West Ham out to buck stadium trend
The Olympic Park Legacy Company should soon have all the information it needs to make a decision over whether Tottenham or West Ham should be allowed to use the Olympic Stadium after the Games.
The debate was getting close to fever pitch a couple of weeks ago and although the heat has subsided a little, the fundamental question remains over the legacy for athletics.
What divides the Premier League clubs is the removal of the track.
Tottenham remain adamant that track and field and football don't mix. Their conviction seems rooted in current trends around Europe. In Italy, Germany and Spain, clubs have abandoned their multi-use stadiums and opted for venues dedicated to football.
Juventus bought the Stadio delle Alpi from the Turin City authorities and despite it having stood for less than 20 years, have torn it down. It's being replaced by a trackless 40,000-seater venue, with capacity for expansion.
Chief among the complaints at the Delle Alpi was the distance fans had to sit from the pitch. Where supporters at the apex of the old curves were at least 50 metres from the action, now they'll be less than 10 metres.
West Ham's vision of how the Olympic Stadium will look if they get the go-ahead to move in
Bizarrely, although the Delle Alpi was conceived as a multi-sport venue it hardly ever staged athletics events because of the absence of a warm-up track. It seems to define the term white elephant by modern stadium standards.
While some, like the old Wembley just became unfit for purpose over time, others like the Delle Alpi just weren't properly thought through. This, say Spurs is why, once the emotion has been detached, they believe their solution is the most credible. They point to the Bundesliga, where the move away from multi-sport to football dedicated venues has been in construction terms, a virtual stampede.
Hamburg's Volkspark Stadium, Dusseldorf's Rheinstadion, Hanover's old HQ the Niedersachsen and Frankfurt's Waldstadion are among those which have been abandoned, or heavily reconfigured.
Schalke left the Parkstadion and its running track behind in 2001, with no regrets according to club official Thomas Spiegel. He told me the running track detracted from the atmosphere.
"Definitely. The view - especially from the stands behind the goals - was poor and put people off going to games. Of course it played a part as well that there was only a roof above the main stand. Therefore all the chanting didn't create that much noise as it could.... fans always wished for an 'English stadium' with supporters being very close to the pitch and the players. The average attendances of the last 10 years underline the fact."
The Parkstadion held 70,000 but the average gate was only 40,000. Now Schalke regularly sell out their 61,600 seats.
Bayern Munich, of course, left the Olympic stadium in 2005. Their desire to make changes there were blocked by an agreement with the stadium's architect that prevented alterations to his distinctive 1972 Olympic showpiece without his or his estate's stay so.
It should be pointed out the track didn't impede Bayern's golden period of the 1970s and 80s with three consecutive European Cups and domination of the domestic league.
In Barcelona, Espanyol vacated the Olympic Stadium at Montjuic Park in 2009 after 12 years there. They too, according to spokesperson Serafin Bailey, are relieved to be at a place of their own, built only for football.
"Absolutely, it never created the atmosphere or ambience we currently have at the new RCD Stadium; it was a cold environment and not an attractive proposition for our supporters."
Espanyol have put at least 10,000 on the gate by moving.
In England, fans of Brighton and Rotherham have the distinction of being the only ones who currently watch their teams play at home across a running track.
Rotherham fans we spoke to are ticking off the days until they can leave the Don Valley Stadium and take up residence at their new purpose built - and trackless - venue back in their home town.
West Ham will argue that none of this of course really proves anything. Three of the last four World Cup finals have been played at stadiums with running tracks. Uefa will hold the final of the European championships in 2012 at Kiev's Olimpiysky National Sports Complex... with a running track.
If it's good enough for Fifa and Uefa, say West Ham, that's fine by us. They make comparisons with Wembley, pointing out no-one says there's a lack of atmosphere there, and that their furthest seats will be closer to the action than those at FA HQ.
They, like Spurs, believe there's an untapped market, with fans wanting a slice of Premier League action, but who can't partake because of the cost of tickets and lack of availability. Through cross-subsidy, West Ham say they'll be able to make more seats available at lower prices, and promise the fan experience will be very positive, and the tight roof will ensure the sound remains vibrant.
Far from being deterred, West Ham are prepared to embrace the track, because they say, they understand the importance of the Olympic Legacy.
It remains true however, that West Ham would be apparently bucking the trend, and taking on the received wisdom that football and athletics are uncomfortable bedfellows, and which in the long term leaves fans unhappy, voting with their feet.