Are West Ham calling the shots over Olympic Stadium future?

In this week’s episode of Eastenders, Phil angrily confronted Christian and their argument took a violent turn, leaving Roxy to plead with Ben to tell the truth whilst Jane chastised Ian for neglecting Bobby. Dramatic stuff indeed, yet a couple of miles away from the relative tranquility of Walford, an even more absurd soap opera is taking place concerning the nations Olympic Stadium.

On Tuesday a 29-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of fraud following complaints made by West Ham United and the Olympic Park Legacy Committee (OPLC) against Tottenham Hotspur. The arrest came about just hours after the OPLC Chair Baroness Ford accused Spurs of placing 14 of her board members ‘under surveillance’ as the spat over the future of the Olympic Stadium escalated.

The tit-for-tat row between the OPLC, Newham Council, West Ham, Tottenham and Leyton Orient shows no signs of receding after a decision to grant tendership of the stadium to the Hammers was rescinded last month under the threat of numerous legal challenges.

West Ham were the OPLC’s choice from the off due to their acceptance to leave the running track around the Olympic athletics venue and given the purported conduct of Spurs throughout the whole process, it is difficult to see how they have any chance of claiming ownership of the site when it is re-tendered next month.

So, for the sake of protocol the whole thing needs going over again which remains in keeping with the confused and conflicting opinions of what is best for the venue which will be the showpiece of next summers London Olympic Games.

With location, east-end identity and the maintenance of the running track in their favour, West Ham remain favourites to be allowed to take up residence but inevitably another twist to the plot has further made the whole thing look even more shambolic, dysfunctional and disrespectful to what should be an iconic national image.

After being the front-runners for occupancy since day one, West Ham co-Chairman David Gold has now admitted that the club might not be all that interested in taking up the offer after all.

Speaking to talksport, Gold confessed he had ‘mixed feelings’ over moving away from Upton Park and into the Olympic Stadium and expressed ‘doubts’ about ‘unresolved issues’. All of which sounds fairly ominous as the legacy of the stadium hangs in the balance.

Central to Gold’s ‘doubts’ maybe that, under the terms of the new tender proposed as London bids for the 2017 World Athletics Championships, track and field events take precedence over all other sports – a notion which would considerably weaken West Ham’s previously exhalted position and lessen any designs they had on being overtly in control of the venue.

What’s difficult to ascertain is just where this leaves the club, and what the genuine intentions of the board are. The realigned conditions may mean Gold, Sullivan and Brady are genuinely considering an alternative option to the Olympic Stadium, or it could just be innuendo to scare the OPLC into loosening the noose to allow the Hammers more autonomy.

For a start, the move to the Olympic Stadium was not a universally popular decision amongst the club’s following who were largely underwhelmed at the prospect of having to watch games from beyond the boundaries of a running track. Ideally, all concerned with West Ham would want to own their own ground and be the masters of their own fortune, but financial constraints means thats wishful thinking too.

All of which leaves the Irons supposedly stuck between a rock and a hard place which is where savvy business folk like Gold and Sullivan won’t feel comfortable, but where they are also wise enough to try to navigate from.

So, it does make you wonder whether their perceived poker face about declining a move to the Olympic Stadium is nothing more than a tactile gesture to call the bluff of the OPLC and the relevant authorities into climbing back into bed with West Ham.

What the OPLC will be privately fearing but would never admit too, is that if West Ham do pull out and Tottenham refuse to accept the maintenance of the running track, they could be faced with the very embarrassing proposition of having a multi-million pound state of the art stadium with huge national significance being lay dormant for huge swathes of the year and for the foreseeable future.

Of course, Leyton Orient would still maintain their interest and even argue they should be granted the stadium on purely geographical grounds anyway, but again, could the OPLC really justify using a stadium built on massive tax expenditure to house a few thousand fans to watch League One football?

On the exterior it may look like West Ham are wobbling but don’t be surprised if their position is further strengthened by showing their hand first.

Follow John Baines on twitter @bainesyDiego10

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