Sunday, 14 September 2008


Boris Johnson, London's mayor, has indicated that he wishes for a football club to take over ownership of London's 2012 Olympic Stadium in Stratford, East London once the games are over. West Ham United is the local football club - West Ham tube station is one stop from Stratford.

The effect of West Ham taking up residency in the Olympic stadium will be enormous. David Dein, the former Arsenal director, has said that the prospect of West Ham in the Olympic Stadium "frightens him to death". Dein understands that the only thing that has historically held West Ham back from emerging as a "superclub" has been the parochial attitude of successive boards, an inadequate stadium and undercapitalisation. The club's support, its brand and its ability to compete in the Arsenal catchment is undoubted.

West Ham is the only football club whose move into the Olympic Stadium can be assured of gaining the requisite political consent. Stratford is firmly in the West Ham catchment area, and a long way from the traditional catchment of other football clubs. Were Spurs to propose moving into Stratford, there is a high chance of virulent local opposition, by the Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales, who has consistently championed West Ham's move there, and by other political authorities. There is currently rising concern in the UK about the way the traditions of the Premier League are being commercially transformed, and resistance to unwelcome change would be a populist stance. When Chelsea proposed alternative sites outside their traditional catchment within the last eighteen months, the football regulatory and political authorities did not react favourably.

In due course, with sufficient investment in the team, it is estimated that West Ham would routinely fill the Olympic Stadium. With player investment, it is likely that a 50,000 attendance could be achieved within 18 months of moving in, and between 60,000 and 90,000 within 5 years, provided tickets are strategically priced.

Stratford itself has outstanding transport links. Fans would find it infinitely easier to access the club from north London, south London, Essex, Kent and the continent, via the Channel Tunnel Rail Link and the new Stratford International Railway Station.

The enthusiasm of the London Mayoralty and the LDA to bring the 2012 Olympics within budget offers an opportunity to an investor in West Ham United and the Olympic Stadium to negotiate corollary development concessions from the Olympic Park development area down through the East London development zone to the doorstep of Canary Wharf financial district.

The cachet of owning not just the City of London's football team but also the Olympic football team - is undoubted: a unique calling card par excellence.