Big Debate: Former striker Tony Cottee and West Ham fan discuss Olympic Stadium move
West Ham United was last week announced as the first ranked bidder for the Olympic Stadium. Here former striker Tony Cottee and loyal West Ham fan Ali Worth set out their arguments for and against the move. Please have your say in our online poll!
Striker Tony Cottee played for West Ham United between 1982 and 1988 and returned to the club from 1994 to 1996.
He now works as a television football commentator for Sky Sports and as a columnist for the Recorder/Advertiser. He continues to be an avid West Ham United fan. Born in Forest Gate Cottee began his career at West Ham at the age of 17.
Throughout his career he played 579 league games and scored 226 goals. In all competitions he played more than 700 games and scored nearly 300 goals.
Tony Cottee said:“I’m pleased West Ham United has been awarded first ranked bidder status. I’ve always been very pro the move. My only reservation has been the running track and how far supporters are from the pitch, which has got to be sorted out. I’m one of the privileged few to have had a glimpse at the plans. I hope the plans I saw will be the ones approved. The fans are the most important people and I think they will be convinced by the plans once they see them.
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“The biggest problem is always going to be the athletics track and I would never support the move if the track is kept between supporters and the players.
“You’ll never get the same atmosphere with an athletics track – that has already been proven around Europe. But I’ve sat at the top of the Olympic Stadium and the view is fantastic.
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“Stratford is a great location, but a lot of work and money has to be spent on getting the stadium right first.
“Stratford is the best linked station in Europe and close to City Airport, Stansted and Southend Airport, which means people from all over the UK and Europe could easily get to games.
“The 60,000 stadium capacity would enable us to compete with clubs such as Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal. And with more seats and lower tickets prices promised more fans will be able to go.”
It would also see us return closer to where our original ground was and importantly it is still in Newham.
I think West Ham fans will always support the club but it might take some time before they come to appreciate a new stadium.
When Arsenal moved from Highbury or when Wembley Stadium was rebuilt nobody could imagine that.
West Ham United fan, Ali Worth, helped found WHU’s View? – a group set up to conduct a poll of season ticket holders’ view on moving to the Olympic Stadium.
Ali, who goes to every home game and some away matches, is also in the process of setting up a NO campaign against the move. She is also known under her pen name Boleyn Ali when writing for the West Ham fanzine Over Land And Sea.
Ali Worth said:“I, and every other WHU fan I know, was dismayed at the decision to award the club first-ranked bidder status for anchor tenant of the Olympic Stadium. I don’t want to move into a ground that was not designed for football. Even with the promise of retractable seating across the athletics track, the view for the vast majority of fans will be terrible.
“We would lose all the atmosphere and history built up over many years around the Boleyn Ground and risk losing sponsorship deals.
“Coupled with the enforced walk through a shopping city with no pubs, meeting places or caf�s of our own and with no guarantee of parking, and I have to question. Why move?
“I’d rather stay at the Boleyn, re-build the East Stand, fill in the corners and bring our capacity up to 45,000 – a figure we can sustain, no matter what division we’re playing in, yet still allow ample room for growth. Success in football is measured by how good the team is, not the stadium they play in.
“This is not just about what happens on the pitch either. Who will pick up the tab for the estimated minimum �70million shortfall? The grant from Newham Council of at least �40m to a private company at a time when libraries and old people’s homes are being closed and services cut is disgraceful.
“The shops and pubs that trade along Green Street and the surrounding areas will all suffer if this move goes ahead.”
Some supporters are being seduced with the promise of cheap seats but with West Ham already offering a yearly rental of �2.5m and a commercial package worth �6.5m, who will finance these tickets?
Fans who regularly attend matches must have their say, I’d like an independent body such as the Electoral Reform Society to conduct a poll asking if they support the move. This is the most important decision WHU FC will ever make.”