Orient fans back Hearn over name change
But supporters are not convinced about the move
Supporters seem prepared to accept chairman Barry Hearn’s proposal to change the name to London Orient if the club’s bid for tenancy of the Olympic Stadium is successful.
A decision on the future of the �486 million Olympic Stadium is expected to be made later this month by the London Legacy Development Corporation with Orient and West Ham two of four potential tenants.
Matt Arnot, co-editor of the long-established Orientear fanzine admitted: “We are not against it, the club’s name has been changed before and as long as Orient is retained I don’t think fans would be too concerned.
“Our identity is Orient and that’s the important thing.”
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However, Arnot remains unconvinced as to whether a move away from Brisbane Road is the answer.
“I don’t think anyone would object to a name change, but in some ways it’s masking the real debate as there is not an overwhelming groundswell of opinion to move,” he said.
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Hearn believes that relocation is the priority, and the club has already met with supporters groups to outline three options going forward. They are:
? To remain at Brisbane Road
? Relocate to another area
? Or relocate to the Olympic Stadium
“I believe that we have little chance of significantly growing our fan base if we remain here,” said Hearn.
“We will always remain over-reliant on our core support of around 3,000 fans, which over time will tail off and lead to a long-term stagnation for the club, particularly if West Ham were to move into the Olympic Stadium on their own.”
Hearn, believes that relocating to a new stadium out of the area is not feasible in the current financial climate.
The Orient chairman added: “The Olympic Stadium and the legacy that comes with it is crying out for a community partner, someone with its roots in the heart of east London who can embrace everything that the area has to offer and give it a lot back at the same time.”
Hearn thinks a move to the Olympic Stadium would solve transport links and parking problems.
“The extra capacity would allow us to offer genuine long-term ticketing incentives to people from all walks of society – especially under-18s and other concession groups as well as the thousands of new residents of the Olympic Park housing development,” he said.
The O’s chairman acknowledges the club would need Championship football to be attractive enough to deliver a bigger fan base and added: “All profits realised from the sale of Brisbane Road would be invested in the playing squad to lift us up to the next level.”
But Arnot is not sure: “We have been told that we can’t stay at Brisbane Road, but I would like to see the evidence. We could go forward with our own ground.
“At the moment we are being sold a dream, but it’s impossible for the supporters to make a rational decision without knowing all the information.
“There are too many unknowns. We would need to know how much it would cost the club for the upkeep of the Olympic Stadium.
“How much would we need to increase our attendance to cover our costs on a ground we don’t own?
“Can we afford to be in the ground if we are not in the Championship and there is no guarantee we can be in the Championship even if we throw money at it.
“We would be mortgaging our future without knowing whether it will work and to make a considered judgement at this time is impossible.”