Leyton Orient now want to rent Olympic Stadium
Club chairman Barry Hearn determined to prevent West Ham from encroaching on his club's fan base
Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn has executed a precision u-turn and applied for permission for his club to play in the London 2012 Olympic Stadium.
Hearn has been savagely critical of the decision to keep the athletics track at the £500m venue and had previously ruled out making it the home of his League One side, the closest football team to the Olympic Park.
However, he is even more determined not to see local rivals West Ham encroach on Orient’s supporter base, claiming it would affect their earnings and potentially put the club out of business.
West Ham were originally awarded the stadium by the Olympic Park Legacy Company earlier this year but that deal collapsed last week amid threats of a judicial review from beaten bidder Tottenham Hotspur, who closed the file on that legal action last night.
The stadium will now stay in public ownership post-Games and be rented out to a range of tenants, expected to include West Ham, to cover its estimated £5m a year running costs.
But sports promoter Hearn would like to see the original proposition for the stadium revisited – a downsized 25,000 seater stadium.
And he now concedes that an athletics track would have to be included in any such plan.
“We are asking for a 25,000-seat stadium and we want to see if we can get around the athletics track. It has to stay, we know that. But can we build up, if not down, and see if it’s possible to get it covered while we play?” he said.
“If it isn’t possible, it isn’t ““ and we wouldn’t move in with a running track between the pitch and the crowd.
“We have submitted an application for permission to move to the Football League, and that permission is something that West Ham don’t yet have.
“It was the Premier League who gave them the green light to move in their original plan, but they are no longer members of the Premier League.
“The rules are that the Football League would not sanction a club moving closer to another club if it affects the business of that other club, and there’s no doubt that West Ham moving there would affect us.
“West Ham can’t just assume that they will be in the Premier League by then. How, therefore, can the Olympic Park Legacy Company, whose job it is to decide who takes over the stadium, allow West Ham to remain in the bidding process?
“We want them thrown out because they don’t have permission from the relevant authority ““ the Football League.”