Tottenham’s latest move in the Olympic Stadium saga is a sign of the increasing bitterness of proceedings. They have demanded that West Ham can never remove the running track around the pitch. The reasoning is simple enough but not admirable. They believe that West Ham’s promise to keep the running track was a defining selling point of the Hammers bid and that, were they allowed to remove it, they would have a ground capable of competing with Tottenham’s proposed new stadium but at a vastly reduced cost.
Daniel Levy is a terrier and he will not let the Olympic Stadium bid go and rightly so. A man who stubbornly refuses to take a loss on David Bentley must barely be able to sleep at night at the thought of West Ham securing a £600 million stadium for £30 million. Despite Mayor Boris Johnson’s best attempts to placate Levy with an offer of £17 million to kick-start redevelopments in Tottenham, the Spurs chairman is not happy.
Whilst Levy’s latest demand is undeniably mean-spirited, it makes sense. Spurs have already spent £85 million on new stadium projects without touching a brick, and the bitterness at missing out on the Stratford site will only increase as the spending escalates.
For West Ham this latest demand must be painful. Although they have shown no intent to get rid of the track, it would vastly improve their stadium. At times people will be over 200 metres away from the action and the atmosphere will certainly suffer as a result. Of course, right now, West Ham understand that their pledges to protect the Olympic legacy were instrumental in the success of their bid and would not jeopardise proceedings so early on but there must be long term desires to dig it up and bring the game closer to the fans.
Levy has a point. If West Ham manage to find a loophole or Gold and Sullivan sell the club, complete with new publicly funded stadium, off to a billionaire (like Shinawatra did with Manchester City) at staggering personal profits then that running track may well disappear and everyone will have been taken for a ride. This would be a terrible exploitation of public funds and a massive two fingers up to the Olympic legacy.
It is unlikely that Levy’s demands will be met but there is certainly no harm in safeguarding against some potential profiteering.