Monday 16 January 2017

Hammers take Gold medal in grubby race to the bottom line

Dion Fanning

Published 13/02/2011 | 05:00

W hen David Sullivan and David Gold are the good guys, you have clearly entered murky waters. When Karren Brady is making some interesting points, then it is time to worry. When Barry Hearn is the victim, then you are certainly in dangerous territory.

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The battle for London's Olympic Stadium was fought on the familiar battlegrounds. They talked about 'passion' and 'legacy', the words that tell us another battle is being fought and, once again, bullshit is winning.

Last week, Tottenham Hotspur played their final card. They released an artist's impression of their Olympic Stadium. It was, as is customary, a mighty purty picture. We saw lots of happy people doing remarkable things never before seen outside a football ground in England. On a non-match day, Spurs painted a picture of a carnival scene in which families came to play volleyball, judo and boccia. They watched the street dancers and the circus acts. Once again, the scene in The Sopranos when they release the pictures of the regeneration of Newark sprung to mind. Where were "the little hoors giving little blow-jobs?"

Spurs would, of course, never endorse such behaviour, but the reality of their pursuit of the stadium and the fanciful images that go along with it are very different things. It has been an exercise in hard neck. Brady described Tottenham's plans as a "corporate crime" while Tottenham, once they learned they had been defeated, moaned that West Ham's plans may not succeed without "further calls on the public purse".

As we know, venture capitalists would be lost these days without calling on the public purse. So while Spurs were criticising West Ham's drain on finances in one room, in another Alan Sugar was demanding that Tottenham's local council provide a mortgage at low interest rates if they were so eager to keep the club in the area.

Gold, meanwhile, was portraying himself as a latter-day Eric Liddell. He recounted how, growing up in the East End, he had announced in school that he wanted to be a long-distance runner. He was told to learn his place, that 'we don't do long-distance running' at his school.

"Oh, right, do you do pornography?" was presumably his next question. Having been denied his dream of running, Gold found another way of dealing with excess energy.

"Now we do," he added, as if he was back in with a chance of competing at the Olympics himself when in fact it is a dream which will only come alive if they add porn to the long list of pastimes that have no place being there.

Tottenham and West Ham both saw good business opportunities in the Olympic Stadium. Then they have to then add the requirements demanded by the Olympic tender and finally turn it into a moral issue.

There were a number of fictions and charades in this grubby bit of squabbling. Obviously nobody cares about athletics and there is no Olympic legacy. They would be better off admitting this than scrambling around for a tenant who can fulfil these requirements. In this, Tottenham came closest to some honesty. Tottenham are said to feel there is no room for improvement at White Hart Lane which, according to one report, is burdened by its "insalubrious surroundings". Nobody would claim that Seven Sisters Road is a glittering place to be but it is, unfortunately, where Tottenham Hotspur play. They don't have a stronger moral case for moving to east London than, say, Wigan Athletic.

This is just another version of the game that destroyed the world: high stakes gambling with other people's money. And a loss is not a defeat but an opportunity to consider legal action. Spurs do not need to move from White Hart Lane, their human rights are not being infringed by playing there. They want to move. They can make more money from moving and now they have got it in their heads that somebody else should pay for it. So Sugar can suggest that Haringey Council make it worth their while to stay in the neighbourhood when the only reason they need to leave is to expand beyond what they are.

The stadium built with public funds has driven them all crazy. As Spurs were in partnership with the American company AEG, it is no surprise they were seduced by the American model which sees a club's location as just another bottom-line decision.

Now they demand that their financial loss in not being allowed to move is covered by the locals who never said they had to go. These guys are good. This is what they do.

"This is about community," Gold said as he unpacked his running spikes and prepared for some shuttle runs with the Hackney Flyers.

Gold and Sullivan are rooted in the East End community. So, too, is Barry Hearn, making the case for Leyton Orient whose Brisbane Road ground is so close to the Olympic Stadium that Premier and Football League regulations may be contravened if a club plays there.

Hearn has described Orient as the "lost tribe of East London" and wondered who will protect them in this carve-up. "Who will help us?" Hearn pleaded, but not looking to the heavens. In the end, somebody will come to his assistance. More people get looked after than in the Salvation Army soup kitchen on a Saturday night. That's how modern capitalism works.

Sullivan and Gold now have a stadium, built primarily by the taxpayer, to meet their ambitions and one imagines it would take a mammoth financial offer to make them move, a financial offer like the one that forced Thakshin Shinawatra to make a £130 million profit on Manchester City, his position strengthened by including a stadium that was built by taxpayers for the Commonwealth Games.

Shinawatra had no roots in the community. He had no passion for the club and he cared little about legacy. English football is lucky to have such enlightened English owners.

dfanning@independent.ie

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