NFL Franchises Talking To London Mayor Boris Johnson About Olympic Stadium
NFL franchises are in talks with London Mayor Boris Johnson’s office over "becoming the anchor tenant of the Olympic Stadium," according to Matt Scott of the London TELEGRAPH. The discussions began during the NFL regular-season games last weekend. Johnson is chairman of the company operating the stadium, the London Legacy Development Corp. His negotiations "could cast a significant shadow" over the prospects of EPL side West Ham United or League One side Leyton Orient occupying the venue. A spokesperson for the mayor said, “Given the ever-growing popularity of gridiron this side of the Atlantic the mayor and his team have held a number of meetings with senior executives in the last few days to explore further opportunities for NFL in London. The talks were exploratory, and we are at an early stage, but the signs are encouraging.” Turning to the NFL would also "avoid the potential complications" presented by state aid for West Ham’s bid, which the European Commission has said to have raised "as a matter requiring clarification in a letter to the British government." The European Commission has "written to all member states about state aid to professional football, although the LLDC is "confident that contributions for West Ham would not be classified as state aid" (LONDON TIMES, 10/31).
WEST HAM'S ROADBLOCK: In London, Joe Ridge reported that West Ham is "also looking to take over the anchor tenancy," but the Treasury’s refusal to hand over the £337M ($543M) Olympic-contingency underspend to help install retractable seating "is hampering" its bid. The retractable seating is expected to cost in the region of £200M ($322M) and the mayor will be expecting any anchor tenant "to make a significant contribution." West Ham is "willing to offer more than £8M ($12.8M) a year in rent and related payments in addition to a reported multi-million lump sum. The club is "unwilling to reveal the true nature" of its financial package "due to confidentiality issues" (DAILY MAIL, 10/31).