Football Management

Commentary on the management of over 160 English football clubs by Dr John Beech, winner of the FSF Writer of the Year Award 2009/10 Twitter: @JohnBeech Curator of! Football Finance

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:

Ground Registration

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!

UPDATE 25 January 2012

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).

40 Responses to “The Olympic stadium, the small matter of distance, and the Premier League”

  1. TomF said

    An interesting article which brings up something I haven’t heard through all of the standard debate around “if Spurs move will they change their name” etc etc. I also agree that the Premier League will quietly sweep these rules to one side or come up with a convenient loophole.

  2. John Beech said

    Orient’s official position is here. To confuse the issue, there has been talk of Orient moving to Harlow (A), a move that would obviously not be welcomed by Harlow Town FC. A spokesman for Harlow Council rather bizarrely said “We would be delighted if Leyton Orient wanted to move here, provided we were confident it would not harm the local community or Harlow’s existing football team, Harlow Town FC.

  3. Why not move Spurs to Harlow, Orient to Straford and WHU to Purfleet (don’t laugh its been muted before). Thurrock can them move to Grays, Grays can stay at East Thurrocks ground in Corringham or move to Basildon. Basildon could merge with Billaricy become West Essex FC and move to a new ground in Ongar, which Harlow FC could share……

    Or we could just let WHU move to Stratford and assume Orient’s support won’t drop a dot!

  4. […] John Beech has a rules and regualationa perspective on his blog, via […]

  5. […] John Beech has a rules and regualationa perspective on his blog, via […]

  6. Wibble Wobble said

    @Michael Green – hasn’t most of that happened already in Essex Football? At least twice ;o)

  7. Hammers100000 said

    Leyton Orient are in a different London Borough to the OS.

    What London borough is the OS in?

    That’s right the same London Borough that West Ham have always played in.

    West Ham would not be moving outside their own patch and for Orient (Hearn) to suggest that West Ham can’t move any closer to them in thier own borough limits the options available to West Ham.

    • John Beech said

      Whatever the boroughs concerned are, West Ham would be moving even nearer Orient. If the PL and FL rules ‘limit the options to West Ham’, there may well be a reason for that!

      Are you suggesting that the rules should be ignored just in order to extend West Ham’s options?

      Incidentally, isn’t perhaps more the Orient fans that are worried by either proposed move?

  8. David Godfrey said

    As a non Orient,West Ham or Tottenham fan I have to say Hammers100000 has hit the nail on the head. Even though Newham is a relatively modern construct what borough was Stratford in before that? The county borough of West Ham. So, Stratford has always been linked to West Ham so it’s hardly them moving out of their rightful patch.

    • John Beech said

      The rules have nothing to do with where a club moves from. PL Rule 6.5 quoted and highlighted above is specifically about the club already there (as is the corresponding FL rule).

      The breach in the rules I am suggesting would apply equally if Newcastle United were proposing to move into the Olympic Stadium.

      You may think the rules are not sensible ones, but that is a different point. The point I am making is that either proposed move would appear to be in breach of the rules as they are, not how West Ham (or indeed Sours) might prefer them to be.

    • Stanley said

      Borough boundaries don’t matter a jot. Just because WHU play in one part of Newham doesn’t mean that the whole borough belongs to them. WHU’s traditional rivals, Millwall, have their home ground within the boundaries of the borough of Lewisham. But no-one would dispute that many of the wards across the line in Southwark are part of Millwall’s catchment area. Equally, wards in other parts of Lewisham lean towards Charlton Athletic or Crystal Palace.

      • David Godfrey said

        Stanley I see your argument about Borough boundaries but then you go onto talk about catchment areas – whose catchment area is Stratford? I bet there are far far far more West Ham fans there than Orient. It’s unfortunate for Orient that the Olympic Stadium is so close to them but sometimes life deals you a cack hand. As for the article – yes, it’s right money always beats the rules when it comes to the Premier League.

  9. The passages from the rules are reassuring for all concerned, as is the precedent of how rigorously they were enforced when Wimbledon applied to move….oh…..

    • John Beech said

      Unfortunately the WordPress template I use for this log doesn’t have a ‘Like’ option for Comments!

      On a serious note though, that particular move established that Luton, at roughly twenty miles away, was not at that time (and in those circumstances, I feel compelled to add) considered to be ‘in the immediate vicinity’ (Northampton Town is slightly further away). Obviously there were other issues in that case as well…

  10. Stanley said

    I fear that the peculiarities of London football would prevent a challenge on the legal grounds mentioned. So many of its clubs draw support from areas across the city, it would be quite difficult for clubs to ring-fence their territory. Still, doesn’t excuse the lack of consideration for the capital’s second-oldest club by both the sporting authorities and the Mayor’s office.

  11. I find it impossible to argue with a single thing Barry Hearn has to say on this subject. And that’s not a sentence I’ve ever written before.

    I just feel he’s left it a bit late to say it, although I may have missed his pronouncements on the issue in recent months. If so, I stand corrected. And whatever his historical position, I hope his spanner-throwing stratford strategy works.

  12. Having said which, Hearn is now suggesting an Orient move to the Olympic Hockey Stadium, although the way West Ham are playing at the moment, that venue might be more suitable to them come 2013

    Light the blue touch paper…and retire…

  13. Paul said

    As much as I don’t like Orient or West Ham, the only viable option is a ground-share between Orient and West Ham…

    • Wibble Wobble said

      A stadium of 60k with Orient rattling around in it will be its death knell. I can’t say that West Ham wouldn’t look ridiculous in it either. Hardly what you could call a ‘big club’; this is all about debt restructuring (West Ham) and saving money on redevelopment costs (Spurs), not the long-term legacy of much at all except the money in the bank accounts of those owning the respective clubs.

  14. Wibble Wobble said

    It’s not to do with borough, it’s to do with ‘location’; in moving 2/3 miles closer, to a 60k stadium, of course it puts enormous pressure on Orient.

    FFS, I wish people would stop behaving as though the only football that exists is in the top flight, and the only football clubs that matter are two often mismanaged clubs.

    As far as the PL’s statement goes, no one said it breached ‘rules’; their statement is a very precise one, you notice, and they are the mouthpiece of people like Levy and Sullivan/Gold, remember; they’re not really a governing body with independence.

    However, in the rulebook there are criteria used to judge a move, and at this stage it’s very arguable that three out of five of those criteria wouldn’t be met. How else do you decide on a case that requires criteria to judge whether something is permissible, and completely ignore the criteria in making the decision?

  15. John Beech said

    Another dimension to this debate which seems to have had relatively little media coverage is the attitude of fans to the possible moves.

    If you are under the impression that they fighting tooth and nail to get into the Olympic Stadium, have a look at the Football Supporters’ Federation article on this subject.

  16. I’m sorry but on this occasion John you and the Orient mob are being irrational. The moving and idtance rules, even if I accept your interpretation are nonsense and would not survive a legal challenge on restraint of trade. Secondly it is in fact in Orient’s interest for football to be played at Stratford, if WHU were so unlucky to be playing Championship football there to crowds of 17k that could only encourage supporters wanting a “genuine” footy day out to pop up the road.

    The fact of the matter is, Hearn is playing poker in order tosecure the Hockey Stadium and if he got it wouldn’t give a flying monkey that WHU were 200 yards away. He wants the oppoertunity to turmn Brisbune Road into flats. Orient fans (or just a few vocal ones) have, like Leeds fans can be, been lead by the nose by their Chairman and its sad to see the disengagement between reality and these kind of media hypes and manufactored panics.

  17. Yidmeister said

    Simple answer no one has spotted yet. West Ham and Leyton Orient ground share. The Olympics get their track, Attendances maximised due to being used every week, Both local clubs reap the benefits and Spurs can finally be granted full permission and a section 106 to continue with the real plan of the Northumberland Development Project. Everyone’s a winner

  18. […] are also legalities of course, and John Beech’s excellent post on this topic outlines how the Premier League will be in contravention of their own rules if they […]

  19. Son of the Desert said

    I believe the stance of both leagues would be that West Ham and Leyton Orient are already very close to one another, and that reducing the gap from three miles to one mile wouldn’t make a meaningful difference (as opposed to, say, Celtic joining the Premier League and pitching up in Stratford).

    I’m not saying that I agree with that, but I think that’s more or less the defence that the authorities are leaning towards.

  20. Laurence Woolcott said

    I am an Leyton Orient fan…..We are mainly worried about the fact that we could lose future generations of new supporters, to WHU who would be giving tickets away in promotions to get “bums on seats” if they get into the Olympic Stadium.Their average gate would leave around 15 to 19 thousand empty seats per game, that if filled by freebies would add a little, in match day sales of refreshments, program sales, and merchandising opportunities.

    We don’t want to play in a soulless desert,watching football from a distance, over the running track; 4, or 5 thousand fans rattling around in a 25,000 seater stadium would be madness! Look at the Darlington scenario a few years back.

    I for one, would never agree to a ground share with either club, as look what happened to Charlton when they shared with WHU.We would be the poor relation, with little, or no say in fixtures, fittings, and rights to a bit of consideration in any dealings with the Council

    The Olympic Stadium, in my view, should be dis-mantled, and used to upgrade the existing Athletics track at Crystal Palace.

    Out of the candidates Tottenham’s bid is the better, but why should a rich Premiership Club benefit from a publicly funded stadium.

  21. John Beech said

    See Leyton Orient’s ground and the Olympic stadium in a single photograph here

  22. […] The Olympic stadium, the small matter of distance, and the Premier League […]

  23. Mark Williams said

    Where in the rules does it mention distance between clubs? I know Liverpool and Everton don’t count in this case but they are less than a mile apart. The fact that the Premier league are not gonna pursue any case must mean WHU are breaking no rules. Or is it the finding of Hearn backing the Spurs bid that means they will not pursue???………

    • John Beech said

      It doesn’t refer to a specific distance; the phrasing is ‘in the immediate vicinity’. See the photo at Comment 21.

      The Premier League have decided that West Ham (or indeed Tottenham) moving to the Olympic Stadium is not a breach of their Rule 6.5 (see main posting). Barry Hearn begs to differ, and so do I.

      The rules relate to a club moving, and are Premier League rules, so the cases of Everton/Liverpool etc. are irrelevant to their existing grounds, but would apply should either club move in the future.

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  25. […] guns to darts Governance update Fickle fate update Intern shooting update Russo v. Scally result Olympic Stadium latest Jack Frost update Portsmouth latest Liverpool inconsistency FIFA/political interference latest […]

  26. Herts said

    West Ham’s FIRST ground before they moved to Upton Park was in fact West Ham Memorial Ground – in the Borough of West Ham and approximately 2000 foot away from the gates of the Olympic Park. Therefore it could be rightly claimed that West ham are moving BACK to where they started, which is why they were called West Ham and not East Ham United or Plaistow United.

    • John Beech said

      The wording in the regulations is actually “remove”; whether it is a move forward or back is irrelevant. In any case, I don’t see how the proposed move does anything other than breach PL Rule 6.5 and FL Rule 13.7.5.

      But thanks for the snippet from history anyway (the period at Memorial Ground being one in which they mainly played under a different name incidentally).

      • Herts said

        Regardless of the period, they were West Ham United when they left and will be the same when they return. Orient will struggle to prove that potential fans living around Stratford will be persuaded, by the move, to support West Ham, Knowing the area very well I would estimate that very few people in Stratford or indeed West Ham/Newham attend (or intend to attend) The Matchroom Stadium in the future. Their attendances will not be affected now or in the future. It is purely sour grapes from Hearn and Orient and will be dismissed.

      • John Beech said

        Whether you are right or not, I don’t see why a breach of rules should be allowed to occur. What is the point of having rules if they are not kept?

  27. Terry Messenger said

    Stratford is in West Ham. West Ham United have every right to move to another part of West Ham. I grew up in Leyton. I’m familiar with the two areas. People in Stratford traditionally support West Ham because they identify with their own borough West Ham, not Leyton. It’s simply not true to say Stratford is in Orient’s catchment area. It’s like saying Newcastle is in Scotland because it’s nearer Hampden than Wembley. Yes Orient is slightly nearer the Olympic Stadium than West Ham. But the distance argument is less important than the borough identity. The borough of West Ham was subsumed into Newham and Leyton into Waltham Forest by the way.

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