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Raiders of Pudding Mill Stadium

The Pudding Mill White Elephant just won't lie down. CoeLtd is still hoping to bring the 2017 IAAF World Athletics Championships to London. But it all depends on there being an available stadium. After all it's hard to hold an Athletics Championships without one. LoCoe has his own IAAF ambitions with the next milestone in 2015 when he hopes to succeed to the top job. The loss of a stadium could prove terminal to those ambitions.

Still standing in the way are two football clubs. It had looked like Tottenham's bid was over but then the High Court agreed that Newham's £40million loan to facilitate West Ham's East End hop from Green Street to Pudding Mill should be subject to judicial review. The prospect of that review stimulated BoJo to offer a different set of public funds to Tottenham, starting at £8million with possibly more to come, to keep the club in North London. So more than £48million to keep two Premiership Clubs in their home territories! That's on top of the £486million spent building the stadium. That looked like a done deal, except it wasn't. Tottenham, surprisingly, decided to pursue the judicial review.

The waters have also been muddied by the accusations of phone hacking against Tottenham, which West Ham and the OPLC claim Tottenham has offered to drop in exchange for an end to the legal case, and of corruption against West Ham, since dismissed by the OPLC although the High Court judge thought they deserved further consideration.

Then there's the little guy, Leyton Orient, whose chairman Barry Hearn insisted would 'fight to the end to safeguard the future of our Club and if that means standing alone as the little guy against the powers that be in authority then so be it.'

Public funding of sports stadiums is presented as an economic investment. Newham justifies its loan to West Ham as a way of 'boosting the economy through football'. Likewise with Tottenham Hotspur a spokesperson for BoJo declared: 'The hope is that this will allow Spurs to press ahead with the stadium redevelopment. Boris has always been attracted to the idea that the football club should stay in Tottenham. It has been very important to him. Boris prioritised Tottenham as an important area for regeneration months ago.'

However, these expectations of economic benefits are disputed in a study by Sarah Wilhelm which found 'independent work on the economic impact of stadiums and arenas has uniformly found that there is no statistically significant positive correlation between sports facility construction and economic development.'

Her study noted how these academic studies differed from studies done by economic consultants hired by sports franchises or local chambers of commerce which consistently played up the benefits. She put this down to a combination of factors including author bias, poor methodology, igoring the substitution effect, overstating the multiplier and over-estimating the importance of the stadium in the local economy.

As an example of the last she quotes the case of a civic leader in Sacramento who claimed, 'The Raiders coming to Sacramento would be an event the magnitude of the Gold Rush.' She points out 'During the Gold Rush 300,000 people moved to California in the six years following the 1848 discovery of gold in Sacramento. The Raiders would have played 8 home games a year there.'

Similar reservations were expressed by the government's Game Plan report into the London Olympics: ‘We conclude that the quantifiable evidence to support each of the perceived benefits for mega events is weak, The explicit costs of hosting a mega event should be weighed very carefully against the perceived benefits…(which) appear to be more about celebration than economic returns’.

Of course, that made little difference. The 2012 raid went on.

Plus ça change!


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