Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 19 News List

Promoter to fight to keep club in business

Reuters, LONDON

Boxing promoter Barry Hearn will fight his corner to stop West Ham United’s move to London’s Olympic Stadium putting his soccer club out of business.

Hearn, whose sporting empire includes snooker, darts and fishing, is chairman of League One Leyton Orient and fears the humble 130-year-old club could vanish if West Ham’s proposed relocation is approved by the government.

Letters were sent by Hearn to British Prime Minister David Cameron and London Mayor Boris Johnson on Wednesday and he will meet Premier League chief Richard Scudamore today.

Hearn’s main gripe is that West Ham would be breaking Premier League rules in moving to the £500 million (US$807 million) stadium which towers close by Orient’s ground in east London.

“I want to let people know that we will not just be swept under the carpet and forgotten about,” Hearn said on Wednesday.

“We have a voice and we want to be heard. We don’t believe that the process has been properly carried out,” he said.

The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) earlier this month recommended West Ham’s bid to move into the stadium after the 2012 Games rather than a rival proposal from Tottenham Hotspur.

However, Hearn says the only way West Ham could fill a 60,000-seater stadium is to offer cut-price tickets, which in turn would eat into Orient’s 4,000 fanbase.

A Premier League rule exists which stipulates that no club can relocate to a ground that will “adversely affect” another club in the immediate vicinity.

“I will sit down with my colleague Richard Scudamore at the Premier League to understand his views on how he interprets his own rules,” Hearn said. “After that we will consider legally our position and we will make our next move from there.”

“We hear so much about the 2012 legacy but the danger of legacy is that it may involve the destruction of a community football club that has served its community for 130 years,” he said.

“We are the forgotten tribe of the east end of London. If West Ham go there with their much-publicized ticket swamping, cheap tickets, kids tickets, family tickets they would kill us,” he said. “I know my duty as a chairman and I will fight my corner. People who know me know that when I fight my corner I will fight it properly.”

Hearn said Orient could ask for a judicial review of the decision, which is expected to ratified by the government in the next few weeks.

“There is legislation in place for a judicial review of the entire process,” he said. “Also, legal advice is that we could have a case against the Premier League if their own rules have been completely ignored.”

Orient’s 9,000-capacity stadium, the club’s home since 1937, is little more than a javelin throw away from the Olympic Park.

On Sunday it will be packed to bursting when the O’s will again be fighting their corner against the big boys, only this time on the field when they host Arsenal in the FA Cup fifth round.

“Win, lose or draw and this game has improved our profile and is helping us get our message across on the Olympic Stadium,” Hearn said. “It’s very good timing. For once we have a voice and it deserves to be listened to.”

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