Who Needs Billionaire Owners When You Can Have Government Handouts Instead? TSS December 5, 2012 Leeds United 56 Comments West Ham United will today be announced as preferred tenants for the Olympic Stadium, a move which will instantly catapult the struggling London club towards the top of the Premier League income list. Whether West Ham can fill the stadium or not, the Olympic Stadium was built with a sustainable future in mind. As such, the money West Ham United can expect to receive from non-matchday activities (such as conferencing) is likely to dwarf anything they can dream of achieving from ticket sales. The location of the Olympic Stadium coupled with it’s impressive transport links also makes West Ham’s new home the ideal choice for stadium bands, another key source of additional revenue the Hammers will be keen to exploit. The Hammers will receive the huge boost in income for the pathetically low price of just £15m. They won’t own the stadium of course, but with a 99 year lease and affordable rent, why would anyone want to shell out £500m to build one of their own? For the Hammers, this is a dream come true. They’re getting a world class stadium capable of generating huge sums of money for one third of a Fernando Torres. But is this fair for the rest of English football? Arsenal spent £500m building The Emirates, a cost they’ve met through cautious spending and the continued sale of key players. It was money well-spent by the Gunners, their new home generates over £90m a season in ticket sales alone, but the rewards came at a cost. As it does for every other club. Whenever a team starts to prioritise investment in the stadium over the team, there’s going to be some repercussions. For Arsenal, the trade-off has been a 7 year run without silverware as key players depart and the profits are used to repay investors. Ken Bates did a similar thing at Elland Road. Key player after key player was sold to fund new executive boxes and conferencing facilities, all the while, Leeds United struggled on the pitch. 8 years since he first took over the club, Leeds United – a club which should generate more income than anyone else outside the EPL – is exactly where they were when Ken Bates first took control. For most clubs, this is how football works. No supporter wants to experience the unsuccessful run which often occurs when their owners divert funds away from the football team, but most clubs aren’t handed £500m stadiums on a silver platter. That’s not through lack of trying either. Both Arsenal and Leeds United have attempted to secure taxpayer financing in the last few years. Arsenal wanted a loan to help build the Emirates, while Leeds have tried to negotiate deals to repurchase Elland Road and Thorp Arch. Those two properties combined wouldn’t have cost the taxpayer a tenth of what the Olympic Stadium did, in fact, they’d have barely put a dent in the £120m taxpayers are set to fork out so West Ham can have retractable seating installed. But like Arsenal, Leeds United were denied loans from the taxpayer and had to do things the hard way. Like Arsenal, Leeds United have had to suffer the consequences of stadium redevelopment, just like almost every other team in the history of football has had to do. That was fair enough, right up until the point the government started handing out multi-million pound stadiums to other clubs. The multi-billionaire owners and their blank cheques have made things difficult enough, how are the rest of us supposed to compete against the Manchester City’s (another taxpayer built stadium) and West Ham’s when hundreds of millions of pounds is being spent to aid them? I know this comes across as an incredibly bitter rant from a frustrated football supporter, and that’s mostly because it is. But sport is supposed to reward success. No disrespect to West Ham but the reason they don’t play in a world class stadium is because they’re not a world class team. That’s how it should be. Like it or not, most of the teams who do play in world class stadiums – Arsenal, Manchester United, Liverpool – achieved success the right way. They didn’t get government hand-outs, nor did a multi-billionaire buy their success. They achieved success, reaped the rewards and built their stadiums with the proceeds. Forgive me for thinking that’s how football should work.