Filed: Thursday, 21st November 2013
By: Paul Walker
Good Lord, not again. It’s about time we had some protection from our nobility, especially when they think they know something about football.
Remember Lord Griffiths? Yes, I am sure you do. The only man who decided Sheffield United had a case. Now I give you Lord Harris of Haringey. Yes, I flinched a bit at the mention of Haringey, isn‘t that just a touch too close for comfort to that evil empire at White Hart Lane?
That evil mob who employ private investigators to spy on our club, who then use people to hack Ms Brady’s phone and keep tabs on government appointed overlords of the Olympic legacy. Just who do they think they are? And then Spurs deny all knowledge.
Hands up anyone out there who thinks Spurs knew nothing about the dirty tricks…oh come on, somebody put their hands up!
But back to Lord Harris. Tottenham Hotspur FC, of course, is slap bang in the middle of the London Borough of Haringey, who between 1987-98 had Toby Harris as the leader of their local council.
The same Toby Harris who is now Lord Harris, and the chairman of the House of Lords select committee into the Olympic legacy who have been on their hind legs this week slagging us off - and Orient - for “unseemly squabbling” over who gets the Olympic stadium.
Actually I thought all the playground squabbling was coming from Orient and Barry Hearn, that honourably upholder of community spirit who wants to share the stadium with us. My answer to that has always been “show us your money.“ If we are paying £15m or so for the stadium to be converted to a football arena, then let us have your £7m now, Barry.
He seems to constantly complain about us receiving ‘state aid’ while, it has emerged, has a very generous lease for Brisbane Road from their local council. I must giver credit to one of our fellow West Ham websites - and specifically, Sean Whetstone - for coming up with that little gem, Sean’s financial stuff is well worth a read.
Barry even gave his backing to Spurs, who wanted to knock down the stadium, built with public money. He has spent years now banging on about the situation. He has had no support from footballing authorities, the Government, High Court or the Olympic Legacy Committee. Even the Court of Appeal has turned down a request for a judicial review of the bidding process!
But Barry keeps on going, hoping that one day someone will agree with him. Now he’s found one in Spurs‘ former local council leader, one Lord Harris.
Now I don’t know which football team Toby Harris supports, but I doubt that at some time during his reign as leader of Haringey council - or as a local councillor there for 20 years or so - that he did not partake of hospitality at WHL from Levy’s lot. It would be rude not to.
Of course there has been no impropriety over the years, Harris is a respected Labour politician who has done much good for London and deserving causes. But I’m a West Ham man and I know our fans, we would just wish he was nowhere near any government body that involves us. Once tainted by Spurs, always tainted in my mind. Yes, I know it’s irrational.
Harris, like most in parliament it seems, has had his problems with expenses. One year his Haringey exes reached £24,000, £15,000 in taxi fares alone. The District Auditor cleared him of any impropriety but they were critical of the system at Haringey Council for claiming exes set up by the good Lord. I know it’s not relevant, but I just threw that in for your own titillation.
Seeing this rather chubby Lord on TV telling everyone that Orient should be allowed to use the stadium was a surprise. Then for us to be slagged off for our behaviour even more annoying. Whenever Hearn has gone off on a rant, we - certainly if you view official statements - have been controlled, picking our words very carefully and leaving any negotiations to the Legacy people.
A PROPER TOBY: Lord Harris of Haringey
Harris’ committee seem to have ignored the London Legacy Development Corporation’s view that to even open the gates for an Orient match would cost taxpayers’ money. Funny, everyone has been saying that for years.
Hearn wants discussions between ourselves and the Legacy authority, who have given us a perfectly legal long term lease as anchor tenant, something the stadium must have desperately to save taxpayers’ on-going maintenance costs.
We have rightly referred Mr. Hearn to the Legacy people. If they are prepared to hire the stadium to Orient, I assume it will be at the going rate.
Harris is also chairman of the Wembley National Stadium Trust, where he will know all about hiring stadiums for events from rock concerts, Saracens or American football. But Wembley is privately owned, it does not have a major tenant and runs as a business. You want it, you pay for it.
The Olympic stadium is different, it needs an anchor tenant to generate weekly revenue. If Orient want to play a ‘big’ game there - if there is such a thing - then they have to pay the rate, simple as that. It should be nothing to do with us as long as it does not interfere with our legal obligations to stage a regular fixture schedule.
All this report has done is give oxygen to Hearn. Much like Sheffield United’s chairman Kevin McCabe, who eight years ago went on and on and on about Carlos Tevez until he found some committee, somewhere, to agree with him. I give you Lord Griffiths.
The good Lord was 85, his last involvement with serious sport was as president of the MCC and he believed the Blades were worthy of £20m plus from us. The fact we had already been punished passed him by. Sheer nonsense. I could ask what have McCabe and Sheffield United spent the money on, they are now fighting relegation to the fourth division (I still call it that). But that would be bitter, wouldn’t it?
But that is history, our club’s future is now. I don’t want to get into another argument over the merits of our move, it is going to happen so now we must get on with it.
I notice that Ms Brady and some of the players were out publicising the beginning of the re-construction this week. Timely or deliberate, in the week of the Harris report.
Constant challenges and ill-judged government committee’s reports just continue to muddy the water and allow Hearn’s well-oiled PR machine every chance to keep banging away.
One thing Harris did suggest, though, is spot on. We need a Government minister to oversee the Olympic legacy. It’s amazing how much into the background we find the political talking heads now. Boris; Cameron - that lovely chameleon; Jeremy Hunt are long gone.
They got their Olympics with a stadium built on the cheap and without football in mind. Seb Coe, another Lord, had the audacity to suggest there was no real drive to incorporate football into the stadium’s future. You can’t make it up sometimes!
That Government minister should be a proper Sports Minister without the other stuff about Culture thrown in. We had Hunt, who knew nothing about football, and now Maria Miller, who only seems to care about forcing the BBC to show as much female sport as possible regardless of whether anyone wants to watch it.
Sport is one of the most important aspects of modern life. It makes a fortune for the country at international and local level. A Government minister looking after only sport is long overdue, then we wouldn’t need select committees and the noble Lords can nod off quietly on the benches of Westminster.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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