West Ham United plan to rent London Olympic Stadium
The London club say they still plan to move into the Olympic Stadium despite their ownership bid collapsing
West Ham United insist they still intend to move into the Olympic Stadium despite a shock decision for the arena to remain in public ownership after next year’s Games.
The Hammers were awarded the £500m venue by the Olympic Park Delivery Authority earlier this year after a controversial bidding battle with Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur.
But Spurs are still threatening legal action, vowing to launch a judicial review over the use of public funds in West Ham’s bid, while it is understood an anonymous complaint has also been made to the European Commission.
Such uncertainty is seen as the major weakness of London’s bid to stage the 2017 World Athletics Championships, with track and field’s governing body set to make their decision in Monaco next month.
The stadium, which is expected to cost £5m a year to run, will now remain in public ownership and the OPLC will try and find a range of tenants willing to pay rental on it use, who are expected to include West Ham.
The estimated £50m cost of converting the venue from its Games time capacity of 80,000 to 60,000, will now be drawn from OPLC funds.
And it is also expected retaining an athletics use will be a central demand of any future tender process, which begs the question why this caveat wasn’t part of the original negotiations.
The move has been hailed as “fantastic news” by UK Athletics chairman Ed Warner, whose sport is the big winner, despite committing no funding to the venue and refusing to base their headquarters there, preferring a move to Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium.
Sports minister Hugh Robertson claimed the decision, clearly designed to outflank Tottenham and Leyton Orient, who were angry about the prospect of West Ham moving so close to their current home, brought “certainty” to the process.
“I am confident that this decision is the best way to ensure we have certainty over the stadium’s future,” Robertson told the BBC.
“I believe it will also put us in the place where we always intended to be – delivering a lasting sustainable legacy for the stadium backed up by a robust but flexible business plan that provides a very good return to the taxpayer.”
However, West Ham, who since they won their stadium bid have been relegated to English football’s second tier of clubs, insist they still want to move.
In a joint statement with Kim Bromley-Derry, chief executive of the London Borough of Newham, Hammers vice chairman Karren Brady said: “We would welcome a move by OPLC and government to end that uncertainty and allow a football and athletics stadium to be in place by 2014 under a new process.
“If the speculation is true, West Ham will look to become a tenant of the stadium while Newham will aim to help deliver the legacy.
“The true legacy of London 2012 will be the creation of jobs and a generation of young people inspired by sport based around a community home for all by 2014. We remain committed to help deliver that legacy promise to the people of London and the nation.”