LONDON: Moving to the Olympic Stadium is brilliant business for West Ham United according to the details of their rental deal released grudgingly at last by the London Legacy Development Corporation writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The LLDC had fought legal and administrative tooth and nail against publication of ‘confidential information’ but the harder it fought the more obviously it conceded that it felt it had something to hide in terms of how public money is subsiding the club.
More than £270m at public expense has been spent in transforming the stadium, with West Ham contributing a token £15m.
On the other hand, the deal means that the stadium – built amid controversy originally for London’s highly successful staging of the 2012 Olympic Games – would not deteriorate into a ‘white elephant’. It had to be maintained as a venue for athletics but track and field could not have helped met or justified the maintenance costs.
West Ham will make a greater contribution than £2.5m if they play more than 25 games in a season in the stadium while the first £4m of any naming rights will go to the LLDC and Newham borough, with anything above that between the two bodies and West Ham.
Any figure above that split will be split 50-50 between the LLDC and West Ham.
Hammers move in next season after being awarded a 99-year tenancy of the 60,000-capacity ground.
Other bonuses due to the LLDC would be £1m if West Ham win the Champions League , £100,000 if they win the FA Cup or Europa League or qualify for it, £250,000 if they qualify for the Champions League group stage and £100,000 if they finish in the top five in the Premier League with lesser payments for other positions in the top 10.
The rent will be halved to £1.25m if West Ham are relegated.
Other benefits for the club are significant.
West Ham will not have to pay for a range of staff including cleaners and turnstile operators. Heating and lighting costs will also be covered by the stadium managers. The club justified this on the grounds that “someone renting the stadium for 25 days a year cannot be responsible for 365 days’ running costs.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has described West Ham’s east London move from Upton Park to Stratford as “like winning the lottery.”
Barry Hearn, chairman of lower-league neighbours Leyton Orient and who had proposed a ground-share deal in vain, complained: “My dog could have done a better deal for the taxpayer.”
The critical Taxpayers’ Alliance pressure group, which had helped lead the fight for publication of the deal, was equally critical.
Jonathan Isaby, the TA’s chief executive, described it as a “murky deal” featuring a “ludicrously generous taxpayer subsidy they’ve been handed on a plate.” The terms from which West Ham would benefit, he added, were “preposterously generous.”
A West Ham statement said: “Working with our partners over the past three years, our vision, perseverance and unwavering belief in the stadium’s potential has helped design and create the magnificent 60,000 capacity venue we see today.
“It is a stadium that the nation can be proud of and we believe it will become one of the greatest football stadiums in the world.
“And let us not forget that West Ham United were named anchor concessionaire of the stadium after a fair, transparent and robust process open to any organisation in the world.
“We were unanimously chosen as the anchor tenant, above others, including football clubs such as Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, as we offered the best deal and the only option for a true and lasting legacy for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.”