Inside Lines: Caborn - why did they kick my stadium plan into touch?
Sunday 18 November 2012
The tumbleweed is already starting to sprout in the Olympic Park, alongside the seeds of doubt that have been sown over the future of the showpiece stadium.
Last week Ed Warner, the chairman of UK Athletics, likened the situation to a Stratford version of those old Whitehall farces in which leading man Brian Rix invariably ended up losing his trousers. London's mayor, Boris Johnson, now holds centre stage in the East End production and, while he is not yet sans pantalon, some believe he has lost the plot.
Warner is not alone in wondering why a stadium which took three years to build now needs another three – or more – to be converted for post-Games occupancy by West Ham or as a multi-use venue. The mayor ummed and ahhed, as he does, when grilled by the nit-pickers of the London Assembly last week, but he and the London Legacy Development Corporation have failed to allay fears that the stadium may not be ready for the World Athletics Championships in 2017, to which the Government are legally committed. Failure to stage the event, in the light of the Picketts Lock fiasco 11 years ago, would be the biggest embarrassment British sport has suffered.
"Quite shocking," is how Olympic athlete Christine Ohuruogu describes the prospect. West Ham yesterday delivered what they say is a final "take it or leave it" offer for the tenancy, which is dependent on the provision of a new roof and retractable seating, estimated to cost £160 million. The club say they still want to move in, "but not at any price", while the LLDC say they want a solution but "not at any cost to the taxpayer". Will extra time be played?
A call from the former Labour sports minister Richard Caborn reminds us that his was a lone voice among the original 2012 bidding team in calling for football to be built into the stadium plan.
"I argued long and loud for the inclusion of retractable seating, pointing out that not having Premier League football at the stadium would mean the loss of a valuable revenue stream and that, without it, it would not be sustainable. This is the one area where a massive mistake was made."
Why do the words chickens and roost come to mind?
Clive worth the Efford
Tea at the House of Commons with the man who now speaks for sport on the Opposition benches in Parliament turns out to be a pleasant and informative affair. Few may have heard of Clive Efford, the MP for Eltham, but I suspect they will soon.
He is a qualified football coach, a lifelong Millwall supporter and has done The Knowledge as a former London black-cab driver. He is particularly passionate in arguing for investment in community sport and improved facilities in schools. Let's hope his boss, Harriet Harman, gives him free rein.
Movie-ing the goalposts
In this column some 10 years ago we commended the efforts of a London architect, Nilesh Patel, to produce a short film about racism in football. It was to be a variation of The Royle Family, with three grandfathers of different nationalities sitting in front of a TV watching an England game discussing not only racism but age and cultural stereotyping.
Humorous but with a serious message. Despite encouragement from the Football Foundation, Sir Bobby Charlton and author Nick Hornby, it never got off the ground for lack of finance. With racism now back on the agenda, the 45-year-old Patel tells me he wants to revive the idea. "It is the sort of thing that could be shown at games and would help the Kick It Out campaign," he said.
Again he is looking for backing and is approaching the FA, the Premier League and the PFA. The thought occurs that a small slice of the £200,000 fine imposed on John Terry by the FA could comfortably underwrite it.
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