The decision on the outcome of the Olympic Stadium is still not over, much to my dismay. Yesterday Barry Hearn, chairman of Leyton Orient, said that he will challenge the decision of West Ham to move into the stadium, taking legal action if needs be.
“The rules of the Premier League, … say they will not grant consent for a club to move grounds if it would adversely affect clubs who have their registered ground in the immediate vicinity”, Hearn said.
Barry Hearn is concerned that West Ham’s move from their 35,000 seater Upton Park to the 60,000 Olympic Stadium could cause Leyton Orient to dissolve. The point being, that with so many new seats to fill, West Ham are likely to offer discounted and free tickets to try and encourage more people to come. The effect of this, in the long run, will be that kids who may have supported Leyton Orient will instead go on to support West Ham, and could bring about the downfall of Leyton Orient.
I can see where Hearn is coming from.
But I think, what Hearn is really worried about is the fact that West Ham are expanding, and not the fact that they are moving grounds. He is using their relocation as a pretence to argue over their expansion.
Let us imagine West Ham have knocked down their current stadium and are redeveloping Upton Park to a capacity of 60,000. They would be completely within their rights to do so. The long-term effect on Leyton Orient would be the same; West Ham would try to sell more tickets, targeting the younger people of the community and conceivably offering cheaper tickets to instigate new interest. But would that make it wrong for West Ham to redevelop? No.
In terms of geography, I think the potential effects are being overstated. Leyton Orient are based in the London borough of Waltham Forest. Upton Park is in the old London borough of West Ham. The Olympic Stadium is also in the old London borough of West Ham. So West Ham are just relocating to another site within their own ‘patch’.
At the moment they are about 3 miles from Brisbane Road. The Olympic Stadium is just 1 mile from Orient’s stadium. Is 2 miles going to make that much difference? No.
The fact is that Hearn doesn’t want West Ham to expand. He is playing the victim to try and prevent their expansion. The law on which he is going to argue was made after the Wimbledon to MK Dons fiasco. It intended to prevent the franchise system of American football taking hold of England, where the rights to a club can be bought and then the club relocated. It was not created so that a Premier League football club could not expand by moving up the road.
I sympathise with the Orient fans, but I do not trust Barry Hearn, and I don’t think he has a valid argument. You can stop a club form moving into your territory, but you can’t stop them from relocating within their own territory. In truth, the two have existed on the same ‘patch’ for years.
Hearn has even said he would be willing to go into negotiations with the Olympic committee over a potential move to the Olympic Hockey stadium. This is just 500 yards away from the Olympic Stadium! If he was really concerned about being in the shadow of West Ham, this would only make them problem worse.
Remembering that Hearn, chairman of Matchroom, already owns the ground at Brisbane Road, you have to ask, is he really worried about losing his fan base, or is he just worried about making money for a club that he owns so much of?
So, in response to the question, is the move going to affect Leyton Orient? The answer has to be yes. But, when you ask; are West ham really treading on the toes of Leyton Orient? The answer is no.
Barry Hearn is fighting a losing battle. It is the expansion of West Ham football club that Hearn really fears, not their moving to Stratford.
You can follow me on twitter @joeaustin8
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