Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stadium's Future in Doubt as Deal Fails; West Ham Still Expected to Play at Ground

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Stadium's Future in Doubt as Deal Fails; West Ham Still Expected to Play at Ground

Article excerpt

Byline: Michael Black

THE long-term future of the Olympic Stadium remained unclear last night after it was confirmed that the deal with West Ham United and Newham Council had collapsed.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said it was better to stop the current arrangement "dead in its tracks" rather than let it remain "bogged down in legal paralysis" as court challenges to the previous plans loomed.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone described the situation as a "fiasco" and called for swift action to resolve it.

Legal challenges by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, plus an anonymous complaint to the European Commission, had led to fears that court action could drag on for years while the stadium remained empty.

It will now remain in public ownership and be leased out to an anchor tenant following a new tender process by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady confirmed the club would bid to become a tenant.

The collapse of the deal for West Ham to buy the stadium has left a funding gap of up to pounds 60m needed to transform it so it can be leased out.

The plan would have seen the pounds 95m cost split, with pounds 35m from the Olympics budget, pounds 20m from West Ham and pounds 40m from Newham Council. If similar changes are to be made then only the pounds 35m is guaranteed and a gap of pounds 60m will have to be filled.

The biggest problem concerned the complaint to the Commission that the pounds 40m from Newham was effectively "state aid" and therefore broke competition rules.

The minister said the public ownership of the stadium would allow Newham to commit that money - though it has yet to say it will do so - and any gap would be covered by rental income.

He said: "It is a little bit which way you cut it. There is pounds 35m in the public sector funding package already for legacy conversion.

Then you have got the pounds 40m that Newham were prepared to commit to the original project. …

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