In 2011 Spurs led by Chairman Daniel Levy initiated a wave of legal challenges to seek a Judicial review of Newham’s Council’s £40m loan as part of a West Ham bid for the former Olympic Stadium with the aim of derailing the Hammers occupancy of the London Stadium which he had lost out on.
As each legal challenge was rejected by the courts they started a new one challenging the loan in a different way until finally, they were permitted a hearing in August 2011. Spurs later offered to withdraw their legal challenge if West Ham agreed to drop allegations of criminal conduct against them over phone hacking of Karren Brady but the Hammers refused.
In December 2013: Three investigators pleaded guilty of illegally obtaining Karren Brady’s phone records during the initial battle for the stadium. The lead investigator worked for accountants PKF, who were engaged by Spurs. The company and Spurs both denied any knowledge of illegal activities.
At a high court hearing in 2011 lawyers for Karren Brady and West Ham won an order requiring accountants PKF, hired by Spurs to conduct “due diligence” on the first bidding process for the Olympic Stadium, to hand over “unlawfully obtained” copies of Brady’s itemised phone bills.
In 2013 Richard Forrest pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to obtaining personal data contrary to the Data Protection Act 1998 was fined £10,000. Lee Stewart was fined £13,250 after admitting the same charge. Howard Hill employed Spurs accountants was given a £100,000 fine.
Spurs finally agreed to withdraw their legal challenges after the initial tender process collapsed after a complaint by Architect Steve Lawrence to the European commission over potential state aid. The legal challenges were seen by many as attempts to get more political leverage to get planning and funding to redevelop White Hart Lane.
In September 2011 the then London mayor Boris Johnson frustrated at Spurs legal threats and game playing threatened to withdraw an offer of £17 million of public support to Tottenham’s new stadium development if Spurs did not commit to their stadium project in the next three weeks.
In February 2012 Spurs were permitted to go back on an obligation of £16m of funding for the community as part of its new stadium project.
The section 106 money was to be used by Haringey council for social housing, school places and other road and transport links but the club said the commitment was not viable and were allowed remove it. The new section 106 agreement doesn’t specify a set amount but instead makes promises of things including free match tickets and free shuttle buses.
At the time of the first removal of section 106 money Richard Wilson, leader of Haringey Liberal Democrats, said the council was so “desperate” to get the club’s investment it had not stood up for residents and council taxpayers. He said “not a single affordable home” will now be built and yet there are 3,000 people on council waiting lists.
In 2012 Haringey Council also agreed to fund Spurs with £5m towards a podium outside the stadium and a further £2.5m for what they called heritage improvements.
Fast forward four years and in February 2016 the then London Mayor Boris Johnson agreed on a £18m investment in infrastructure around the Stadium project from a £28m fund for the Tottenham area. £8.5m on improvements to High road adjacent to the new stadium and £3.5m to improve Tottenham Hale Station to allow for increased footfall. Haringey Council also offered an additional £9m to help improve Tottenham Hale station.
Tottenham Hotspur says the claims by a blog written by ‘Haringey Defend Council Housing’ over the weekend are factually incorrect and outdated.
They claim the presentation in question is from 5 years ago and the proposal for an additional £30.5m to fund the podium area outside their Stadium was later withdrawn.
Harrrigey Council released a press statement over the weekend denying the existence of the £30m of funding.
Haringey Press Statement: http://www.haringey.gov.uk/news/response-stories-funding-given-tottenham-hotspur-football-club
Subtracting the claimed £30.5m from the equation by my calculation Spurs will benefit by £45m of committed public funding for infrastructure around the stadium.
I still believe questions need to be asked about this tax payer funding. I understand that Arsenal paid £60m in section 106 when they built the Emirates Stadium but documents publicly show Spurs have made some community promises including Free match tickets and shuttle buses.
The section 106 documents can be found at http://www.haringey.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control/planning/major-projects-and-regeneration/tottenham-hotspur-football-club-stadium-development
Architect Steve Lawrence who scuppered the first West Ham bid for the London Stadium over a complaint over state aid to the European Commission as said in relation to Spurs “I’ve raised this issue with the Commission, the Mayor’s office & others – it’s essential that the same rules apply to all clubs, across Europe, State aid rules will continue to apply after Brexit & clubs which accept subsidies must ensure they meet the rules of fairness ??”
Adding that: “Each user of publicly subsidised infrastructure must pay a market rate”
The HamburgHammer Column
Slowly things have started to move closer towards the season starting proper. At least this is true for the Concordia lads who had another run out, playing two short games (45 minutes each) in a mini tournament up the Baltic Sea coast in Timmendorf, apparently losing both games. The season begins in earnest, sort of, with a cup tie this Friday against lowly Stapelfeld again, that’s the team we already beat 7:0 in preseason if you remember.
Oh yes, the Concordia 2nd team/development squad also had another pre-season tester at home yesterday (again, I didn’t attend as friendlies or preseason games are not exactly my cup of tea), they were playing Slaven’s countrymen of Croatia Hamburg. The Cordi youngsters won 3:1, so they are a promising bunch for sure.
Apparently there will be plenty of home doubleheader Sundays next season for Concordia, so it’ll be the Cordi youngsters playing at 11am first (free admission) to be followed by the game of the first team at 2 or 3pm, sounds good to me!
Talking about transfers at West Ham we clearly haven’t managed to go big or early in this window as previously intended for a variety of reasons. Those mainly being the fact we simply are not the most attractive proposition for players in the league right now and then there is our general caution/reluctance when it comes to spending money on transfer fees or wages, especially at the crazy amounts flying around in this particularly bonkers window.
At the time of writing we seem to be close to announcing a loan deal with an option to buy for Joe Hart, the long time England goalkeeper. Rumour has it that Man City will cover half of his weekly wages (rumoured to be between £100k and £120k), depending on what loan fee will be agreed upon and we will also get the opportunity to make the deal permanent next summer for a transfer fee amounting to somewhere between £10 million and £13 million, possibly already including performance related bonuses.
I suppose a goalkeeper was not exactly top of our bucket list for this transfer window, but when an opportunity arises you have to take it and at those terms it looks like a shrewd move as neither Randolph or Adrian were consistent enough last season to instill into our defense any kind of confidence, I know that Hart himself is always good for the odd howler or hand before eyes moment too, but that applies to all but the truly world class goalkeepers. If Hart was indeed flawless or at the peak of his goalkeeping art Man City wouldn’t let him go and even pay half of his wages to get rid of him.
He still looks like a good upgrade for us though. Beggars and choosers and all that. From what I’ve heard he has always had a bit of honest rapport and banter with the West Ham fans so there seems to be a bit of understanding there already and Hart has always struck me as an easy guy to root for. He seems to be a very good instinctive shot stopper while having a tendency to punch balls away a lot though when sometimes it appears he could probably catch the ball. With all those blocks/punches it’ll sure make for some breathtaking moments in our own penalty box, but defending has always been a task for the entire team anyway, so I’m sure we can be fine in that respect if all our players sing from the same hymn sheet.
Funnily enough I saw Hart play for Shrewsbury years ago in 2005 when he had just started to establish himself as the starting goalkeeper for The Shews.
I was in London with my brother to watch West Ham play Bolton (we lost 1:2 with Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan scoring for his manager, a certain Sam Allardyce).
Two days later we learned that nearby Leyton Orient actually had a bank holiday fixture at home against Shrewsbury and as I had always fancied watching a game at Brisbane Road (and my brother was fine with it too) we went to the game which Shrewsbury won 1:0.
I remember vividly reading the matchday programme and to this day I remember two things: Joe Hart was touted already at that early stage as England’s future Number One and Barry Hearn was pleading in his welcome message to the Orient fans to convince their mates, friends, family members, plumber, milkman and window cleaner to tag along, buy a ticket and please please please find their way through the Brisbane Road turnstiles. 3742 fans were watching the game that day and while I was quite impressed with the quality of the early season pitch, the stadium, even the atmosphere I still found it strange that there were (at the time) two blocks of flats in corners of the ground. I never imagined back then that one day Allardyce would be West Ham manager or that West Ham would be responsible for Orient plying their trade in the Conference…:-)
The main priority for years now has been for West Ham to sign a proper, reliable out and out striker and we are still waiting. Apparently Chelsea have started sniffing around Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Our offer is still on the table and I am certain that Chelsea could easily offer better terms than us and the choice for Hernandez will be pretty straightforward: Will he be happy to be striker number three or four at Chelsea, spending more time on the bench than in the opposition’s penalty box ?
Or would he prefer to be our everyday starter and star man ? I know how I would decide but who knows what goes on in a player’s mind these days ?
I won’t go into another board bashing rant here, but I actually still expect our net spend to be fairly low this window as our ambitious targets continue to fall by the wayside signing elsewhere. Arnautovic could well be our marquee signing this summer and he would be another decent addition for sure, but again he is a difficult character with the potential to upset any dressing room at short notice, so he wouldn’t arrive without risk.
I would be quite happy with the likes of Arnautovic and Hernandez, but that is mainly because I have lowered my expectations to a degree now where basically any new arrival will be greeted with a mixture of relief and gratitude. After losing a fairly high number of squad players already we need reinforcements.
But it indeed is hard to get deals over the line if you always have to prove to other clubs and the players how tough (or skint) you are by always trying to offer just a bit less than what the other side wants.
I am not sure this tactic works anymore as far as the Premier League is concerned.
Talking of reinforcements I read some interesting news about Chinese football. One bit of news being that a Chinese U20s team will now definitely play in the Regionalliga Suedwest as previously discussed on here. They will not start playing right away though, it has been agreed that they will begin their league schedule after the winter break, playing every team that would otherwise sit idle once. The games will not count in terms of league position and the Chinese will have no stadium to play “home” fixtures.
They will get valuable experience for the next Olympic Football tournament while the local German clubs get 15.000 Euros into their coffers for every contest against the Chinese.
In other news previous West Ham target Anthony Modeste has joined Tianjin Quanjian after all, but not in a straightforward conventional deal. It is complicated. Apparently it’s a two year loan initially for about 6 million Euros with a buy obligation attached which will guarantee FC Cologne another whopping 29 million.
The reason for all this seems to be a new rule in Chinese football that requires clubs to pay the same amount they spend on foreign marquee signings as a penalty tax bonus into a special fund investing in grassroots and youth development in Chinese football. So if you sign a fancy big name player from England or Italy it no longer costs you 30 million but 60 million. That’s not peanuts, not even for Chinese clubs these days.
The desire to give local prospects from China gametime seems to outweigh the wish to import ever more star players from Europe and South America.
As a result the shopping spree in Chinese football seems to have come to a halt for now. According to the info I gathered Chinese Super League clubs have only spent 28.5 million Euros on new players this summer, compared to 139.5 million a year ago. Nobody knows if the penalty tax on foreign transfers will be a permanent feature in China.
But for the time being it looks like clubs can no longer expect to offload players to China for crazy transfer fees.
So Carroll will likely continue to roam the treatment rooms of East London for the foreseeable future…:-))
One final word on the news that the London Stadium owners have forecasted future losses of £200 million and the fact that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will soon announce a new Chariman for the LLDC. This can come as neither surprise nor shock what with the long list of bad decisions and shortfalls (and long gaps) concerning the stadium. Or the money over spent on stadium conversion and what was supposed to be retractable seating but which is essentially rescrewable or demountable seating/scaffolding.
No naming rights sponsor in sight, rising costs for stewarding, policing and general maintenance which seem to have been grossly miscalculated by the LLDC.
On the other hand two long term tenants which are not contributing much in financial terms, so surely something’s gotta give there in the next few years.
Never boring at West Ham, is it ?
Call me crazy, but I don’t see West Ham playing home games in the London Stadium in 2027, but if they still do the stadium will surely look a lot different on the inside at that point. I won’t hazard a guess who will own our club in ten years’ time, but right now our board can continue to watch things fall apart for the LLDC and the taxpayer, I reckon it still needs to get worse before it can get better.
Things rarely are straightforward for our club at the best of times, be that for transfers or stadium related issues. It sure adds spice, drama and excitement to being a West Ham fan. Our first team returns to action tonight in a preseason game against the Sturm Graz development squad. They surely won’t have a problem fielding some strikers, it’s even in their name, Sturm being German for attack, but also storm. Let’s hope they don’t don’t blow us away in the first proper fixture for our first team in the new season.
Apparently the game is live on Premier Sports later this afternoon at 5:25 pm.
PS: Congratulation to our former midfielder Jack Collison who has just been announced as the new manager of our U16s. Good to have you back at West Ham Jack!
This week London Stadium owners London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) revealed that liabilities for what they now call ‘Onerous’ loss making contracts with West Ham and UK Athletics will cost them an estimated £200m in future losses which will be ultimately be paid by the taxpayer.
Draft financial accounts for E20 Stadium LLP and LLDC reveal is that revenue for the London Stadium for the year up to 31 March 2017 is recorded as £6.588m against the cost of sales of £10.614m The operating loss is listed at an incredible £205.206m with a total comprehensive loss recorded as an eye-watering £268.245m.
They explain that £200m of the losses relate to liabilities for onerous contract provisions that have with West Ham United and UK Athletics with a further provision of a £62.3m loss relating to impairment which is the reducing value of an asset you own, namely the Stadium with the valuation of Nil.
Newham Legacy Investments (NLI) which owns the remaining forty percent of the London Stadium also published their draft financial accounts this month. They reveal they lost another £2.5m in the financial year up to April 2017 on the Stadium. The latest loss for Newham is on top of a reported £41.6m loss recorded last year for the company setup by Newham Council. NLI now have net liabilities totalling £44.4m primarily due to the £40m loan from Newham Council of which no repayments have been made to date. Many doubt whether Newham Council will ever see any repayments of this loan.
These losses come on top of the total cost of building and rebuilding the former Olympic stadium which already stands at £753m.
The current London Mayor ordered an investigation into the decisions which led to the financial disaster and its future financial sustainability which will be published later this year by Moore Stephens.
In this article, I delve into the men and women involved in those decisions or challenges which inevitably led to the financial mess we are in today. I place no personal accusations or blame of their involvement but collectively they got us to where we are today and each must take some responsibility for their involvement in my personal view.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone, Sports Minister Tessa Jowell Lord Sebastian Coe & Lord Moynihan
Former sports minister Richard Caborn claims he was voted down by then London 2012 chairman, Lord Coe, the then Olympics minister, Tessa Jowell, the then mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, and the British Olympic Association’s chairman, Lord Moynihan over his proposal in February 2007 for an Olympics stadium designed and built for Athletics and football from the start.
In 2007 after the Icelandic takeover Eggert Magnusson criticised the Government openly saying: “I don’t understand why we are not able to go to the Olympic Stadium. We offered money, we sent letters and we described how we saw things happening. We had a meeting at the House of Commons with [Olympics minister] Tessa Jowell and [Mayor of London] Ken Livingstone and it was not possible. As a businessman it makes no sense to me [to] build a new stadium and then take it down to 25,000.”
Magnusson later admitted he had offered the Olympic Delivery Authority £100m to take over the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, but says their proposal was eventually turned down. I spoke to Magnusson earlier this year and he says he stands by the quotes at the time and says the articles were an accurate reflection of what happened.
Current LLDC CEO, David Goldstone recently defended his predecessor’s decisions not to build a stadium suitable for football in 2007 claiming no football club was willing to commit at that time to his knowledge. Giving evidence to the London Assembly Budget Monitoring Sub Committee in December last year Goldstone said: “With hindsight would you have made that decision in 2007 to build a multi use stadium rather than the one that was built for the games which was demountable to a 25,000 seater bowl. I would say the information available I believe at the time was there wasn’t a football club who would commit then so it would have been slightly speculative, it would have risked it being a white elephant."
London 2012 Forum Chair Richard Sumray admitted in written evidence that West Ham had in fact been interested in taking over the Stadium when he discussed it with the club himself in 2001. He later said he regretted the countered proposals which aimed to put athletics “in the mix” which in his view “made the whole process of finalising the ownership and uses of the stadium much more difficult. Early on a decision should have been made to use the main stadium for football, converting the warm up track to an athletics stadium. This would have been a more sustainable and appropriate use of that part of the park.” he stated.
Former London Mayor Boris Johnson was not only the London Mayor also took over the Chair of the London Legacy Development Corporation for a period of time. London Assembly member Andrew Dismore, once told Johnson “You wanted to cover up the fact West Ham had put one over on you and taken you to the cleaners.”
While still Mayor, Boris said that the LLDC was left with no choice but to undertake the expensive conversion scheme in an attempt to clean up the “mess” left by the previous Labour government. He also laid the blame squarely at Ken Livingstone, Tessa Jowell and Lord Coe doorsteps. However, his insistence on hosting the 2015 Rugby World Cup at the London Stadium and what impact that had on the stadium transition programme and in particular retractable seating is expected to come under scrunity and criticism in the Mayor’s £140,000 investigation report due out later this year.
Dennis Hone served as the Chief Executive of Olympic Delivery Authority and London Legacy Development Corporation from February 2011 until 2014. From 2006 to 2011 he was director of Finance and corporate services for the ODA. Mr Hone was appointed as chief executive of the authority in February 2011, replacing Sir David Higgins, who joined Network Rail. Hone was paid £233,000 in salary, a bonus of £153,000 and received £36,000 in pension contributions. He also spent two days a week as interim chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, the body overseeing the legacy of the Olympic Park. He was paid £90,000 for this. The two jobs brought his total pay package to £512,000 per year. In addition, he was given an £80,000 exit package, including a “terminal bonus” and redundancy pay. The authority also paid an extra £373,000 into his pension pot. This meant that in total, he was paid £965,000 in one year. He was entitled to the pay-off because Jeremy Hunt, the former culture secretary put him on a permanent contract when he appointed him. Mr Hone was later appointed the full-time chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, where his basic pay is £195,000 a year. On leaving the LLDC in 2014 he joined one of the Stadium’s prime construction contractors Mace as their Group Finance Director.
LLDC Deputy Chairman Philip Lewis is still a board member of the London Legacy Development Corporation for the past three years and a chartered surveyor with 40 years experience in the property market. He is currently Chief Executive of the property division of the Kirsh Group. He is a former Chairman of Sport England, London and past President of the British Council of Shopping Centres. Lewis was part of a three man sub committee convened by Baroness Ford in 2011 to review bids for the London Stadium occupancy.
Keith Edelman was formerly the Managing Director of Arsenal Holdings plc and was instrumental in the development of the Emirates Stadium and the attendant regeneration of the surrounding area including the development of Highbury Square. He is still an LLDC board member. Edelmen was part of a three man sub committee convened by Baroness Ford in 2011 to review bids for the London Stadium occupancy.
Baroness Margaret Ford was the former Chair of the Olympic Park Legacy Company On 7 April 2009 Communities Secretary Hazel Blears, Mayor of London Boris Johnson, and Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell announced Ford’s appointment to chair the newly created London Legacy Development Corporation, known officially as the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC). In 2011 she formed a sub-committee to consider bids for the former Olympic Stadium. She was replaced in 2012 by Daniel Moylan.
Daniel Moylan was the Chairman of the LLDC for just three months in 2012 before he was replaced by Boris Johnson who had appointed him.
At the time of the appointment, Mayor Johnson said: “I am sure there is no better man than Daniel Moylan to ensure every possible ounce of benefit for Londoners is squeezed out of our Olympic legacy.”
At the time London Assembly Members had criticised the Mayor for ignoring the recommendation of a London Assembly confirmation hearing which said Mayor should not appoint Mr Moylan to the LLDC because he “did not consider that he had demonstrated sufficient knowledge and experience in the area of regeneration which was crucial to this role”.
Andrew Altman is the former CEO of the Olympic Park Legacy Company and London Legacy Development Corporation from 2009 until 2012 when the American stepped down unexpectedly. He was also a member of Baroness Ford’s sub committee which approved of West Ham’s initial bid for the Stadium in 2011.
Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (2009) Eric Pickles
The Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) was established in May 2009 by the Mayor of London and Government as the company responsible for the long-term planning, development, management and maintenance of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park .The OPLC was a public sector, not-for-profit company limited by guarantee with three founder members: the Mayor of London, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, and the Secretary of State for the Department for Culture media and Sport.
All the Secretary of States named above were involved in decisions relating to the former Olympic Stadium during the time the OPLC was in existence.
Former LLDC Chairman David Edmonds resigned in November last year shortly after a further over spend of £51m was revealed for the London Stadium transition. Edmonds, who has been an LLDC board member since its 2012 inception was appointed chairman in September 2015. He has been involved in the post-Olympic planning since 2009 when he became a director of the Olympic Legacy Committee. He will soon be replaced by Sir Peter Hendy who is also the Chairman of Network Rail since 2015.
Sir Robin Wales Current Mayor of Newham council was involved in both West Ham bids and a board member of the LLDC. Also, a self-confessed West Ham fan.
David Goldstone is the current CEO of the LLDC having joined from Transport for London in 2014 where he was Chief Finance Officer.
He was the Government’s finance director for London 2012 between 2007 and 2012, helping ensure that the Games were delivered within the £9.3 billion budget. In that capacity, he worked closely with the Olympic Delivery Authority on the design and delivery of the Olympic Park including the Stadium and on the planning for the future of the Park including the regeneration of east London. Goldstone is also a board member of Sport England.
Spurs Chairman Daniel Levy raised two Judicial review legal challenges in 2011 and 2013 to West Ham’s occupancy of the former Olympic Stadium. The first one was rejected by the high court and a second challenge was later withdrawn after agreeing to rebuild White Hart Lane with some help from the London Mayor. In December 2013: Three investigators found guilty of illegally obtaining Karren Brady’s phone records during the initial battle for the stadium. The lead investigator worked for accountants PKF, who were engaged by Spurs. The company and Spurs both denied any knowledge of illegal activities.
Leyton Orient Chairman Barry Hearn raised a Judicial review in 2013 over ground sharing at the former Olympic Stadium claiming he wanted Leyton Orient with West Ham and the LLDC hasn’t considered this. He also wrote to the Premier League asking them to ban West Ham’s move because of the distance from Leyton’s Orient’s stadium. His judicial review was rejected by the courts. He originally vowed to give up his legal fight if he lost the judicial review but instead said he would take his case to European Court of Justice. He later sold the club for £4m in 2014 and dropped his fight. This year he claimed he bitterly regretted the sale after Orient were served with a winding up order from HMRC.
The club was finally taken over by fan led consortium last month.
Architect Steve Lawrence is probably the least public figure involved in this sorry tale but possibly had the biggest impact when he challenged the LLDC by filing an anonymous complaint to the European Commission over illegal state aid. The public body cancelled West Ham’s winning bid as a result of this complaint and Boris Johnson ordered a new tender process in which the former Olympic Stadium would only be rented on a 99-year agreement.
When Lawrence’s anonymous complaint to the EU came to light at the High Court, the Olympic Park Legacy Company agreed to scrap the West Ham takeover of the stadium.
“If it had been shown subsequently to be illegal, and I am not saying that it was necessarily, then in those circumstances then West Ham would have had to repay the subsidy,” Lawrence told Sky Sports News at the time.
“If that had happened after they had moved out of Upton Park and that ground had been redeveloped then they would then have been in a position where they would have had to return the stadium to the authorities and they would have been homeless. So we would have lost one of our precious English football clubs.
“The EU would have required the UK authorities to recover the illegal state aid, which would have meant either West Ham would have had to pay the full price for it or a full rental for it – and we are talking about an asset worth £500?million – and they would not have been able to afford that. The only option would have been for West Ham to go somewhere else.”
Going forward there is no simple solution, West Ham is unlikely to take over the London Stadium in the short term even if it was offered to them for free of charge, the government would need to pay the Hammers to take it off their hands. As they have forecast £200m of operating losses an up front fee of £100m might do the trick. Of course, there would be a political outcry and various complaints from jealous third parties to not make that feasible. In reality, the tax payer will need to fund the stadium for now and E20 Stadium LLP will need to honour their legal and proper contract with West Ham.
I understand that the Stadium is more likely to change hands into Newham Council ownership long term but only when the operating losses can be stemmed.
One of the rewarding things about doing nostalgic articles for WHTID is when you find little gems in your research such as iconic photos or video clips that can relive the moments for the readers better than my words. I like to keep my nostalgia writings to the times I was actually going regularly to the games every week back from the mid sixties to 1980 but a few years ago I decided to do a piece from way before that time. The 1923 FA Cup Final is another part of football history for West Ham. It was the first final ever to be played at Wembley Stadium and we are in the history books as being the first team to lose a Cup Final there. Our opponents on the day were Bolton Wanderers and they beat us by two goals to nil. However, the football match was, in comparison, a small part of what happened on this historic day. The match has been for years remembered as the “White Horse” final. The video clip I found for this piece is a real gem from the archives.
The White Horse Cup Final was to go down as one of the most extraordinary events in sporting history. The then new Wembley, officially known as The Empire Stadium, was completed just 4 days prior to the 1923 Cup Final and was considered to be the Worlds greatest sporting arena. The capacity was believed to be 127,000 and it was considered ample as the previous year’s final had attracted a crowd of just 53,000. However, the organisers had not taken into account the lure of the new National Stadium and before you could say “make it all ticket”, nearly half a million people were converging on the ground.
By 1.45pm the gates were closed as the capacity limit had been reached. However, a quarter of a million more people were swelling outside the stadium in a tide that was not going to go away. The locked out crowd began breaking down gates and scaling the walls to get in as the surge to get in became overwhelming. Before long an estimated additional 100,000 fans had made it into the ground and the groundswell had seen spectators spill from the terraces and onto the pitch . We will never know how many people were crammed into the stadium that day, estimates range from 240,000 to 300,000, but it will go down as “unofficially” the highest non racing sports attendance in World sport.
At 2.45pm after the King had overseen the singing of the National anthem, it was unclear if a game could be played at all? The pitch was completely full of spectators and it seemed impossible to see how the chaos could be rectified. Then along came the hero’s of the day – a police constable named George Scorey and his white horse “Billy”. He carefully picked his way to the centre of the pitch and then started to circle, edging the crowd back bit by bit. The horse nudging here, nudging there, as he continued to enlarge the territory which was the green blades of grass of the playing field. George persuaded the front ranks of spectators to link arms and push backwards as the horse kept manoeuvring the crowd back until after 45 minutes the crowd had been retreated all the way back to the edge of the pitch. It was then realised that any more retreating was impossible. Well, that is how the story has been told in folklore but a look back at images available of the day shows there were many other policemen on horses helping out too -but who am I to try and ruin a good story?
The game eventually started which often saw players unable to stop themselves near the touch lines, hurtling into the crowd and struggling to get back onto the pitch amidst the mass of supporters. At half time both teams had to stay on the field and several times in the second half play was stopped as the crowd again spilled onto the playing area. Goals from David Jack and Jack Smith ensured a 2-0 win to Bolton who were one of the strongest teams of that era. In honour of Billy the white horse, the footbridge outside the new Wembley was named the “White Horse Bridge”.