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Spurs & West Ham fans in the dark over Olympic stadium

Spurs fans protested against the proposed stadium move at the Manchester United game on Sunday
Spurs fans have protested against the proposed move to the Olympic stadium

By Sam Sheringham

Politicians, Olympic officials and athletes have all had their say over the battle between Tottenham and West Ham to win tenancy of the London 2012 Olympic, but what about the group of people who would be most affected by the move?

Fans of both teams have told BBC Sport that they feel let down by a lack of consultation with their clubs over a decision that could have a massive impact on their lives.

And while the move is proving a divisive issue among both sets of supporters - with blogs, message boards and forums revealing a vast range of contrasting opinions about whether it would be a good thing for their team - one thing all fans seem to have in common is a passionate interest in the outcome.

DAVID BOND BLOG

"There has been absolutely no formal or informal consultation regarding the move to the Olympic stadium," said Spurs fan Alan Fisher.

"On the club's website, there's lots of detail about how the board are very proud of consulting the fans on things. But since the move to Stratford became an option, not a dicky bird."

Sam Haseltine, author of the West Ham Process blog, tells a similar story.

"The club have done very little to include the fans and that is a frustration to a lot of people," he said. "I don't know how they can go ahead with it without consulting the fans."

A Spurs spokesman, who declined to be named, told BBC Sport that the club would begin consulting if they are identified as the preferred bidder by the Olympic Park Legacy Company next week.

West Ham, who are believed to be following the same policy, insist fans groups back the move, highlighting a recent Premier League poll showing that over 50% of Hammers supporters had positive feelings towards the proposed switch.

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Dave Boyle, chief executive of Supporters Direct, says clubs considering changing their stadium should canvas opinion among fans as a matter of course.

Boyle cites the example of Everton, whose proposed move to Kirkby was approved by season-ticket holders, only to be rejected by the government.

"Any club looking to move stadium should consult the fans because it changes the lives of every one of them," said Boyle.

"In the case of Spurs, the whole identity of the club is up in the air here. The people who have the long-term ownership of the club should be involved in the decision."

Like many Spurs fans, Fisher is shocked by the prospect of his beloved club abandoning their north London home to set up shop five miles away in the east end of the capital.

A White Hart Lane regular for 40 years, Fisher was delighted by the club's original plan to build a new stadium adjacent to the current ground, but became increasingly horrified when it became clear that the club were actively pursuing the alternative option of adapting the Olympic stadium.

'We can't renege on 2012 promise'

"That wasn't just a canny back-up plan, it felt like a betrayal," Fisher added.

"This club is over 125 years old, this is where we are and who we are. Stratford may only be five miles away but it is not where we are and it is not who we are."

When Fisher expressed his anger at the proposals in a blog, he was staggered by the response, reflecting the strength of opinion on both sides of the argument.

"Normally I get 10 to 15 comments maximum and they are fairly sedate," he said. "But this time I had over 70, and some of them weren't for the faint-hearted. There are genuine and profound disagreements about the move and what it means to be a Spurs fan."

Tottenham fans in favour of the move to Stratford tend to argue that it makes financial sense.

The cost of the club's plan to demolish two-thirds of the existing Olympic stadium and rebuild it as a dedicated 60,000-seat football ground has been estimated at £250m, £200m less than the projected cost of the new stadium at White Hart Lane.

"Our history doesn't disappear because we move stadium," wrote MJBSpur on spurscommunity.co.uk. "Do your fond memories of childhood no longer exist once you move out? It's called progression and personally I'd take that ahead of sentimentality any day.

"Besides history is all relative. We are creating it every day and if we move stadium it just becomes another chapter in our club's history. It doesn't erase the past or mean that we can no longer be proud of past achievements."

The divisions among Spurs supporters are mirrored at West Ham, despite the switch involving less of a geographical upheaval.

Unlike Spurs, the Hammers are proposing to retain the stadium's athletics track and create a 60,000-capacity venue for football, athletics, concerts and community use.

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"It's a hugely frustrating feeling that the club seem so keen to please everybody else except for us fans who will use it the most, for football," said Haseltine, an Upton Park season-ticket holder for 10 years. "We should feel we're in our football ground, not borrowing the space during winter.

"We do not want to be watching football over a running track. That is the main crux of the issue for many people."

Sean Whetstone, a West Ham fan for 30 years, believes the running track issue could be overcome by covering the surface with retractable seats during football matches.

He can see positives in the move, providing fans' interests are taken into account.

"We all want to make sure we have the best seat available, we all want good facilities, our pie and mash and our beer at half-time," he told BBC Sport.

"Nobody really embraces change but if it came with a promise of better gate receipts, more ambition and more money then every West Ham fan would say yes."

Back at White Hart Lane, fans opposed to the move have formed a protest group called We Are N17. A protest was staged at Sunday's 0-0 draw with Manchester United and some fans are threatening to boycott home games if the bid is successful.

However, Fisher concedes that even the five-mile trek to Stratford would not stop him supporting his club.

"Spurs are my team for life, for better or for worse and I would follow them to the stadium," he said. "In a sense I am aware that I am part of the problem because if enough people don't want to go then we could really make a difference."



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see also
Athletics boss fears 2012 'lie'
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs plan could work - Campbell
18 Jan 11 |  London 2012
Spurs' stadium plan 'appalling'
18 Jan 11 |  London 2012
'We can't renege on 2012 promise'
19 Jan 11 |  2012
Jowell backs West Ham Olympic stadium bid
20 Jan 11 |  London 2012


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