Filed: Thursday, 3rd November 2016
By: Paul Walker
We are getting there, aren’t we…towards the truth.
The questions are starting to be asked, and finally the answers are filtering through what has become the shocking secrecy and deception surrounding the management and running of the London Stadium, our new home.
There has barely been a day go by these past few weeks without some morsel of information that you can be sure the owners and managers of the stadium would rather keep silent about.
Now, in the week that new London mayor Sadiq Khan has got involved at the highest level to probe what has been going on in Stratford, we are seeing almost a torrent of worrying information.
We now know that the retractable seating is no such thing. It is removable, a cheap option and is nothing like what the club and the fans were promised. We have seen David Edwards, chairman of the London Legacy Development Company, who own the stadium, resigning.
Strange that should come just a couple of days after Khan showed concern about the £51million overspend on the stadium, primarily the retractable seating.
And now we learn, from a fine piece in the Guardian by the excellent David Conn, that various safety officers have resigned during the summer when their concerns about much of what has come to pass at the stadium, were, they claim, being ignored.
Something is very wrong with the management, the ownership and the funding of the stadium. And as I said in a blog earlier this week, none of this on face of it, has much to do with the owners of West Ham United.
But if all the various components of the stadium’s management are now being scrutinised, I would ask our board exactly how much they knew, and when, about the installation of the cheap-option ‘retractable’ seating - and how concerned were they to learn that two senior safety officers at the stadium both quit in the summer over their concerns about safety and the role of Newham Council--part owners as well as the designated safety licensing authority--in what was going on at the stadium.
Its all very well claiming we are just tenants and have no say in the policy, planning and running of the stadium, but did our owners know about the likely problems we are now facing, when they were desperately flogging 20,000 new season tickets and mounting the much-maligned migration of fans from the Boleyn.
When did they know, for example, that the company installing the retractable seating had gone bust? When did they know that the stadium owners, no doubt mindful of the rising costs, decide to go for the cheapest option, which was in fact, little better than the sort of temporary seating you see at the Open, rather than the state of the art system used at the Parc de Prince in Paris, which rolls effortlessly in and out on wheels?
Charlie Sale in the Daily Mail has been digging away at all this for some while, and came up with the story that the retractable seating is in fact, just removable and does not roll in and out on wheels but has to be manually constructed by an army of contractors who take 15 days, working 24 hours a day, to put the seating back into place.
Sale also queried why there was no storage on site for the seating, and why couldn’t it be stored underground. The answer was amazing. He was told that when the Olympic site was first cleared, cleaned of toxic waste and re-laid, the builders did not did down deep enough to allow for anything to be sited underground because they would instantly be confronted with further layers of toxic waste.
Anyone who knows anything about the River Lea and the various canals that surround it, would be aware that the land from Bow to Stratford has been derelict for decades because of the poisonous chemicals etc that are there.
Clearing, cleansing and using the site for the Olympics was one of the best side-effects of the whole rejuvenation plan. The Olympic Park and stadium were built, flats and apartments arrived and land that had been poisonous waste was being used again. But clearly, now, nothing can be put even a few yards underground.
Now we hear that two senior safety officers have quit in the recent months. One was concerned that the ‘retractable’ seating was damaging the stadium’s athletics track. Another raised the issues of poor stewarding, the low levels of police in the Olympic Park, the approach to the stadium and around it and the management of crowds leaving the stadium.
All this came to a head at the AC/DC concert, just weeks before we played our first match. It is no surprise, seemingly, that all these issues have been of great concern at our games ever since.
On Saturday, for the first time, it looks like the police will be handling the segregation between our fans and Stoke City’s. The new segregation plans have involved fans from Stoke and ourselves having their tickets changed, to allow for greater gaps between fans following the coin throwing nonsense at the Chelsea game.
You can sense a far greater level of security and crowd management coming our way, things that should have been sorted out properly before we even moved in.
I still don’t understand how a safety certificate was issued by Newham Council with the police unhappy with the radio system--or lack of it--despite it becoming apparent that the police had warned the ground owners about this issue two years previously, and it still won't be installed until February.
Now the new regime at City Hall has got its teeth into the problems, you can see far greater accountability being expected from owners and contractors running the stadium.
As for us, I fear we will just be pawns in this process, as Khan and his authority dig deeper and deeper to find out who is responsible for the current situation. I sense they may find more toxic problems the deeper they go.
Who made the decisions, who agreed the plans for the whole place, who decided on the levels of stewarding and policing. Who took liberties with our safety?
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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