Regardless of how many West Ham United fans that may have been rejoicing about today’s news that the club’s Olympic Stadium dream is set to become a reality in the 2016/17 season, for Tottenham Hotspur supporters, it represents a very bitter pill to swallow indeed.
Superficially of course, the sight of seeing one of your London rivals handed a 99-year lease on a shiny new stadium – not to mention one that they once looked to acquire themselves – is enough on its own to merit a feeling of seething frustration.
Furthermore, the painful irony that all taxpaying Spurs fans will be in some small way funding the £60million that the government has fronted up to help turn the stadium into an arena fit for football has not been lost amongst the Lilywhites’ support.
But perhaps the most prominent feeling of distress isn’t within the potential benefits that West Ham will reap and to some extent, already have, out of the Olympic Stadium conversion. It’s more the pressing reality upon how desperately the club has to get their own stadium development under way.
There will be undoubted bitterness – not just amongst Spurs fans – but perhaps the greater footballing public, upon how a football club plying its trade in the richest professional league in the world, has just received a £60million foot-up from the taxpayer to help convert a stadium they already shelled out £428million to build in the first place.
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Given the economic realities the country is facing up to, on face value Spurs supporters are going to find it hard to stomach the notion that while they struggle to find an estimated £400million for their own development project, West Ham are going to provide a mere initial £15miillion towards the conversion cost and a further £2million annual rent on the Olympic Stadium.
From a taxpaying perspective, the intricacies of the tenancy most certainly do concern those on the white half of North London, but from a sporting one, it matters very little to fans as to quite how successful they are. Because regardless of how many seats they do or don’t fill or how successful the implementation of retractable seating may or may not be, it’s not going to help them build their stadium any quicker. And that’s where the real issue lies.
Should West Ham United’s move to the Olympic Stadium be completed on schedule for the 2016/17 season, theoretically, the same campaign would also herald the full completion of Tottenham’s Northumberland Development Project. When The Mirror reported that the tender was set to go out for the main stadium element back in September, whispers were abound that the club may even be set to move into the partially completed structure for the 2015/16 term, with the completion date for the following season.
But as we head towards the end of the 2012/13 season, while the adjacent development to complete a supermarket, commercial and educational space towards the north of the stadium is well under way, not a single brick has yet to be laid on the stadium itself.
The onus within North London is that it is a matter of when, as opposed to if the stadium gets underway. But with Tottenham MP David Lammy recently stating that chairman Daniel Levy suggested Christmas as the earliest possible start date, hopes of a summer start already seem somewhat optimistic.
The complexities upon getting what it essentially a small regeneration project of the ground, ensures that the timescale for such a scheme is always going to require a level of patience that is something of an alien commodity within a sport that waits for no man.
To gauge an idea of quite what Spurs are looking to devise, you only need to look at the three years it is going to take West Ham to move into a stadium that’s already been constructed, once conversion has been completed and the several miles of red tape overcome.
By the same note, Tottenham are looking to build a new stadium on the footprint of their current one, make serious renovations to the surrounding infrastructure as well as dig up anything between £300-£400million to make it happen. If it felt like it took an awful long time to devise such a development, then putting it into practice is a completely different beast altogether.
But while the impatience that resides amongst some quarters of the Tottenham support towards the stadium project is unjust, the ever-growing financial chasm between themselves and the gentlemen in red down the road serves as a painful reminder to just how desperately the Lilywhites need to increase their matchday revenue.
There is little more either Levy or anyone at Spurs can do to try and speed up the stadium development process, but with West Ham now set to be rehomed before themselves, it might not just be Arsenal that will give them cause for concern.
The Hammers might have to share hospitality revenue with the London Legacy Development Corporation, but with ticket revenue set to go straight to their own coffers, there is real capacity for them to start making some serious gains in the capital. They might not be able to sell out 54,000 seats as it is, but with their new stadium on the doorstep of one of the most well connected transport hubs in Europe, the capacity for growth is unprecedented.
Should work not begin till the New Year, the best Spurs can perhaps hope for in terms of making their own strives towards matchday revenue, now looks like an entry into a semi complete White Hart Lane for the 2016/17 campaign. Any later, and the race to play catch-up with those around becomes increasingly more difficult.
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