Is this the deal of the century for West Ham United?
With the transfer window now upon us, so comes that period of excruciating hope and invariable disappointment. It is easy to be swept up in the fervour of the transfer market, convincing yourself that your club is but a signing away from greatness. In reality it is rare for any one player to transform a club beyond recognition, giving them that impetus to truly kick on and compete at the very highest level.
Yet West Ham United are on the verge of an acquisition with the power to do just those very things. With a move to the newly converted Olympic Stadium just over 12 months away, is it time for other clubs to sit up and take notice of West Ham?
The romanticists would still have you believe that football remains about passion and drive; the sad reality is that success more often than not is borne out of financial clout. For clubs that cannot boast a billionaire owner, the option is either to settle for mediocrity or do something to compete off the pitch.
West Ham do not have billionaire owners, but their move into a new multi million pound stadium may well go a long way to attracting one. A club based in London, with the history and fan base to match, could a potential investor really resist? The stadium alone doesn’t give the club the financial muscle it requires, it may negate the threat posed by ‘Financial Fair Play’ rules, but it certainly doesn’t propel the club forward automatically. The relocation is simply the crowning glory in the re-marketing of West Ham United, the move that places the club firmly back in the realm of relevance and opens them up to further investment.
So why is this the deal of the century?
Put simply, West Ham have acquired the Olympic Stadium for an absolute bargain (much to the detriment of the taxpayer). The conversion costs have now reached £272m, mainly due to the need for retractable seats and creation of the largest cantilever roof in the world. This has brought the total cost up to £702m, nearly as much as the £798m spent on the 90,000-seat capacity Wembley stadium. Yet despite this the club will bear only £15m of the conversion costs and will reportedly pay just £2m per year on rental of the stadium.
It smacks of a poorly planned and ill thought out legacy, one where the stadium clearly hadn’t been prepared for use as a multi-sports venue.
Andy Silvester, campaign director at the Taxpayers Alliance was unimpressed when discussing the issue with the BBC:
“The cost of renovating the stadium continues to spiral – much like every sports project the government gets involved in.”
“Taxpayers will be astounded that West Ham have been gifted a stunning new stadium for the same price that they paid for Andy Carroll.”
“You can’t blame the owners for taking advantage of this generous subsidy but such a cut-price deal simply isn’t appropriate when you consider the extraordinary windfall coming the Premier League’s way as a result of the new TV deal.”
Whilst much of the detail regarding the deal remains shrouded in commercial secrecy, it seems clear that the opportunity afforded by the stadium clearly warranted the government holding out for more money. It is easy to forget that this was a multi-bid process, and West Ham had to fight off competition to ‘win’ this deal.
This isn’t to begrudge West Ham the deal, more to highlight the deficiencies of government decision makers at the time. What has been the country’s loss will be the club’s gain. With this deal having the potential to turn the sleeping giants into a continental powerhouse once again.
With a Europa League tie coming this week, European games under the lights make a return to West Ham’s calendar.
Should West Ham fans be braced for more?