The Olympic Stadium War – West Ham play dirty, but are Tottenham really ‘progressive’?

The Olympic Stadium decision will be announced this week, and the biggest question the legacy committee will be asking themselves is – what bad things will Karren Brady have to say about them if they rule in favour of Tottenham?

She’s conducted herself in a manner any unscrupulous politician in the world would be proud of – latched on to one key piece of rhetoric (promises, legacy, equating Tottenham with ‘shaming Britain’) and subsequently ignored everything tangible about the Tottenham position. At least it works well in the press, and God knows British sport is so concerned with how they are perceived that the legacy committee might just vote in favour of West Ham to avoid a public lashing over ‘desecrating the Olympic legacy’.

The truth is, Tottenham are right in at least one aspect – athletics and football don’t mix well. Their plans for the stadium are based on sound commercial and dare I say, footballing logic, focusing on atmosphere and commercial viability of the stadium. With AEG’s backing, they have the resources to deliver on their promise (and if you can look past the positive fluff, here’s an interesting interview with Mike Lee whose company previously worked with West Ham on the Olympic Stadium bid but is now working with Tottenham).

The trouble for Tottenham is two-fold. First, they made an enormous fuss over their plans to renovate WHL which is now proving to be commercially prohibitive due to the demands placed on the club by the local council, and like it or not, there’s a strong feeling that they should stick to what they promised instead of jumping on a new opportunity and cutting into West Ham’s future plans. Secondly, the proposal would require Tottenham to move to a different part of the city, something Spurs fans have understandably taken an issue with.

From what we know, Tottenham have a valid point commercially – as a business they are entitled to pursue the most profitable avenues to develop the club further, and if it means ditching an older idea and going with a newer one, we shouldn’t criticise them for having the common sense to do so. However, it’s the move away from North London that will rankle the most, and while Tottenham may talk about progress and taking bold, tough decisions (and fans will, as fans are, continue to travel to watch their team play),

Simply put, if the move will help Tottenham on and off the pitch to grow and compete with their more illustrious London rivals, and the ownership are (probably) the best judges of that, then they should move.

But what about the Olympic legacy?

It’s PR cobblers – using the failed World Cup 2018 bid or hiding the fact that Britain promised something they could not deliver in terms of a multi-purpose stadium are not relevant to the committee’s final decision. What really matters is which side is offering a better, integrated plan for the long-term sustainability of the Olympic Stadium, as well as whether their commitments for sustaining athletics are viable or not.

On paper, it looks like Tottenham have the better bid. But it’s not going to decided on merit. Everything, from Tottenham moving away from North London to Karren Brady’s threats that their plans would put ‘Britain’s standing in the world of sport at risk’, will come into play. Sports shouldn’t be about politics, it should about the fans, and because we’re living in a world where sports is a business, about commercial viability.

It’ll be interesting to see what the Olympic legacy committee decide – and if they do so in West Ham’s favour, hopefully it would be on merit and not on empty rhetoric.

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