West Ham manager Sam Allardyce believes a move to the Olympic Stadium is imperative if the club are to compete with London rivals Chelsea and Arsenal.
The future of the stadium in Stratford has long been a topic of debate, with the Hammers denied tenancy last October following a legal dispute involving Leyton Orient and Tottenham.
Allardyce is aware of the heritage of the club’s cherished Boleyn Ground but insists a move is necessary to take the club on to the next level.
“I understand the history and tradition of Upton Park or the Boleyn Ground, but to really become one of the true top clubs in London, if not in this country, then a new stadium, is of the utmost importance to host the huge fan base that West Ham United have,” he said.
Allardyce, who today celebrates his 58 birthday, has pointed to the growing stadia of Premier League sides as a reason to follow suit and claim the Stratford venue so the East London side do not get left behind.
“We’ve seen Chelsea’s stadium grow and we’ve seen Chelsea grow into a major European side over the last decade, because of Roman Abramovich’s money,” he added.
“We’ve seen Arsenal move into a brand new stadium, 60,000, at the Emirates, we’ve seen Man United grow their stadium to 75,000, and I think that moving from West Ham into the Olympic Stadium is a must for the growth and the development of the club. And of course 60,000 seats are planned, I think, and that will satisfy everybody who wants to come to West Ham and a fantastic venue it could be too. We experienced what the atmosphere was like at the Olympics, you know, from that point of view that same atmosphere could be recreated as West Ham football team playing there.”
The move to the stadium has not gone as smoothly as expected as the need to preserve a home for athletics was central to London 2012's legacy aims, while fans have been cynical of the move, claiming the running track would kill the atmosphere generated at Upton Park.
Allardyce believes it is still worth uprooting as other European giants,
including Bayern Munich and Juventus, have taken state-built stadiums for
“I’ve travelled the world of football and I think that every stadia, in most countries is built by the city or the town which is a stadium which is shared by all, it’s a multi-purpose stadium, so lots of big clubs have had to play there, particularly Bayern Munich for instance,” he said.
The former Bolton manager understands fans’ frustrations about the running track which will surround the pitch and agrees that it will be detrimental to the atmosphere generated by the West Ham faithful.
“But you look at what they’ve (Bayern Munich) built now and moved away from the running track and got themselves their own stadium where the fans come much closer to the touchline and that creates a much, much better atmosphere,” he said.
“If you go to Spain, with the old stadiums that creates an even better atmosphere. Because their health and safety rules aren’t as strict as ours, their terracing is steeper, much, much steeper, so the fans are even closer to the pitch than they are in England and that does create the very electric atmosphere that you’re looking for.”
For more insight from Sam Allardyce and other leading managers plus exclusive Barclays Premier League highlights go to www.yahoo.co.uk/sport