Where the City’s movers and shakers get a few things off their chest. Today, Matt Hardy, City A.M.’s deputy sports editor, takes the pen.
Sport can be key to 2024 London growth
Sport is worth tens of billions to our capital. Whether that be through the Premier League’s London derbies, world class stadia at our disposal or the countless parks offering freedom to exercise until you can burpee no more.
But there have been some worrying trends in the last quarter of the year which have cast doubt on London’s ability to develop, evolve and keep up with far-flung destination hotspots – these include the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia – who are increasingly using sport to harbour soft power and influence.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan denied the Big Smoke’s East End the MSG Sphere earlier in the year, stripping Stratford and the surrounding area of a 20,000 capacity venue to rival the O2.
This would have been a vibrant addition to the local economy and, like in Las Vegas, it would have opened doors to innovative ways to stage sporting events such as boxing.
And only a couple of weeks later Wandsworth Council voted down an expansion to the iconic site which stages tennis’s Wimbledon Championships each year.
Business leaders often state that the UK sports market is one of the most enticing in the industry.
So why do we always seem to be driving away opportunity rather than jumping at it?
“Back evolution and ambition”
Final decisions on the two projects will now rest with the secretary of state for levelling up Michael Gove – what a thought — but one hopes he rules in favour of the evolution of our sporting capital.
It will see tennis return to Wimbledon and cricket to Lord’s and the Oval. The USA basketball team is hopping across the pond to entertain us in Greenwich ahead of the Olympics and NFL, Formula E, athletics and Major League Baseball all feature in the 2024 calendar.
A friend once asked whether London had lost its edge when it comes to hosting the greatest of the sporting world.
Of course, it hasn’t. Not yet, anyway. But we mustn’t be complacent.
Because it’s not good enough for London’s sports scene to simply survive, it must thrive.
Wifi on the Lizzie line
Sat on the greatest invention of modern times, the Elizabeth Line, this week I was delighted to see four little bars of hope in the top right-hand corner of my phone.
Wifi on the tube?! It has long been a novelty to send a text or answer an unavoidable email on the Jubilee line with its super connectivity deep below the Southbank but having gone a year without it on London’s newest service, I thought the day would never come.
New Year’s sport resolution
We live in a city which houses Wembley, Twickenham, an Olympic park, Lord’s, the Thames and more but so many of us are yet to pop the cherry of passing through the turnstiles of a sporting arena.
Whether it is a non league sports match in the local common, a park run or an international event; London hosts it all next year.
Experience it, live it and return again and again. Sport often comes second only to family for many — it has previously been described as a religion, where a stadium is the cathedral.
It has the power to take you on a roller coaster and create scenes of elation unmatched by practically every other Saturday afternoon activity.
I am trying Eurocup basketball for the first time this week, buying pints and food and injecting a little bit into the economy.
So for 2024 I challenge you to try something new. Go to a stadium and dive right in.
Christmas tip of the year
Amazon Prime is still offering a 30-day free trial for new customers.
If you get the subscription now you’ll get a lot of festive Premier League football for no cost, plus some free shipping in the lead up to the big day next Monday.
Just remember to cancel it!