James Lawton: Happy West Ham only beneficiaries of London's fabled Olympic legacy
There surely could be no surprise that Karren Brady was so ecstatic about her club’s massive endowment from the taxpayer
Let's hope West Ham United and some of the more reluctant supporters truly appreciate their great London legacy, a custom made football stadium which was supposed to be an iconic centre for world track and field.
It would claim this status as the jewel of the Olympics which according to former Prime Minister Tony Blair were going to be a great gift for the youth of Britain and the world.
So enjoy, Hammers. You got the gift while the nation's kids still operate in the dark ages of sports facilities when you begin to make any kind of comparison with those available in most major European countries. You get the 'fabled' legacy of the Games which so enlivened the nation's summer and gave so many bragging rights to so many politicians, at least those who didn't have to drag to the Olympic stadium the economic baggage of the roundly booed Chancellor George Osborne.
There surely could be no surprise that Karren Brady, vice-chairman of West Ham, was so ecstatic about her club's massive endowment from the taxpayer which was formally announced yesterday.
Ms Brady declared: "I'm delighted that we have been confirmed today as the anchor concessionaire for the Olympic Stadium. I commend my two chairmen, David Gold and David Sullivan, for their passion and commitment. I'm delighted this has been rewarded. It was important to me that we struck a deal that would stand the test of time that represented the right deal for West Ham United and their loyal and patient supporters."
One possible translation: boy, did we get a sweetheart deal.
It is infinitely superior, for the record, to the one negotiated by Manchester City when the City Council leased the Commonwealth Games stadium to the club after spending an extra £25m on a football conversion. The club chipped in with £20m, for bars, restaurants and corporate facilities.
Such tax and ratepayers' munificence pales beside the terms which carry West Ham into the Olympic Park. After considerable prodding the club are contributing £15m to conversion costs estimated to be between £150m and £190m, expenditure which will bring the final stadium cost to around £630m.
This is to say that West Ham will chip in roughly the cost of two or three iffy Bulgarian utility players, plus agents' fees, while celebrating a 99-year lease guaranteed to infuriate the other rejected tenants, Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient. Apparently ground-sharing in these straitened times was never a serious consideration, despite the fact that it has worked well enough for Internazionale and Milan down all their high-profile and conspicuously successful years.
That this is a central 'legacy' scandal scarcely needed the confirmation of former sports minister Richard Caborn but anyone who spent any time in his company at the 2004 Athens Olympics can hardly have been surprised by his indignation yesterday. While the Greeks were pouring some of the last of the money they still thought they had into a new Olympic legacy, Caborn was caustic about Lord Sebastian Coe's emphatic statement that the main stadium for the proposed London Games would be one of the great centres for track and field.
Caborn insisted that it was nonsense. London had to follow the example of their Paris rivals in the capacity of the Stade de France to turn itself into a track and field arena with the help of retractable seats whenever the need occurred. In London the stadium had to be similarly versatile. A stadium dedicated to track and field would be a white elephant and another burden on the taxpayer.
Now Caborn is as sad as he is angry, saying: "This is the biggest mistake of the Olympic Games and lessons should be learned. West Ham are basically getting a stadium costing more than £600m for £15m and a small annual rent (of £2m). I do welcome the fact that the future of the stadium has finally been secured but we should also realise that the public sector is picking up the tab.
"The mistake was made in 2006-07 when the Olympic board ruled football out of a retro-fix design as we had done in Manchester. I suggested retractable seating like the Stade de France but they insisted it should be a 25,000 capacity athletics stadium. Time and again mistakes are made with Olympic stadiums."
It is true enough and you can almost take your pick. Montreal was the first great disaster in 1976 and city ratepayers are still dealing with the cost of a profiteering exercise which many believed counted the local branch of the Mafia among the beneficiaries. Barcelona's beautiful creation on Montjuic now lives mostly with its memories. Athens is in mothballs. Sydney is largely neglected in the distant suburbs. Beijing's Bird's Nest continues to look exquisite but is lightly used. In London we have our gift to those "passionate" businessmen Gold and Sullivan and a football club guaranteed at least £23m if it should ever lose its Premier League status.
However, we have been pointed to the great Olympic legacy announced recently by Prime Minister David Cameron, the £150m allocated to 17,000 state primary schools for the provision of some basic sports facilities and opportunities for kids who have been neglected for so long.
This news would have been easier to celebrate if the Education Minister Michael Gove had not slashed a rather greater amount from such funding on the run-in to the Olympics which were all about new life for the sport of our young people.
The good intentions were huge, or so we were told. Unfortunately, it was confirmed yesterday, so was the folly.
Could Dyke be the FA's man for all seasons?
Greg Dyke has shown plenty of high-grade prescience in his forays into football, starting with his understanding that TV could surely carry the game into a new dimension.
More than enough to mourn the fact in the re-formation of the game in the early Nineties he was bulldozed to one side by the combination of Rupert Murdoch's Sky and their ally Alan Sugar. Now the hope must be that his proposed election as new chairman of the Football Association survives any intrusion by the backwoodsmen 'blazers' who have allowed the national game to slide so perilously towards a state of anarchy.
This week Dyke delivered a searing recall of the formation of the world's richest football league when he said: "It was ridiculous. They [the FA] could have anything, a league of 16 clubs, players released for England, a quota of English players. I'm surprised the FA hasn't tried to re-assert itself since a bit, but there are moments and they missed theirs."
He sees one of the great challenges facing the FA as the nurturing of the home-grown footballer. "It is essential the FA finds a way to ensure that more talented young England players are given a chance."
If it is true that cometh the hour, cometh the man, Dyke may well be the one.
Ferdinand's Qatar jaunt leaves a bitter taste
There is any amount of ways to give up the moral high ground but no one in English football has done it more spectacularly than Rio Ferdinand.
His TV gig in Qatar, of all places, is self-betrayal which would be funny if it didn't raise a whole batch of new questions about the current generation of English footballers. Do they have any sense of responsibility towards the game that has rewarded them so generously? Maybe the question is too sweeping but if some of them do, and demonstrably so, Ferdinand has hardly elected himself to their number.
there surely could be no surprise that karren brady was so ecstatic about her club's massive endowment from the taxpayer
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