Leyton Orient’s fight continues
In February, the Trust supported a call from an independent fans’ body at Leyton Orient FC for football fans to support their objections to West Ham United FC being awarded use of the Olympic Stadium, following the games in 2012.
We noted that the very limited consultations with Hammers fans had revealed remarkably little support for uprooting the club from its long-term home and away from its fan-base. There was even less desire for a similar move on the part of fans of Tottenham Hotspur FC. Despite belligerent statements from the directors of both clubs, the bulk of their fans remain opposed to a move. Rather than discuss the footballing and fans issues involved, many in the media have sought to polarise the matter around the personalities at the clubs involved, none of whom inspire a moment’s empathy.
Subsequently, the Football Supporters’ Federation hosted a online petition ‘Save Leyton Orient Football Club’ (http://www.fsf.org.uk/petitions/save-orient.php), which the Trust supports and commends to its members and fans of Fulham FC in general.
A fortnight ago, the Os applied for a judicial review (i) over the award of the stadium to West Ham and (ii) the loan of £40 million by the London Borough of Newham (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-13082972) to a stadium company from which West Ham would rent. The borough’s website is both vague with regard to detail and over-optimistic on the stadium’s use and revenue generation (http://www.newham.gov.uk/2012Games/OlympicStadiumbidFAQs.htm).
Neither West Ham United nor Newham borough have been given much thought, at least publicly, to the potentially adverse effects on the Os of having a Premier League club moving into the immediate vicinity of their established home. Part of the Os claim is that the Premier League has broken its own rules in sanctioning such a move.
This move would add even further pressure, as an alternative attraction, on professional and semi-professional football clubs in the London Borough of Waltham Forest. Although the Os are having a successful season, and are in with a chance of reaching the League One play offs, it is debatable whether they could compete with a Premier League team in terms of attendance, even if they were to be promoted.
Within Waltham Forest, the fortunes of its lower league clubs have deteriorated considerably. Sadly, Leyton FC, Greater London’s second oldest club, withdrew from the Ryman League Division One North in mid-January, 2011, their playing record being expunged for this season, It is uncertain whether the club can be resurrected.
In the same division, Waltham Forest FC, has been ground-sharing outside the borough since 2008 (in Ilford FC’s Cricklefield Stadium). Although they were scheduled to return to their Wadham Lodge ground in October, 2010, this has been delayed and the club languishes at the foot of the division, with relegation a certainty unless a major restructuring of non-league football enables them to retain their status.
For all three clubs and their fans, the potential arrival of West Ham United on their doorstep, a move which has been termed a footballing franchise, is as unwelcome a prospect as it is to the fans of ‘The Hammers’.