One questions whether this move is really about West Ham, or whether it is more likely a great opportunity to put the club in a lucrative shop window, for sale to the highest bidder come 2016
If I were a West Ham fan I would be worried right now. As early as next week the club are expected to sign a 99-year lease to relocate to the Olympic Stadium, but I am unconvinced that the move will guarantee benefits for the club and their supporters. My concerns are not merely rooted in nostalgia, although I admit I do love the atmosphere of Upton Park – the sense of an old-fashioned East End, jellied eels and 1960s football icons. The thought of all that history being wiped away and replaced with a bunch of corporate box prawn sandwich munchers from the City breaks my heart.
That the club will be renting the stadium, 25 matchdays a year, exacerbates that feeling of loss. I've heard that they plan to counter the lack of homeliness with "dressing" – but what does that mean? Shipping in the Bobby Moore statue once a fortnight? Putting up a few hoardings? What if you want to go on a stadium tour on a non-match day? Will the corridors be lined with photographs of Hammer heroes in claret and blue? Or are those only allowed on the allotted 25 days? Crucially, how will this new arena promote the club's history and identity?
Putting the emotional arguments to one side, the cold, hard facts are simple enough: West Ham need more revenue if they are to grow as a club and that means increasing gate receipts. The Olympic Stadium looks a cheap option when you consider that Arsenal's Emirates Stadium cost the club a whopping £390m while West Ham will pay £15m upfront for the Olympic Stadium and then £2.5m per year in rent thereafter. A steal, no?
Unfortunately, those figures only stack up as value for money if the club can attract enough supporters to fill a 60,000-seat stadium. And how will the club attract new supporters if the team don't perform? Last season they were in the Championship; what is to guarantee their enduring presence in the Premier League? They are hardly the model of consistency, having spent three seasons in football's second tier in the last decade alone. To me that's worrying.
And where is the model of success for them to follow? Arsenal have not made a footballing success of their own move. Since leaving Highbury, the club have failed to win a single trophy. We can argue about why that is but to my mind part of the problem has been that opposition teams simply love playing there. And who could blame them? The away dressing room is like Claridge's – a joy to behold. The experience is a world away from the old Highbury where the radiators in the away dressing room – mysteriously – used to reach unbearably high temperatures and the opposition would sit there roasting before they had even stepped out on to the pitch.
For most top-end clubs no trophies in seven years would have the fans baying for blood. Luckily for Arsène Wenger – and Arsenal – the club have a history of success and that has bought them time and patience from the fans. But West Ham won't have that luxury.
Manchester City is another example, and the club have been incredibly successful since relocating to Eastlands, now the Etihad. But their model differs to West Ham in that their attendances have hardly wavered over the years. While West Ham's figures have leapt about inconsistently, Manchester City's fans always seemed to turn up. Even when the club were relegated from the Premier League in 1997, attendances dropped on average by a mere 1,200. And then they went and got themselves a billionaire sheikh.
In contrast, West Ham have struggled to keep their gates consistent over the past 10 years. Three spells in the Championship have not helped, but the situation is as much to do with the club having successful big-name rivals in Tottenham and Arsenal located a few miles away.
In short, West Ham's recruitment is challenged by the transient fan. On moving to the new stadium they will have an extra 30,000 seats to fill, and that cannot be done on "kids for a quid" days and extra corporate boxes alone. And if the football isn't pretty, and the results are not forthcoming, then why would business people, or anyone else for that matter, want to pay to watch mediocre football? Even historically West Ham's best Premier League finish was fifth under Harry Redknapp with a team stuffed full of talent – players such as Paolo Di Canio and a young Frank Lampard.
All of which leads me to question whether this move is really about West Ham, or whether it is more likely a great opportunity to place the club in a shop window, for sale to the highest bidder come 2016. Arguably that might be no bad thing. If an investor in the mould of Sheikh Mansour came along, West Ham could soon out-rival their more high-profile neighbours in Arsenal or Tottenham. Still, the venture seems like a gamble to me. In 2016 the club could be handed the keys to their new stadium and be playing in the Championship. Are an extra 30,000 fans going to want to start attending West Ham games to witness that? I don't think so.
To think, Bobby Moore's statue, commemorating an England legend, consigned to 25 days' exposure, or worse still, placed next to Costa Coffee.
David James has donated his fee for this column to charity