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Why I Dislike West Ham’s Decision To Move To The Olympic Stadium

West-Ham-Olympic-StadiumI don’t understand West Ham United decision to leave Upton Park, their home since 1904, and move into the Olympic Stadium beginning in 2016.

West Ham will pay £2 million a year in rent for the privilege of playing in front of empty seats in the 54,000 capacity stadium.

Boris Johnson, the London mayor was ecstatic to get a tenant in the stadium rather than seeing it empty every week saying:

“This was the deal they said could never be done. I am very pleased to announce that this fantastic stadium will not only host community sport, rock concerts and athletics – it will also be the home of a great London football club.”

In a joint statement, Hammers co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold said:

“It’s fantastic for everyone at West Ham United that, at last, all the club’s hard work over the past three years has paid off.

“Since we came to West Ham in 2010, we have had a vision to really take the club forward so we can compete on the pitch at the highest level.

“Today’s decision offers us a real platform to do this, and we are fully committed to making it a real success.

“We understand the responsibilities that come with calling the nation’s iconic Olympic Stadium our new home. It is an honour we will take on with pride.”

That being said, here are the reasons why this is a bad long-term move for the Hammers

  • They are moving from a stadium they own to one they are renting. When you own the stadium you get all the revenue for other events there like the boxing match last summer which drew 30,000 fans. Now, when there are rock concerts, athletic events and Champions League finals at the Olympic Stadium West Ham will not see any money from those extra events.
  • Currently Upton Park holds 35,000 fans, and this season it has been almost filled to capacity every week (34,656 avg gate). With a full house the atmosphere at Upton Park is one of the best in the Premier League. What will happen to that atmosphere in the bigger Olympic Stadium? Ask Arsenal fans the difference between Highbury and the Emirates.
  • The capacity at the Olympic Stadium will give West Ham one of the biggest grounds in England. Will they be able to fill it every week like they can now? Selling out against the big teams will not be a problem, but what about against the likes of Wigan, Reading, Stoke? Or what happens if West Ham get relegated again? Will fans come dressed up as empty seats?
  • West Ham are going to pay £15m upfront towards conversion cost of the stadium. By upfront I take that to mean now. That is £15m that West Ham will not be spending to sign the likes of Andy Carroll. Would West Ham fans rather have Andy Carroll for the next 5 years or play in the Olympic stadium.
  • As a Coventry City fan I am well aware of the pitfalls of selling a stadium you own to being a tenant in someone else’s building. Not saying West Ham will end up like Coventry, but is all walks of life it is preferable to on the building instead of renting it.

Selling a property and moving into a rental is not moving up. It is downsizing.