West Ham's move to the Olympic Park 'must benefit the whole community'

By Rachel Bishop on July 1, 2014 9:00 AM |

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The Olympic Stadium may be the new home of West Ham but that will reach only a small section of the community, the London Assembly has been told.

Ahead of West Ham FC's move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in 2016, the London Assembly was told that efforts must be made to ensure the legacy benefits are felt by all residents.

The City Hall meeting on June 19 was held as part of an investigation into whether the Mayor has successfully delivered a regeneration legacy through the Olympics and whether the multi-million pound taxpayer-funded investment will benefit Londoners and the Newham community.

West Ham FC follows a string of major clubs including Arsenal and Manchester City who have either moved into, or have developed a stadium.

At the meeting the committee questioned development experts who were part of football stadium regeneration projects.

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Gareth Bacon, chairman of London Assembly's Regeneration Committee said: "We want to ensure that all Londoners - and especially communities living nearby, benefit from the stadium for years to come."

Antony Spencer from Stadium Capital Holdings, who was instrumental in the building of the Emirates Stadium, said a large part of the positive affect a stadium brings is making the area more "sexy" to potential buyers.

He said: "When we were building the stadium so many people wanted to live near it. Also, when we went to the council with our plans they wouldn't just let us build it - we had to bring a lot more to the community through the development, which is something any council will ask.

"The regeneration in Islington never would've happened if the money didn't come from a big driver like Arsenal."

However, the guests did point out there was still an inequality surrounding football, suggesting more needed to be done to reach minority groups through stadium developments.

Michelle Moore, Moore Development Consultancy, said at the meeting that football clubs often tend to do what they want and often only serve a certain demographic.

She said: "As a woman I would not feel comfortable going into a football match, and I'm quite a confident woman.

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"If you look at the current set-up with West Ham's current stadium - just two percent of the Asian community actually attends football matches.

"Until we look at the leadership on boards within football and creating more equality, these community groups may get overlooked."

Newham Council says the stadium will provide year-round access to the 400m community track; millions of tickets to sporting events held there and a majority of new jobs created on the site will be filled by Newham residents.

Chair of Newlon Group Sarah Ebanja, who was Islington Council's lead chief officer during the Emirates Stadium development, said: "I think we were clear with Arsenal from the very beginning that they had to provide those regenerations to the communities. There has to be a constant dialogue and a strong driver to make it work."

The next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 16.