I asked Barry Hearn why he wants to ground share with West Ham United?
BH ”What do I really want? Despite what people think I do not want compensation just to throw in the black hole called football. What I want is ground share, so I am going flat out for ground share!”
BH ”The European argument with ground share is removed partially anyway because it’s a broader sponsorship rather than an individual to a commercial enterprise”
I asked Barry didn’t you say you would give up your challenge if you lost the Judicial review?
BH “No, No, the papers said that! If I lose the judicial review I would give up on the bidding process, that’s what I have given up. I have given up opposing the bidding process. I have accepted that West Ham are the anchor tenants in the Olympic Stadium because I have lost and I know when I have lost”
BH “On the bidding process we all signed up to the principle of ground sharing. Karren Brady said in the House of Lords we all agreed to it!”
BH “The truth came out at the last judicial review when the lawyers said, the West Ham lawyers said, we don’t want to ground share because it will affect our brand value. They were their exact words, the judge said this is not about brand value, we still lost but it was the first time someone from West ham said we don’t want to ground share”
BH ”What we are saying is really is what harm does it do for us to share the Stadium? and to give us a chance on our doorstep to live our dreams”
I told Barry in personal view it could only be the spiritual home for one football club.
BH “It happens all over Europe, 17 clubs around Europe ground share”
Barry challenged me asking
BH “West Ham occupancy will be harmful to us, Do you accept that? With 10,000 free tickets going out?”
I replied no I didn’t see that, in my view it is slightly disrespectful to Leyton Orient fans to suggest they would change their football club like they would their tooth paste. Football is in the blood.
BH “Your totally wrong on this, our fan base is 6 to 7% local, 93% drive in, What I am saying is football has changed now. It is not local residents so much, its people returning to their roots. Your position will now change because you are going to be a massive club in this iconic stadium. Every year I analyse what happens to my small number of season ticket holders. Every year we lose about 400 sometimes 500 season ticket holders, natural wastage/death, moving out of the area, losing interest. There are the three categories. The report says fundamentally with the value of the Premier league brand, every year in the past we have replaced those with, almost to the number with local people which decide to start going to Leyton Orient. The report says and I believe them. The vast majority if not all of those will now be enticed to go to West ham with cheaper tickets, better football and certainly iconic building rather than join their local club and we will be mathematically on the slippery slope down the leagues as we operate our 60% rule as our income will naturally fall. I find it very difficult to disagree with that”
SW ”But I do, why do I support West Ham? Why would I not support a more successful club?”
BH ”Because of your birth right, the new fans don’t come from birth right”
SW “Don’t they? They come from families. Did my son have a choice what team he supported?”
BH Your in a time warp! This is a different world we live in now. Your’e getting occasional visitors, you’re getting new season ticket holders from people that don’t necessarily have an association because people die, people move away. Your West ham through and through but not everyone shows your depth of passion. People move off and they go somewhere else”
BH “We won’t lose a hard core fan I know that, I am never saying that but the numbers we are dealing with as so small. To lose 300 fans per year by not being replaced because there is a better, more exciting, cheaper, much more exciting version just across the road will have a negative effect on us”
I said Leyton orient fans told me they have not been consulted on ground sharing the Olympic Stadium
BH “Listen, Listen I am going spend a lot of time speaking to them aren’t I? To be honest with you NOT! At the end of the day I own the club, I run the club, I will listen to them, I will sit down, I will listen to their feelings but when you say, what is consultation? So we get everybody together in a room, we discuss it, we let them to go away and talk to their membership and to come back to us. Sometimes they do sometimes they don’t! but what is consultation?”
BH “I will listen to you and talk to you but that doesn’t mean I going to do what you want and I reserve that right as the owner”
You want to share the Olympic Stadium but your average gate al Leyton Orient is around 5,500 when your current ground capacity is 9,271. Why aren’t you filling Brisbane Road now and how would you fill the Olympic Stadium?
BH “Two answers to that, firstly what the f**k has it got to do with you?, I am tenant, I am not interested in whether you fill it or not, that’s your job, your West Ham, you shouldn’t be interested in me, what the f**k has it got to do with you if I have one person in it, I am paying my rent f**k off! That’s one answer! Right! The second answer, I believe we can get 9,000 Leyton orient fans in the lower tier if we are in the Championship. I think that is realistic. I also believe that we will get , because I in the the iconic status of the stadium a minimum of 3 to 4000 floating people because this is going to a focal point of the whole of the East end, I also believe I can go out certainly give away like West ham enough to fill the lower tier, I think I can get to 18,000 if I am in the Championship! No More! I think I will do well to get to 18,000 it may not happen quickly!”
You once said if you got a bung you would stop your challenge.
BH “That was a great line, that was on the back of Levy getting a bung and I said to Boris. no-one gives me a bung and I am always up for a bung, hey do you know what I am up for a bung!”
BH “The only person that I would look for compensation is the Premier league for breaking in my view their own rules and that is something we will decide, at the moment the action is stayed and we can re-open that action at any time against the Premier League, that would be a compensation claim”
Since I did this interview Barry Hearn met with Denis Hone from the LLDC on the 11th December. We are waiting to hear the outcome of that meeting.
The 1 hour and 20 minute interview can be heard in full on Moore Than Just A Podcast Episode 15 which can be downloaded or listened to at www.moorethanjustapodcast.co.uk