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SBD/December 5, 2012/Facilities
West Ham Gets The Nod To Play At Olympic Stadium As Preferred Partners
Published December 5, 2012
DEAL DETAILS: Johnson "insisted that 'plan B’ -- reopening the stadium more rapidly and cheaply as a venue for concerts and one off sporting events without the involvement of West Ham -- remained viable.” Johnson said, "We have got plenty of time to get a football solution, if this is what we get, in time for 2016-17. People will understand that my job is to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer. I can see a great future for the stadium with or without association football." The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson notes an investment bank is “likely to be engaged to help structure the deal in such a way that the public purse shares in any potential upside for West Ham.” U.K. Athletics will be “guaranteed around 20 dates a year in the new stadium and plan to use it for Diamond League meetings as well as for smaller events and the 2017 World Athletics Championships.” While the Olympic Stadium is “on the list of venues to be used for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, if West Ham do conclude a deal to move in then the timetable will be extremely tight to complete the necessary construction work in time.” If the West Ham deal is “finalised the club will sell Upton Park to developers and use the proceeds to help pay down the debt on their balance sheet” (GUARDIAN.co.uk, 12/5). In London, Paul Kelso notes the decision means West Ham “are now back where they were more than a year ago, when their original selection as preferred bidder collapsed under legal challenge.” City Hall will “seek a clawback of any profits should West Ham be sold on by the current owners.” Johnson said any deal will have to contain “a mechanism to protect the taxpayers’ investment in the stadium were the value of the club to increase significantly through a change in location” (TELEGRAPH.co.uk, 12/5).
WHAT'S AT STAKE: The London TELEGRAPH’s Kelso in a separate piece notes for rival EPL clubs, West Ham’s move to “what will be the second-largest stadium in the league is bad news.” By securing a 60,000-seat stadium West Ham “will, at a stroke, move to a new competitive level.” The financial benefits of a new ground “in the iconic surrounds of the Olympic Park, close to the corporate fortunes of Canary Wharf with excellent transport links, should be vast.” Kelso writes, “Exploited well, the stadium should guarantee West Ham an annual contest for European football.” The next time “an oligarch or sheikh casts their eye [on] England’s football portfolio in search of a trophy investment West Ham, with a long-lease to a new stadium and a heritage ripe for exploitation, will look very attractive.” This is why the U.K. government is “keen to ensure the public share in any profits from a quick sale” (London TELEGRAPH, 12/5).