Are West Ham scoring gold with Olympic Stadium move?
12 May 2016 by Ties Bouwmeester
As has been well publicised this week after playing their last home game on Tuesday night, West Ham are leaving their home ground of 112 years at the end of this season and moving to the Olympic Stadium. The move has been in the public spotlight for a number of reasons, but mainly because of the location of the new ground and the deal the Club managed to secure. After the club and The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) initially tried to keep the details private, they have now been forced to reveal full details of the contract. While the details have been met with criticism by some, it’s important to remember there are two sides to this complex story.
West Ham will pay £2.5m a year in rent for their new home at the Olympic Stadium. This figure, which will halve to £1.25m a season if the Club are relegated (an unlikely scenario at the moment), was widely known but the publication of the full contract reveals a host of other details about the controversial deal. The contract confirms that West Ham will pay £15m towards the conversion cost of the Stadium, a cost totalling £272m. Following the initial cost for the Olympics in 2012, this 60,000 seat Stadium will have cost £701m, the vast majority of which will have been met by the taxpayer.
Further details revealed by the contract show that the LLDC will keep the first £4m of any naming rights deal for the Stadium over a 20 year period. Anything over that figure will be split 50/50. The LLDC will also keep the first £500,000 of any profit on catering at the ground, with anything over that amount being split 70/30. The running costs for the Stadium, covering everything from stewards to corner flags, will be provided by the LLDC. However, the Club must pay an additional £100,000 for this each and every match they play with the agreed total being 25 matches per season. The Club must also pay up to £100,000 extra per season if they finish in the top half of the Premier League along with various bonuses if they win domestic cups or qualify for Europe, up to £1m in the event they win the Champions League.
Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger said last week that West Ham’s deal to move into the Stadium was akin to “winning the lottery”. However, West Ham has made the point that “someone renting the Stadium for 25 days a year cannot be responsible for 365 days’ running costs”. It is also important to remember that the Stadium is also to host the 2017 IAAF and IPC Athletics World Championships and there is a 50 year agreement for British Athletics to use the Stadium each July.
Another consideration is the effect to the area and community when a commercial giant, such as a London football club, leaves. The Upton Park area where the club is currently situated, is also home to thriving businesses, whose wellbeing is mainly due to the activity a match day brings. The old 35,000 seat Stadium will be replaced by flats, but food outlets, pubs and street traders face an uncertain future when the Club makes the move at the end of the season. Some will be making the move to the Olympic Stadium with the Club, but for many this is not a viable option.
Football fans will now be replaced by families, creating a completely different atmosphere. The place where the likes of Bobby Moore and Frank Lampard plied their trade for West Ham will now become 842 flats, due to be completed by 2022. An initial 25% of the scheme is affordable housing, with Newham Council investing £18m to increase that number by a further 10%. The council also insists construction jobs will be earmarked for local people. The new housing development will celebrate the history of the area. A new statue of West Ham and England legend Bobby Moore, the club’s current Memorial Garden and a landscaped courtyard to replace the Boleyn’s centre circle will all be included in the scheme. The plans go to show that it’s not just in the aftermath of the Olympic Games where ‘legacy’ is vital to a local community as well as to sporting developments.
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