Should a Stadium be Priority over Location?

West Ham United's New Home for the 2012/2013 seasonWith just under a year to go until the Olympic Games come to London, The Olympic Stadium’s future has already been decided as West Ham’s new home. However, its redevelopment is still sparking debate between potential owners particularly over its location and uses.

Following a bid earlier in the year, West Ham United and Newham Council won over the Olympic Park Legacy Committee with their development plans for the stadium. Having gone head to head with Tottenham, it was decided that West Ham’s plan for the stadium was the most viable, proposing to cut the capacity from 80,000 to 60,000 and critically keeping the athletics track.

The problem with both clubs bid is ultimately the location. The Olympic Stadium is situated in Stratford, meaning both teams would have to re locate. Geographically, the closest football club to The Olympic Stadium is League One side Leyton Orient who currently play at Brisbane Road, a 9,000 capacity stadium. Although it does not seem sustainable to house a club of Leyton Orient’s size at The Olympic Stadium, is it ok for big clubs to move into a new area in order to have their desired stadium?

Traditionally, football clubs relate to a town or part of a city and are often at the heart of a community. Much of a team’s history and rivalry can be based around where they are situated and therefore if a team moves they lose part of their identity.

In 2004, Wimbledon F.C became Milton Keynes Dons following their relocation from South – West London but continued to claim Wimbledon’s history until 2007 amid supporter protests. The League One club are now known for only their accomplishments since they set up home at the National Hockey Stadium, but are known by some supporters of other clubs as ‘Franchise FC’.

Although a move across London would not be as major for newly demoted West Ham or indeed, if they appeal Tottenham, it still poses the same problem. Not only is the location a concern but also the way in which the stadium is used. Having been built for the purpose of the Olympic Games, a momentous event in British History, The Olympic Stadium will succumb to the demands of ambitious football clubs instead of serving as a legacy for athletics.

Having incorporated the athletics track into their plans, West Ham have recognised the significance of the Olympic legacy and also the range of sports the stadium can accommodate for, proposing the possibility of Essex Cricket Club using the ground for some matches, as well as international football matches, cricket matches and athletics events.

The Olympic Stadium is a testimony to the London 2012 Olympics and will no doubt be used for sporting purposes, whether this involves the current bid by West Ham or if it is over turned. However, if West Ham do retain their ownership, this could be a nod towards football clubs holding the importance of a large, modern stadium over geographical connections.

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