The Olympic stadium, the small matter of distance, and the Premier League
Posted by John Beech on January 21, 2011
By the time you read this, it may well be that the post-2012 fate of the Olympic stadium has been decided, with the decision going to one contentious bid rather than the other (I won’t rehearse the pros and cons of Tottenham and West Ham, taking a detour via Crystal Palace – they have been very well summarised by Paul Kelso in The Daily Telegraph). What does interest me is how either can in fact move there without breaking Premier League rules.
West Ham are currently the closer of the two to the Olympic Stadium, although not as close as Leyton Orient – see Google Maps and enter ‘football stadium London'; Spurs are pin G and West Ham pin F; Orient are the red dot just above Leyton; a scale of distance is shown at the bottom left).
If West Ham or Spurs are to make the move, it’s worth looking at the Premier League rules (the Premier League handbook 2010/11 is downloadable here) on club moves. In the section on Ground Criteria on page 152 you will find the following:
5. Each Club shall register its ground with the Secretary and no Club shall remove to another ground without first obtaining the written consent of the Board, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.
6. In considering whether to give any such consent, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not consent unless reasonably satisfied that such consent:
6.1 would be consistent with the objects of the Company as set out in the Memorandum;
6.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;
6.3 would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, Players, supporters, shareholders,sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
6.4 would not have an adverse effect on Visiting Clubs;
6.5 would not adversely affect Clubs (or Football League clubs) having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location; and
6.6 would enhance the reputation of the League and promote the game of association football generally.
(The emboldening of para 6.5 is my own little mischief)
The corresponding Rules of the Football League (thus applicable to Orient, and either currently Premier League club should they be relegated before a move takes place) state:
13.6 Each Club shall register its ground with the Executive and no Club shall remove to another ground without first obtaining the written consent of the Board, such consent not to be unreasonably withheld.
13.7 In considering whether to give any such consent, the Board shall have regard to all the circumstances of the case and shall not grant consent unless it is reasonably satisfied that such consent:
13.7.1 would be consistent with the objects of The League as set out in the Memorandum of Association;
13.7.2 would be appropriate having in mind the relationship (if any) between the locality with which by its name or otherwise the applicant Club is traditionally associated and that in which such Club proposes to establish its ground;
13.7.3 would not adversely affect such Club’s Officials, players, supporters, shareholders, sponsors and others having an interest in its activities;
13.7.4 would not have an adverse effect on visiting Clubs;
13.7.5 would not adversely affect Clubs having their registered grounds in the immediate vicinity of the proposed location; and
13.7.6 would enhance the reputation of The League and promote the game of association football generally.
Virtually the same as it happens.
Now, much would hang on the interpretation of ‘immediate vicinity‘ I grant you, but I would have thought that the average fan on the top of a Clapham, or perhaps even Clapton, omnibus might just see the Olympic stadium as in the immediate vicinity of Brisbane Road. (Yes, I appreciate they themselves moved from Clapton, but that was in 1937 and I haven’t heard any complaints about this recently).
If either Spurs or West Ham move, it would be a headlong rush towards one another as well as towards Orient. Currently they are less than seven miles apart as the crow flies. Orient is just three miles from Upton Park and just under four from White Hart Lane.
Will any of this geography be taken into account? My guess is that it won’t. The Premier League will enforce their own rules with their usual opportunistic pragmatism driven by a revenues motive. Mind you, the same Premier League document states on page 9:
The Chairman’s Charter sets out our commitment to run Premier League football to the highest possible standards and with integrity.
We will ensure that our Clubs:
• Behave with the utmost good faith and honesty to each other, do not unjustly criticise or disparage one another and maintain confidences.
• Will comply with the laws of the game and take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Manager, his staff and Players accept and observe the authority and decisions of Match Officials at all times.
• Follow Premier League and FA Rules not only to the letter but also to their spirit, and will ensure that our Clubs and Officials are fully aware of such rules and that we have effective procedures to implement the same.
• Will respect the contractual obligations and responsibilities of each other’s employees and not seek to breach these or to make illegal approaches.
• Will discharge their financial responsibilities and obligations to each other promptly and fully and not seek to avoid them.
• Will seek to resolve differences between each other without recourse to law.
But of course!
The Premier League have announced that they would not consider a move by either West Ham or by Tottenham to be a breach of their rules (A).