What’s in a postcode?
As you will have undoubtedly seen in the papers, West Ham and Spurs are in the middle of a bitter battle for the small patch of east London where the Olympics will be held next year.
The decision looks like an easy one. West Ham United Football Club is likely to be relegated this year. Regardless of this, the club cannot sell out Upton Park. Even for the biggest games of the year.
On the other hand, Spurs regularly sells out White Hart Lane despite it being one of the hardest grounds to get to. The club is in the Champions League, has always attracted big sponsors and has a season ticket waiting list of over 34,000.
In addition, Haringey council has hardly made it an easy decision for Spurs to stay in Tottenham. Whereas Arsenal received public money to help with transport to the Emirates, Spurs have been told to cough up £3million on top of a raft of other community projects.
So why wouldn’t the club want to move three stops from the City and a couple from Canary Wharf? It could probably charge more for hospitality than any other UK club if it secured the location (and a consistent run in the Champions League lest we forget – it’s not a certainty).
In comparison, West Ham’s promise to keep the running track for athletics and to let kids use it in the summer for community events looks a bit flimsy and whimsical. Yes, Spurs would knock the stadium built with public money down, but do the powers that be want a white elephant in east London?
The same noises were made when the Millennium Dome was built. Indeed, the venue was empty for years until AEG came along. That’s the same AEG that has partnered with Spurs and will put on massive gigs and other events in the summer.
So, from a cold-hearted Spurs business viewpoint, it looks like the decision is made. It would be cheaper for Spurs to move there, it will be easier for Spurs fans to get to (and fill the stadium) and it would be easier for Spurs to attract better rates for corporate hospitality.
But all of these things are irrelevant to lots of Spurs fans. Because the postcode for the new stadium starts with E and not N. Despite the Stratford site being only just over seven miles from Paxton Road, it may as well be the moon for many. (Incidentally, Upton Park is well under two miles away.)
Football should be about more than business. I know Tottenham Hotspur and many other clubs are publicly listed companies now, but sod the shareholders, it is fans that matter most.
We have rivalries in football because of location. And football grew into the most popular game in the world out of these rivalries.
It would make commercial sense for Tottenham and Arsenal to say: “Let’s forget about the last 100-odd years. Come on, let’s form North London United.”
But that doesn’t make it right. Putting fans first = putting football first.
(Plus, Chas & Dave think it is wrong, so that is end of argument.)