After the major sporting events - like the Olympic Games - comes the inevitable question of what to do with the venues, often specially constructed for what turns out to be just a fortnight of competitive sport. After Manchester hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2002, what is now the City of Manchester Stadium became the home of Premiership team Manchester City. This set a precedent for London to follow.
So now the stadium that hosted the Olympics four years ago has become the new home of West Ham United, whose home of more than a century, the Boleyn Ground in Upton Park, will soon be demolished. The deal under which the club have become “Anchor Tenants” has proved controversial. Just how controversial was made clear last year.
As the BBC has reported, “West Ham United will have many of the running costs met by the taxpayer when they move to the £700m Olympic Stadium next year”. Such as? “West Ham will not have to pay for a range of staff including cleaners and turnstile operators when they move into the Olympic Stadium … Heating and lighting costs will also be covered by the stadium managers, the London Legacy Development Corporation”.
There was more: “Two separate football business experts told the BBC the value of the services amounts to between £1.4m and £2.5m a year”. The club is paying rent of around £2.5 million a year. And it’s got a 99 year deal. So despite the entreaties of vice-chairman Karren Brady, the impression is given they’ve got a nice little earner.
But now, it seems, they are back at the table demanding more! I kid you not: as the Guardian has told, “West Ham fans are calling for urgent action to resolve stewarding and segregation issues that have marred their move to the London Stadium”. That’s the stewarding that someone else pays for under their tenancy agreement.
The club “will this week hold talks with the operators of their new £701m home, with each understood to blame the other for the situation that led to home fans clashing with one another and with away fans during the game against Watford”. And guess what? Here it comes: “The club have demanded a police presence at the ground, which would have to be paid for by the operators under the terms of the lease”.
West Ham United don’t have to pay for any of the following: Undersoil heating and floodlighting, Ticket office and turnstiles, Drug testing and medical facilities, Concession areas cleared of snow and ice as required, Team changing rooms, plus changing rooms for ball persons and officials, Security, cleaning, pest control, Stadium tannoy, generator, CCTV surveillance system and monitors, LED pitch-side signage, scoreboards and jumbo video screens at each end of the pitch.
And, d’you know, many neutrals will look at the situation and conclude that whatever the agreement struck between the club and the stadium’s owners, they are already getting quite enough for their £2.5 million a year - and that, if they want the cops to turn up on match days, they can open their wallets and pay for it themselves. End of story.