West Ham legend Geoff Hurst insists the club must move to the Olympic Stadium if it wants to compete with the very best in the English Premier League.
Hurst, whose famous 1966 World Cup final hat-trick helped England beat West Germany 4-2, wants the Hammers to take over the 80,000-seater venue once the London 2012 Games are over.
The current plans will see the top tier lopped off to leave a 25,000-capacity athletics stadium, but the British sporting icon would love to see West Ham make the two-mile (three kilometre) move across east London.
“All the clubs now have either got new grounds or been refurbished since the early 1990s,” the former striker told AFP.
“To compete in the league it would be a good move to come here.”
London’s bid for 2012 pledged that the stadium would retain its athletics capability after the Games.
Sebastian Coe, the organising committee’s chairman and a double Olympic 1,500 metres champion, is determined to keep that promise.
“You can understand Lord Coe’s position and the organising committee to leave a legacy of a running track,” said Hurst.
“One or two people say you can lose the atmosphere but a lot of foreign clubs still play in a stadium where they’ve got running tracks.
“Ideally, you would not want the running track but there may be an element of compromise if West Ham want to move out of the old stadium into the new stadium, and it may be the compromise they’ll make.”
Hurst also played cricket for Essex in his youth and the county is interested in using the stadium for Twenty20 matches.
“Speaking as a sportsman, not just a footballer, as long as it’s used for sport after the Olympics and all the facilities are used, that would be a tremendous part of the legacy which we want to see,” the 68-year-old said.
West Ham have been at their Upton Park home since 1904 and began a series of renovations in 1993 to take the all-seater capacity to 35,300.
But they have never finished higher than fifth in the Premier League and have been relegated once.
The Hammers and the local municipal authority have submitted a joint proposal for taking over the Olympic Stadium for football and community use.
Hurst does not want to see the chance pass by but said missing out would not be a disaster.
“It would be a great shame to an extent but it wouldn’t be the end of the world,” said Hurst, who scored 180 goals in his 411 West Ham appearances between 1959 and 1972.
“We would still be in a good stadium, we’ve got a great, loyal support and if continue to fill it then there’s still an opportunity, as I understand, to fill in the corners to make it up to 40,000.”
West Ham narrowly avoided relegation last season under Gianfranco Zola but Hurst is confident they can improve under new boss Avram Grant, the former Portsmouth manager.
“My initial hope is that we do well and consolidate in the Premier League and improve on last season, that we sit comfortably this year and have a good season in the league.”
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