West Ham owner: Be glad we’re paying anything to rent London’s “ridiculous” Olympic stadium

Here in the U.S., we’re used to sports team owners justifying public stadium subsidies as a boon to taxpayers because they will create umpteen billion dollars in economic activity or whatnot, usually backed up by studies of dubious parentage. In the case of West Ham United owner David Gold, though, stung by criticism that his lease on London’s former Olympic stadium will cost the public so much in maintenance and operations that it could eat up any rent he’ll pay, he has a somewhat different argument:

“We built a stadium that was built by a number of very arrogant people that had no foresight for the future. They built a ridiculous stadium but we have made the best of it.

“It’s just ill-informed judgments and opinions. I get that. Sometimes a newspaper will pick out and its headline will be: ‘Taxpayer paying for the flags and the goalposts.’ What a fantastic headline. It gives everybody a misinformation. It sends out the wrong information that they believe the taxpayer is paying for everything and they get nothing in exchange.

“That’s ridiculous. The taxpayer is going to make a profit. It wouldn’t make a profit if you tore down the stadium and put it into a 25,000-seater, would it? Come on, how many people are going to watch the world championship hop, skip and jump?”

What Gold seems to be saying here is that London was dumb enough to spend £701 million (a little over $1 billion) on a stadium that would only be used for three weeks, so hey, at least West Ham is letting them earn something back on it. As lessons in sunk costs go, I still prefer this one — but apparently the kids today need all the help with this that they can get.

7 comments on “West Ham owner: Be glad we’re paying anything to rent London’s “ridiculous” Olympic stadium

  1. I’m pretty sure West Ham will gain loads of money with this new stadium, but the club will definitely lose its soul. Football has become pure business. How do the fans even allow the club to change its badge and stadium like this? The owners should have had some respect to the club’s history.

    • Since it is a business, unless the fans have some leverage there is little they can do to prevent the change. At least in England the fans can form another team in protest, see AFC Wimbledon and F.C. United of Manchester.

      The only team with fans who have that sort of leverage though is Chelesa where the Chelesa Pitch Owners own both Standford Bridge and the name Chelesa FC due to a bailout in the 1990’s of the club. If they team wants to move they need to get something like 75% of the fans to vote yes.

    • They’re only moving three miles down the road. And it’s not like the badge has never been changed before. The castle only dates from the mid-80s – before that, it was just the crossed hammers, so the new badge is closer to what the badge looked like for majority of the club’s history.

  2. I’m as sentimental as anyone for old sports traditions, but when I think of a 100-year old British soccer stadium going by the wayside, I can only say “good riddance.” People shouldn’t have to deal with century-old crowd control measures to watch a soccer game. Upton Park is a dump that was probably made worse by rebuilding it over the years.

    Maybe at the Olympic Stadium someone can figure out how to get the other team’s bus to the locker room Seems to have been a problem today.

  3. He does have a point. The stadium was just sitting there. An alternative would have been to sell it to West Ham but if they did that they would have to publicly admit losing money on it since the going rate for soccer stadiums in London is about half what the Olympic Stadium cost.

  4. Well, he’s completely right. The media did make that deal look much worse than it is, and it’s also true that the city should’ve planned better.

    All the ‘corner flags and goalposts’ articles were very sensationalist, they kinda listed 100% of what the city gives up and forgot to mention 2/3rds of what the city gets.

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