Storm over Olympic Stadium groundshare plan

EXCLUSIVE: NORMAN GILLER interviews Norwegian football dealbroker Olaf Priol over controversial plans for two London clubs to groundshare at the new Olympic Stadium

Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United are locked in secret negotiations to ground share at the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 London Games.

I uncovered this sensational development exclusively for the SJA website while investigating the perilous state of football finances.

More than 70 of the 92 Premier League and Football League clubs are just a bank manager’s nod away from going bust.

If there is a “Double Dip” recession ” as the City fears ” club mergers are going to become commonplace as clubs fight to survive. A confidential study has been ordered under the codeword “Together” and a list of possible mergers has been drawn up.

Other contingency plans being drawn up in case of a mass collapse of clubs include a £20,000,000 cap on weekly wages, seats at grounds to be individually sponsored and adverts to be allowed on centre-circles.

Other money-raising schemes being considered are parking prices within a mile radius of grounds to be doubled, programmes doubling up as bingo cards (the games to be played at half-time), and crossbars to be used for sponsor messages.

Meanwhile, Tottenham and West Ham are preparing to move in together at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, which makes geographical sense for both clubs. White Hart Lane is six miles from the Olympic Stadium and Upton Park is a two-mile bus trip away.

Tottenham’s own plans to build a new stadium in White Hart Lane have been torpedoed because of local council objections and problems getting the architectural design accepted. West Ham, although under new ownership, do not have the estimated £100 million-plus required to adapt the Olympic centrepiece as a 50,000-seat football arena.

So it has been decided the sensible thing to do is for both clubs to move down the road to the Olympic Stadium, which will save millions in building fees.

The man brokering the ground-sharing and possible merger deal between Tottenham and West Ham is Norwegian businessman Olaf Priol, who is known to the directors at both clubs and to London Olympic chairman Lord Seb Coe. Yesterday, he told me: “Talks are in the early stages, but we expect to be able to make quick progress once I get all the interested parties together.

“There will be some dissent from supporters but it works perfectly in places like Milan, Rome and in New York, where the Giants and the Jets are about to ground share. It will be foolish for me to say any more at this stage, but April is going to be a very interesting month.”

Other club mergers that I can reveal, with the proposed new names, include:
Man United and Man City: Manchester City United
Liverpool and Everton: Everpool
Newcastle and Sunderland: Sundcastle
Birmingham and Aston Villa: Birmingham Villa
West Brom and Wolves: Wolverhampton Albion
Derby and Nottingham Forest: Derby Forest
Norwich City and Ipswich Town: Ipsnorwich
Brentford and QPR: Brentford Rangers
Chelsea and Fulham: Chelsham
Arsenal and Tottenham: Arsenham

And talking of April Fools, these have been the top five that have tricked sports fans across the world in past years:

Sports Illustrated published a story written by master sports writer George Plimpton about a new rookie pitcher who planned to play for the Mets. His name was Sidd Finch, and reportedly he could throw a baseball at 168mph with pinpoint accuracy. This was 65mph faster than the previous record. The story revealed that Finch had never played the game competitively but had mastered the “art of the pitch” in a Tibetan monastery under the guidance of the “great poet-saint Lama Milaraspa”.

Unfortunately for Mets fans this legendary player only existed in George Plimpton’s rich imagination.

The Daily Mail ran a story in 1981 about an unfortunate Japanese long-distance runner, Kimo Nakajimi, who had entered the London Marathon but, because of a translation error, thought that he had to run for 26 days, not 26 miles. The Mail reported that Nakajimi was out on the roads of England, still running, determined to finish the race.

The Mail claimed they had tracked down the translator who had briefed Nakajimi, and he explained, “I translated the rules and sent them off to him. But I have only been learning Japanese for two years, and I must have made a mistake. He seems to be taking this marathon to be something like the very long races they have over there.”

In 2000, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) warned that it planned to sabotage a major angling tournament in Lake Palestine in Texas by releasing tranquilisers into the lake. They warned that “this year, the fish will be napping, not nibbling”. State officials took the threat seriously and stationed rangers around the lake in order to stop any tranquiliser-toting PETA activists from drugging the fish.

Eventually PETA admitted it was a joke. For some reason the rangers patrolling the lake side were not laughing.

And who says the Russians don’t have a sense of humour? In 1988 the Soviet newspaper Izvestia reported that Diego Maradona was in negotiations to join Moscow Spartak. The Spartaks were to pay him $6 million to play for their struggling team.

Izvestia later admitted that the story was an April Fool’s day joke, but only after the news was picked up and posted worldwide by the Associated Press, which then had to publish a red-faced retraction. The sudden unexpected display of Russian humour was attributed to Mikhail Gorbachev’s policy of glasnost.

Finally, Norman Giller claimed that Tottenham and West Ham were to share the 2012 Olympic Stadium. Spurs manager Harry Redknapp said: “Norm’s always been a silly blogger.” At least, that’s what we think he said.

Read previous Norman Giller columns by clicking here.

Click here for more recent articles on journalism, sport and sports journalism

Join the SJA today – click here for details and membership application form