EPL West Ham United is "on the brink of being named preferred bidders for the Olympic Stadium," according to Paul Kelso of the London TELEGRAPH. Final negotiations over who will fund the conversion of the arena are ongoing, and a "decisive meeting" will be held next week. The London Legacy Development Corp. board will meet Wednesday and is "increasingly likely to make a final decision on the stadium, with West Ham expected to be named as the primary tenants." A final deal depends on a successful conclusion to negotiations over a funding gap of between £20M (32M) and £40M ($64M). However, there are "rising expectations" that an agreement will be reached between London Mayor & LLDC Chair Boris Johnson, West Ham and the central government to "bring the stadium saga to a close" (TELEGRAPH, 11/28).
MONEY MATTERS: In London, Owen Gibson noted the timescale for making a decision "has slipped several times already," and Johnson, currently in India on tour to boost British business, is "determined to reach a conclusion before Christmas." West Ham has increased its upfront offer from £10M to £15M ($16M to $24M), Newham Council is willing to increase its loan from £40M to £70M ($64M to $112M) and £38M ($61M) is available from the Olympic budget toward conversion costs, there is believed to still be a gap of about £20M ($32M) to be filled (GUARDIAN, 11/28). Also in London, Ashling O'Connor reported sources close to the discussions say that Johnson could find an extra £10M ($16M) in City Hall’s budget if West Ham can match that figure to cover a £20M ($32M) funding gap. To secure the 99-year contract, the club "would need to offer a larger cash sum to help fund "an ambitious upgrade," which includes retractable seats over the running track. Johnson is supporting West Ham’s bid, despite "reservations from other board members over the large capital outlay." The business plan for the stadium forecasts a £2M ($3.2M) annual loss without EPL football, compared with a £4.8M ($7.7M) profit including it (LONDON TIMES, 11/29).
EPL Newcastle United Owner Mike Ashley "is understood to be in negotiations" with Scottish Third Division club Rangers "for naming rights to the Glasgow club’s iconic Ibrox Stadium," according to Charles Sale of the London DAILY MAIL. The proposed deal "would lead to one of football’s most-famous stadiums, which opened in 1899, being renamed the Sports Direct Arena to promote Ashley’s sports retail empire."
Rangers "have been exploring image-rights deals since the Charles Green-led consortium took over the troubled club last June, shortly before they were demoted to the Third Division." However, any move to rename the stadium "is certain to anger many Rangers fans, even given the club's financial plight" (DAILY MAIL, 11/29). The SCOTSMAN reported a statement released by Rangers said that "Green was open to the idea of renaming the stadium if the decision would be of commercial benefit to the club" (SCOTSMAN, 11/29).
Anyone "grumbling at the construction works" at England's Newbury Racecourse should be aware of one alarming fact: It "may not be pretty, but it is probably saving this grand old racecourse from closure," according to Alan Lee of the LONDON TIMES. Newbury Managing Dir Stephen Higgins was "blunt on the matter as he surveyed the early stages of a redevelopment." Higgins: "It was essential. Without this, you would have feared for the future of the racecourse." Newbury, "beloved by many in racing and an annual pilgrimage for thousands on this November weekend, has been a faded jewel for too long." Its "wonderfully flat and fair track, admired by all, was at serious risk of being sold off." The salvation is "one of impressive scale." Through a partnership with David Wilson Homes that has been five years in the making, 1,500 homes are to be built on racecourse land by '20. The first housing is "already under way." Of the £350M ($561M) invested in the entire project, £32M ($51M) is being spent "on racecourse improvements." These include a new stable block and accommodation, enhanced paddock viewing, new weighing-room and car parks and sympathetic landscaping. Prize money for the flagship Hennessy fixture is up £75,000 ($120,100) on last year’s unsatisfactory levels, and Higgins is adamant that "the feature races over the next three days should be contested and appreciated in their own right" (LONDON TIMES, 11/29).