First 'London' club could soon play in English League
LONDON (Reuters) -- Leyton Orient are ready to risk fans' fury with a name-change in a bid to secure an Olympic ground-share with Premier League neighbours West Ham United.
The O's would rebrand themselves 'London Orient' if they move from modest Brisbane Road to the Olympic Stadium with West Ham, says chairman Barry Hearn, and become the first English League outfit to adopt the name of the British capital.
The new name would be just one of a number of radical changes Hearn has planned in order to breathe new life into the club languishing in the third-tier of English football, and who have only spent one season in the top flight 50 years ago.
London Mayor Boris Johnson will decide on the future of the stadium, the centrepiece of this summer's Olympic Games, in the coming weeks. The current plan is for West Ham to move from their Upton Park ground to the stadium which will also host athletics and other non-sporting events.
"West Ham might not like it, but a ground share with Orient makes a lot of sense to the legacy company and for the Park," Hearn told the Daily Telegraph.
"You would have the commercial Premier League entity coupled with the local community club serving the community. To enhance the point I am going to make Leyton Orient as attractive as possible as a bidder," he added.
"Now our television rights are around 750,000 pounds not 65 million, so commercially we are not as attractive, but we can offer a huge amount as a community club."
In addition to the name-change, which would have greater resonance with a global market, Hearn said he planned to give free season tickets to under-18s in London, students and members of the Armed Forces; and free family season tickets to new residents of the Olympic Park housing.
"We are going to try to go from 5,000 capacity to 30,000 by giving things back to the community. We are not interested in making money. It's very handy but we have only managed it once in the last 19 years.
"We are saying that if we are lucky enough to go up the divisions we will pay more rent, and we are also saying that any profits from the sale of Brisbane Road will be directly invested into the squad to give us the chance to succeed.
"Some of the hardcore fans will be grumbling (about changing the name) but we have got to do something dramatic. That begins with the name change and it begins with opening our arms to a whole new audience."
Formed in 1881, Orient have previously been known as Clapton Orient and simply Orient, that part of the name originating from a player in the 1880s who worked at the nearby Orient shipping company.
Since the Football League was founded in 1888, no professional London club in the league has had the name of the capital in their title.