News Bubble Bursts West Hams Olympic Dream

The deal for West Ham United to take over the Olympic Stadium following next year’s Games has collapsed amid “legal paralysis”.

The Championship club and its partner Newham Council were named as the preferred bidders to take over the stadium in March, but Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient challenged the decision, with Spurs prepared to take the case to the High Court.

There was also an anonymous complaint to the European Commission that the award of the stadium amounted to state aid.

Fearing that legal wrangling could leave the stadium empty for years, the board of the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) have broken off negotiations with the Hammers. The OPLC, the Government and London mayor Boris Johnson have instead agreed that the ground will remain in public ownership and a new tender process will be launched to find an anchor tenant.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said, “The key point is the action we have taken today is about removing the uncertainty. The process has become bogged down in legal paralysis.

“Particularly relevant has been the anonymous complaint to the EC over ‘state aid’ and the OPLC received a letter from Newham Council yesterday saying because of the uncertainty they no longer wanted to proceed. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back and we thought it better to stop it dead in its tracks now.

“This is not a white elephant stadium where no one wants it; we have had two big clubs fight tooth and nail to get it.”

Under the new tender process, it is likely the OPLC will meet the cost of remodelling the stadium after the 2012 Games.

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Bidders will have to commit to keeping the running track in place and will pay an annual rent to the legacy company, an arrangement that could prove less expensive for prospective tenants.

In a joint statement with Newham Council, West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady said, “Uncertainty caused by the anonymous complaint to the European Commission and ongoing legal challenges have put the Olympic legacy at risk and certainly a stadium, as we envisioned it, may not be in place by 2014 due as a direct result of the legal delay.

“Therefore we would welcome a move by the OPLC and Government to end that uncertainty and allow a football and athletics stadium to be in place by 2014 under a new process.

“West Ham will look to become a tenant of the stadium while Newham will aim to help deliver the legacy.”

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