A 126-year old League One club that has spent every year of its existence but one playing in England’s lower divisions is ready to change its name for a chance at moving into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford and the growth it will bring. Leyton Orient would change to “London Orient”, becoming the first league club to named for London, if a proposed groundshare with West Ham is approved in the coming weeks.
Orient currently play at 9,000-seat Brisbane Road, their home since 1937. A move into the Olympic Stadium would usher in a new era for a club played just one season in the top flight in 1962-63.
How does a small club like Orient not only live up to the “London” name, but fill enough seats to justify moving to a much larger stadium? Chairman Barry Hear has ideas.
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.
The change of name wouldn’t be Orient’s first. The club started life as Eagle Cricket Club before becoming Orient Football Club in 1888. Moves around London and city borrough change saw them play as Clapton Orient from 1898 to 1937, Leyton Orient from 1937 to 1966, simply “Orient” from 1966 to 1988, and then finally as Leyton Orient again from 1988 to the present day.
Nevertheless, Hearn knows the fans won’t be happy about the name change.
“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.”
Orient’s transparent grab at a bigger market through a name change smacks of the same thinking that saw Cardiff City swap colors and badges.