MARTIN SAMUEL: The London Stadium was NEVER viable as the home of athletics and now we need to give it a legacy it deserves… a regular full house as West Ham’s stadium
- The Olympic Stadium was and will never be viable as the home of UK athletics
- It was always jostling for attention in a crowded field of venues in the capital
- It’s taken another 10 years for the obvious legacy solution to be contemplated
- Talks are ongoing about UKA walking away and making their home elsewhere
- The UKA could have a more logical home in Birmingham or at Crystal Palace
- It’s time to give the London Stadium the legacy it deserves; by keeping it full
You will hear a lot in the coming weeks and months about legacy. That there isn’t one. That if UK Athletics leave the London Stadium to football, the Olympic bequest has been squandered.
Don’t believe a word of it. What is about to happen now, is what should have happened more than a decade ago. The Olympic Stadium was never viable as the home of athletics.
There was never going to be legacy in one or two track events a year, plus the odd pop concert. London has Wembley for concerts. It’s where Live Aid was held. Michael Jackson performed there. The Olympic Stadium was always jostling for attention in a crowded field in the capital.
The Olympic Stadium – now the London Stadium – was never viable as the home of UK athletics
So football was the only answer. Right from the start. Sir Steven Redgrave said as much even before a brick was laid. Yet Ken Livingstone, Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe – funny how his love for the game perked up recently – conspired to reject the most obvious solution, leaving the country staring into a financial black hole.
The reason West Ham struck what some call the deal of the century was that by then it was obvious that without an anchor tenant, the stadium was going to become another bottomless money pit, like the Millennium Dome. Baroness Brady drove a hard bargain. The Government’s negotiators had no hand.
Incredibly, it has taken another 10 years for the most obvious legacy solution, the only legacy solution in fact, to even be contemplated. Talks are ongoing about UKA walking away and making their home elsewhere. They would receive between £10-15million to facilitate this process.
West Ham would then be free to remould the arena for football. Fans nearer to the pitch, the seating reconfigured. With an average league attendance of 59,088 this season – the third biggest in the country – there is a good football ground struggling to get out from under all that bad planning.
Ken Livingstone, Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe (pictured) conspired to reject the most obvious solution for the stadium, leaving the country staring into a financial black hole
Nineteen home games a season, plus cup matches, maybe even Europe: that’s legacy. The odd sparsely supported Diamond League event, or a backward-looking Anniversary Games once a year is not.
West Ham got more to their family fun day than UKA did to their last track meet. Athletics does not need 60,000 seats. It could have a more logical, manageable home in Birmingham after the Commonwealth Games, or at a revamped Crystal Palace.
The London Stadium, we are often informed, costs this country millions. Not as a football stadium, it doesn’t. If all it did was host West Ham and the odd one-off gig in the summer, it would show a healthy profit.
The drain is the annual conversion to host athletics. There is no betrayal, then, in assessing what works and what does not: it is not feasible amid a cost of living crisis to pay £3m for one athletics meeting each year.
It’s time to give the London Stadium the legacy it deserves; with West Ham keeping it full
We do not have to worship at the altar of Super Saturday for ever. We certainly do not have to unthinkingly commemorate an Olympic Games we now know to be the most corrupted in history.
There are now in excess of 100 positive tests from that Games, with numbers growing all the time. When the winner of the men’s 94kg weightlifting gold later tested positive, his medal couldn’t be awarded to the silver medallist, because he had also turned out to be a cheat.
So had the bronze medallist, and the athlete who came fourth, and sixth, and seventh. That’s who should get a statue in Olympic Park – any poor soul who paid top dollar to watch that travesty.
So it was fun while it lasted, we all had a good time, but now it’s over and we need to settle the bill. It is time to finally give the London Stadium the legacy it deserves; by keeping it full.
Mistakes? You are making a big one now, Greg
Greg Norman insists he does not answer to the state of Saudi Arabia as front man for the rebel golf tour. And that is true. He just answers to their money. As does everyone else on the fledgling circuit, including all the multi-millionaires who have crossed over as if this is an industrial dispute.
Norman might think his rebuttals make it better. If anything, it’s worse.
Still, as he said about the state-sponsored murder and mincing of critical journalists, we all make mistakes.
Greg Norman said he doesn’t answer to the Saudi state as front man for the rebel golf tour
Scunthorpe team takes shine off Rovers magic
This column has long advocated managers fielding whatever team they choose.
If the players have qualified for the Champions League with games to spare, give the first team a rest. If Saturday is a cup final, Wednesday’s XI may be weaker. Success brings the odd dilemma.
What happened at Bristol Rovers on Saturday was a little different.
Scunthorpe arrived, having been relegated on Good Friday, April 15, and fielded a team in which six players had made fewer than five appearances. The goalkeeper, 17-year-old Owen Foster, was playing his second game.
Rovers won 7-0. It turned out to be the magic number they needed to gain promotion over Northampton, on goal difference. Good for them. Northampton chairman Kelvin Thomas, however, is understandably aggrieved and has consulted the EFL. Not to get a rerun, more to register his displeasure with a view to future campaigns.
He has a point. Taking nothing from Bristol Rovers – putting seven past any group of professional opponents is an achievement, and Scunthorpe’s young players no doubt gave their best – there is a difference between a weakened team resulting from achievement, or fixture congestion, and one born of failure.
The best that can be said is perhaps Scunthorpe were planning for their future in the National League, if the more experienced players leave. The counter-argument is that, not being good enough to play in League Two, they at least owed it a proper contest on the final day of the season.
If you were one of his team-mates, would you still talk in front of Vardy?
If you were currently a team-mate of Jamie Vardy at Leicester, having heard what has come out in court this week, would you still talk openly in front of him? Because whatever he is like as a lad, this now seems a big problem.
After Silva, Watford should know better
It was the 2017-18 season when Watford parted company with Marco Silva. The club believed results greatly deteriorated after he had his head turned by Everton.
They may have been right. Everton made three approaches and Silva did eventually end up there. Yet, each time, they came through the front door.
They approached the club, tried to get permission, offered compensation, Watford said no. Their persistence was not in the spirit of agreements between Premier League clubs, but they did nothing wrong.
Watford, however, were incensed, and seemed to be angling for compensation if they went down. Yet compare that situation to the one experienced by Forest Green Rovers.
Watford have hired Rob Edwards (pictured) as their new manager, who replaces Roy Hodgson
Watford have taken their manager Rob Edwards, who recently won promotion to League One.
Again, they did nothing wrong. Edwards’ contract made him a free agent, as long as he gave notice. Forest Green are entitled to a small compensation fee.
Yet Dale Vince, the owner, says Forest Green knew nothing until the deal was done. No knock on the front door, no disclosure.
Vince claims Watford even told Edwards to keep the negotiations quiet. It is ironic, sometimes, the standards football clubs demand from others, and those they set themselves.
Lyons a force to be reckoned with
Mick Lyons, a great Everton captain, has been diagnosed with dementia.
His combative style and fearsome aerial ability may well be to blame but Mick says he doesn’t regret a moment of his professional career. I can believe that. I got to know Mick when he was manager of Grimsby more than 30 years ago, and there was no quarter given then, either.
In the 1985-86 season, Grimsby drew Arsenal at home in the FA Cup. Speaking with Mick after a match on the Wednesday before – a 3-1 win over Shrewsbury – he exuded an air of great relish.
Football Focus had asked to interview him, Saturday lunchtime, before the tie. ‘I’ll be taking them up there,’ he said, gesturing towards the ferociously exposed roof of the stand, that was home to the commentary positions. ‘Blows a gale,’ he added. ‘Straight off the North Sea. And they’ll all be in the hotel, watching.’
He was right. That was the ritual back then. Football Focus, pre-match meal in the hotel, then off in the bus to the game. And that Saturday, the Arsenal players will have turned on their televisions to see Grimsby’s manager giving an interview that might as well have been conducted on a trawler in the face of a force 10.
Grimsby still lost but by the odd goal in seven. It was quite the game. Go well, Mick. Go well.
Mick Lyons, a great Everton captain, revealed this week he has been diagnosed with dementia
UEFA still looking after chosen ones
UEFA have revamped their rules regarding financial fair play. Now, it is about sustainability. A major change is that clubs can lose roughly £60million over three years – double what was previously allowed.
How fortuitous that this should come in just at the moment major influencers like Manchester United and Barcelona need to spend big to get back in the game. What a coincidence.
Yet in some areas the rules have been tightened. External agencies will more closely monitor sponsorship deals with third parties, particularly those brands that might have close relations with the owners. It’s a rule that would allow Manchester United, say, to strike deals with companies in Saudi Arabia – but outlaw the same for Newcastle.
Why don’t UEFA just bring in a rule that says: whatever Manchester City are doing is illegal. It would save a lot of time, insider networking and hypocrisy.
Is Rudiger’s reported release clause a show of faith?
There are reports that Real Madrid have inserted a buy-out clause of £340million in Antonio Rudiger’s contract. This may show how much they love him – or, alternatively, how much faith they have in his loyalty.
Postecoglou proves critics wrong with his work at Celtic
He was doubted, made a figure of fun in the early days, knocked out of the Champions League by Midtjylland, and beaten by Hearts on the first day of the season, but Ange Postecoglou has done an outstanding job at Celtic.
An Australian coach, fresh from Yokohama F Marinos, induced scepticism.
Yet in his understated way, Postecoglou has proved his critics wrong. He has wrested the title from Rangers, gone 31 league games unbeaten and Celtic will now enter the Champions League group stage directly next season. Also, as Postecoglou has not come from England, he is unlikely to view Leicester or Aston Villa as a step up.
Ange Postecoglou has done an outstanding job at Celtic after wrapping up the league title
Old Trafford no longer the Theatre of Dreams for some
Fred Rutten rejected the chance to join Manchester United as Erik ten Hag’s assistant and will instead take a similar role at PSV Eindhoven under Ruud Van Nistelrooy.
Rutten explained he has a family, grandchildren he would like to see, and they live in Holland. Even so, this did not happen very often to Sir Alex Ferguson. People view United differently now.
Raducanu is right – she still needs support
Emma Raducanu may not need the coaching structure that most contemporaries favour but she is right – she needs someone to guide her through the first full tour of her career.
She can engage and drop coaches for her game but there is a management role overseeing fitness and mental preparation that needs filling.
Raducanu requires a mentor. She appears unable to judge the demands of her schedule and her readiness to compete and what was clearly a more serious injury than identified has forced her out of the Italian Open.
The Raducanu family treat all external advice with scepticism, even from the most experienced sources, but if they are not going to oversee their daughter’s career they need to find an individual who can. It doesn’t have to be a specialist coach, it does have to be someone.
Emma Raducanu may not need the coaching structure most do but she still needs a mentor
Ranking points? Do me a favour
In Ukraine, there are tales of massacre, butchery and war crimes but in SW19 – for God’s sake, won’t somebody think of the ranking points?
Is that really the best that the ATP and WTA have got? A threat to remove ranking status from Wimbledon, and other tournaments in Britain, if they continue to bar players from Russia and Belarus?
This, apparently, was the worst-case scenario for the All England Club, apart from a boycott. So boycott. See if we care. It’s tennis. We did without it last year, we’ll probably get by this year, too. It’s not like we are hunkering down in a disused power station, while Vladimir Putin rains missiles on our children. It’s not as if anyone has bombed Putney flat.
Who knows where we will be next year but, chances are, this is a response by the tournament organisers to the normalisation of Russian inclusion at this very moment. Wimbledon want no part of it, and more power to them. If this means losing ranking points, we could have it worse. All of us.
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