One of the most exasperating aspects of the debate is the lack of attention given by all but Mark Clemmit and a handful of internet commenters to the repercussions for Leyton Orient of an encroachment by either Spurs or West Ham onto their `manor’. The O’s are a club who know more than most about relocation: formed in 1881, the club underwent many changes of name and home ground in their first 50 years. The prefix `Clapton’ was first added to the name in 1898, in an attempt to attract supporters from the then wealthy suburb to watch the team in the nearby, but less salubrious Homerton. A brief nomadic period followed, until a move up the road to E10 in 1937. The prefix `Clapton’ was replaced with `Leyton’ shortly after World War Two and, despite an interlude of 21 years from 1966, that local attachment has been retained by fans ever since.
Having long established themselves as a community asset, Orient would appear the natural candidate to settle into a new stadium being built almost literally on their doorstep. Indeed, the possibility was raised when the authorities first realised that a football club had to rescue the Stadium from the fate of so many other Olympic venues. However, with average attendances recorded at 4,938 for the 2009/10 season, there is no chance of Orient filling even a reduced, 20,000-capacity stadium in the forseeable future. Moreover, the costs of upgrading and maintaining such an arena are well beyond the means of a typical League 1 club.
No, the future pronounces itself bleak for the O’s no matter what the outcome of the Olympic Park Legacy Company’s deliberations. Although the average attendance figure quoted above represented a 5% increase on the previous campaign, the club are struggling even to maintain that level of footfall so far this term. This despite initiatives from the board such as Friday-night fixtures. A further reduction in revenues will impact not only on Russell Slade’s bargaining power, but will hinder the club in implementing the kind of aggressive marketing strategy that will be necessary to win over the kids and newly arrived inhabitants of the area. Selling the merits of Scott McGleish over those of Rafael van der Vaart clearly isn’t easy. The task will just become more onerous should the Dutchman be scheming a short bus ride away.