Daniel Levy has never been a man to be bullied. His statement that, regardless of the Olympic Stadium’s tenants in post 2012 London, Tottenham would look to leave White Hart Lane is further evidence that the Spurs chairman will not be manipulated by fan pressure or other external influences when it comes to locating the club’s new home.
The war of words between the rival bid teams for the Olympic Stadium site has intensified over the last few days with high profile sportsmen from Lord Sebastian Coe to Brazilian legend Pele, voicing an opinion. Levy will know that the plan to remove track facilities from the stadium will be very unpopular amongst the athletics community and makes West Ham’s bid the favourite at this stage.
Yet despite this, the former Rangers director, will not be discouraged. He appears confident that Spurs fans would travel to see their side play, regardless of where the club are housed in five years time. This is despite passionate protests from some ticket holders at the recent home draw with Manchester United, urging the club to turn down a move to Stratford, the site of the Olympic Stadium, and instead pursue plans to redevelop White Hart Lane. Levy , talking to Sky Sport News, claimed this option had proven to be “not viable” citing outside pressures and spiralling costs, understood to be somewhere in the region of 450 million pounds.
The suggestion would be that in the absence of an opportunity to redevelop at Stratford, the only other avenue for the club would be to look elsewhere, simply staying put is seemingly not an option Levy is considering anymore. When questioned on possible opposition to the move from the supporters, Levy was dismissive, claiming that the bad feeling came from; “a very, very small group of individuals.”
But what is the motivation for laying the current stadium situation in such stark terms? The Olympic Park Legacy Company are hard likely to simply give Tottenham the Stratford plot because it would be expensive and difficult to build elsewhere, particularly with the major concerns over the athletic legacy of the stadium.
Perhaps Levy’s comments are in the hope that they induce Haringey Council to help drive down the cost of any potential rebuild. If we are to trust Levy’s estimates, there is a mammoth, 200 million pound gap between the cost of redeveloping the current site and a move across London. Regardless of the passionate feelings of some fans, this would be far too large a deficit to accept, simply on a sentimental basis.
In an ideal world, the Tottenham board would surely love to add an extra 20,000 to White Hart Lane’s current 35,000 seat capacity. Back in November, the club were granted planning permission for a 56,000 seat stadium on the current plot. The plans seemed pretty serious then, so is Levy simply bluffing to drive down the potential costs?
As each day passes, the Olympic dream appears to be slowly slipping away from the Lilywhites. Chairman at Leyton Orient, Barry Hearn, has today discussed the possibility of legal action to prevent either West Ham or Tottenham moving to Stratford, claiming that a move so close to the East London club’s current home could be disastrous for the O’s. The whole saga is becoming increasingly messy.
So, what do you think? Is the Olympic Stadium bid nothing more than a tactic to drive down the costs of a potential redevelopment of White Hart Lane? Or is Daniel Levy deadly serious when he claims the club will move regardless of the OPLC’s findings? What is certain is that if Spurs are to kick on and take full advantage of their recent breakthrough into the upper echelons of English and European football, a new stadium is a must. Exactly where, however, remains unclear.