Is Olympic move the best option for the Hammers?
Football comment: It is no secret that the owners of West Ham United, David Gold and David Sullivan, want the club to move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, east London.
The deal looked done and dusted 18 months ago but was then abandoned amid threatened court cases from other clubs. At the moment the stadium does not have a new tenant to take over once the Paralympics are completed next month.
West Ham still look the most likely new tenants, though neighbouring Orient have also expressed an interest, along with two other bidders.
Yet there remains substantial opposition from Irons supporters, many of whom want to stay at the Boleyn Ground where the club has been for the best part of the last century.
The ground is modern, with three new stands built since 1993. The capacity is just over 35,000, which the club has managed to fill most weeks over recent seasons, whether in the Premier League or Championship.
The old ground also carries all the great tradition of the club with it. Two of the stands are named after legendary players Bobby Moore and Trevor Brooking. There is a lounge in the Bobby Moore stand, named after the club’s two most outstanding mangers Ron Greenwood and John Lyall. Then there is the hallowed turf that has been graced by the likes of the World Cup winners Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, as well as Paolo di Canio, Alan Devonshire, Alvin Martin and Rio Ferdinand.
The two camps, for and against the move, represent two distinct visions for the future of the club.
A move to the Olympic stadium will require more than a team that spends most of its time at the wrong end of the table.
The Olympic stadium once scaled down will take a capacity of 50,000 to 60,000. In order to fill that arena West Ham will require a team on a level with the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea. That is, a top four, Champions League team.
As recent history has proved, money is required to create such a team — big money. Co-owner Sullivan admitted as much prior to West Ham’s Championship play-off victory against Blackpool in May.
He indicated that the present owners could be prepared to sell the club one day if someone with sufficiently deep pockets came along who could take it to the next level. A move to rent the Olympic Stadium would, of course, benefit Sullivan and Gold with the sale of the Boleyn Ground no doubt clearing the club’s present debts and providing the owners with a nice little dividend on top.
Remaining at the Boleyn would mean West Ham probably continuing along its present path.
The ground is filled to capacity for most home games. The present owners have brought a stability to the club. Manager Sam Allardyce seems in accord with the club’s board and has made all the right moves since coming in at the start of last season. And, after all, he got West Ham back into the Premier League.
Allardyce has been as keen as the owners to move to the Olympic Stadium. Yet the ex-Bolton manager, unpopular with some fans due to his favoured style of play, could become a casualty were there a change of ownership.
New owners like to bring in their own man — as Sullivan and Gold proved when they came in and appointed Avram Grant.
Much of this is speculation, but the decision must be coming soon as to whether West Ham do make the switch — one which could mark a whole new era for West Ham and their fans.
The club could become a winner, just like Team GB at the Olympics, but it could also lose its soul.
For better or worse, all Hammers fans can do now is watch this space.