups and downs of Upton Park stabilize, then theres perhaps a chance for WHUFC to regain momentum. I mean, there is still so much uncertainty on your new Manager already - and it will go on and on until the club is back in the Championship and builds itself up again. This is the way at West Ham. I opposed the move at first, but listening to the arguements for and against (especially in terms of transport and ticket availability) I am convinced Spurs will win the right to move to the Stadium. We have AEG on our shoulders and you have Newham Council/Live Events on yours. Your fans wont see the pitch under your proposal, they will under ours. This is London, and as long as there is room for both teams in the City, I dont see a problem. Poor Leyton Orient, they stand to lose.

Blagg: Think you've kind of lost the plot Adeel. With regard to whose fans get to see the pitch, you're already speaking as one who is going to tear up the legacy agreement. After all, if you're just going to knock down the existing structure then West Ham may as well do that and build something along the lines of the old Upton Park. But 'This is London' ? Are you for real? It wouldn't have bothered you if Arsenal had moved into White Hart Lane instead of the Emirates (bearing in mind what happened 100 years ago!)? How depressing...

Posted by ben on 01/14/2011

Spurs should stay where they are and redevelop. They should stay away from playing at the olympic stadium (unless they need to due to redeveloping WHL). The "North London Derby" loses a lot especially if Tottenham move away from specifically North London.
Given that i live in Australia and wake up at 3am most weekend days to watch us play i don't really care where we play, as long as this November i make it to White Hart Lane.

Blagg: You may need to get yourself another tube may Ben!

Posted by Adeel on 01/14/2011

Blagg, I know what it looks like and without sounding totally complacent about things, its all about revenue. This debate is way beyond all of us as fans - its about the commercial wheel. Heck, even with the track legacy, the IOC wouldnt fill the stadium after the Olympics for athletics. West Ham dont have the money, structure or give anyone with financial muscle any confidence in what and where they are going to. If you ask Managment of the Canary Wharf estate, they will tell you their viewpoint is towards Tottenham to win the stadium rights. This year above all, its all about the money and realistic longterm investment. West Ham wont get the 'heart' vote in the current financial climate.

Blagg: I feel you may be right and that is why this debate is so vital. If West Ham fail to secure the site then they have been wasting time chasing legacy agreements that never really existed but, more importantly, they can't stay in Upton Park and allow Spurs to siphon off support in Stratford. This means West Ham moving from Upton Park and what may well be the start of a new football revolution with clubs moving about as suits their fanbase.

Posted by gazchazthfc on 01/14/2011

we (spurs) need a stadium of size ie 60,000 seats, if we are to really break the monopoly of mufc, asenhole, chelski, etc. we have never been a league team, aways cup, but but times change and we see ourselves with chances of becoming a league team, and if that means moving 7 seven! miles, thats all, i for one think its a great idea, and what about west ham not our concern with all due respect.

Blagg: With all due respect, may I suggest it should be your concern?

Posted by Dwilner on 01/14/2011

if spurs local council didn't milk the only thing that goes for its area there wouldn't be a problem with he OS, spurs have planned a new stadium and area redevelopment but Lemmy is a joke, he wants spurs to pay for every single thing (including trees planted lol). I wish spurs stayed in the area and built or refurbished WHL but I understand the clubs point of view. btw, why do WH fans want a stadium they cant fill, with a track between them and the pitch and in maryland? jeez. that's bullshit.

Blagg: Your last paragraph is interesting David. Put simply, I doubt any West Ham fans want a track and an arena they can't fill but WHu have got into the Stratford bid following the legacy commitment of the IOC. Had Gold and Sullivan said right off "We want to build on the site but do away with half the seating and the running track" then they wouldn't have gone to first base. Yet, suddenly, Spurs have muscled in saying just that and now appear in pole position to move there as a result! If WHU had a purpose built stadium at Stratford, 40k without a track I've no doubt they would fill it for most games. Also I notice that Spurs fans are talking about moving to a bigger stadium to develop and grow bigger. Do you not think that could apply to West Ham too?

Posted by simo on 01/15/2011

Blagg, what worries me as a Spur is the part where you say that "The main investors in the club want to move there and they are putting an awful lot of money into the project. There’s a lot going on behind the scenes." thats beyond even the spurs chairman (Levy) - thats up in parent companies where they really do ONLY look at the bottom line. I wouldnt bet against the spurs heirachy doing this OS move either; not until the hole is dug in north london should we spurs rest easy. and you. hmm, common ground?

I also like how many spurs supporters have commented here. we know our enemies.

Blagg: Yes, I'm impressed not only that Spurs fans are getting involved in this but how many of them can see the issues greater than how they can develop their own club. Encouraging.

Posted by Ian on 01/16/2011

Mr Blagg

Whilst I have a degree of simpathy for WHU in their current situation, a move to a larger ground would not be the answer. I used to watch the hammers as child {in the chicken run} over forty years ago, traveling from south of the river because all my friends were hammers fans. To be honest I do not see any progress made at the club during since those days. West Ham has always been a small club with a small club mentality. Sorry, but that is how I see it. However it is a bit rich to hear all the Spuds talking up their prospects as if they are an established top 5 team. Sorry guys but one year in the CL and a top 5 finish does not cement your status as a top flight club - don't get above your station! Come back and crow when you have had 10 years in the top 4! Develop WHL because the rank & file fans want a local team for local people - not a corporate/executive play thing. Have a look at your North London rivals and see what they have achieved in every aspect of the game.

Posted by Keef on 01/17/2011

The way things are going a ground share with Dagenham and Redbridge would be more appropriate

Blagg: Damn! Why didn't we think of that before? Get your coat Kev - you've got a job!

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About
Billy Blagg Born at an early age a mere defenders' spit from the Boleyn ground, Billy Blagg has seen every West Ham game from 1898 onwards. Blagg was mentioned by Kenneth Wolstenholme in 1966 as one of the people on the pitch during the famous Hammers win over West Germany that lifted the World Cup and he returned to the pitch again for the 1975 FA Cup Final but stayed on the terrace for 1980 FA Cup victory. Blagg, 26, now lives with his eighth wife and innumerable children in a small semi-detached with chintz curtains in Dagenham, Essex and still attends every Hammers match and training session.

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