Spurs and Leyton Orient to launch review over Olympic Stadium

Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient are applying to the high court for a review of the OPLC’s (Olympic Park Legacy Company) decision to award West Ham United the chance to move into the Olympic stadium after the 2012 Olympic games.  One of the reasons for OPLC’s decison to pick West Ham was that they had said in their bid for the stadium, that they would keep the athletics track, whilst Spurs had argued the only viable option was to rebuild the entire stadium as a dedicated football ground.

Leyton Orient’s chairman said. ‘We will shortly apply to the High Court for judicial review and take action against the Premier League for ignoring their own rules.’

A big concern for Leyton Orient is that because of the size of the stadium, West Ham plans to offer discounted tickets. The worry is that this could significantly effect Orients ability to generate ticket revenue since the clubs current home is the Matchroom Stadium just over 2 miles from Stratford. The club’s fan groups have launched an online petition urging the Government to revoke the decision. Orient have also accused Newham council of granting “unlawful state aid” to West Ham in offering them a £40m to finance their move into the Olympic stadium after the games.

What are they doing lending £40m to a football club? They are not allowed to be involved in commercial deals. This is state subsidy of a commercial operation, which falls foul of European competition laws.‘ Barry Hearn (Orients chairman) said. ‘We are asking them to withdraw it. It is state aid and they don’t have the authority to make this kind of commercial investment under their charter.’

This another incident linked to the Olympics where there is no accountability.  It seems that although the decision to award West Ham the loan is technically illegal, it is allowed to happen because of its connection to the Olympic games. Should allowances such as this be made just because of its links to a major event ? It seems unlikely that West Ham will be able to pay back such a huge loan given football isn’t renowned for financial sustainability and it will be the Newham taxpayers who will be liable for the debt in the event of default.

In January, BBC London found a number of potential ‘abuses’  during the process leading up to the loan. These included:

  • Crucial documents explaining the bid in detail being withheld from councillors until shortly before the vote
  • No explanation as to whether the council would be liable for the debt if relegation-threatened West Ham defaulted
  • A ‘significant number’ of councillors holding reservations – but refusing to speak openly because they are allegedly “afraid” of missing out on lucrative positions
  • Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales declaring dozens of gifts from West Ham, with critics saying his impartiality has been compromised

For more information click BBC News

Spurs also intend to take the OPLC to court over a number of concerns they have about the process which led to the decision to give West Ham the £537 million stadium. They released a statement saying that,

‘Our lawyers have written to the OPLC, the Mayor of London, the Minister of Sport and the Secretary of State for Local Government and a separate letter to the London Borough of Newham raising a number of concerns with the processes which led to the award.’

‘The letters also requested – in the interests of transparency – for the provision of certain information concerning the processes, which the Club considers that it is entitled to. Tottenham Hotspur will determine its next step as and when it receives a response to these letters.’

Tottenham also plan to challenge the £40m loan which West Ham will be given at preferential rates that was not been offered to any other bidders for the stadium believed that this will form a key argument  for Spurs’ claims against the decision.

Tottenham said that they have now ‘sought permission from the High Court to bring a claim against the London Borough of Newham (“Newham”) for judicial review of Newham’s process in providing a loan for the conversion of the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games.’

A spokesperson from the OPLC stated that, ‘We have been consistent, fair, objective and entirely equal in our dealings with the bidders from start to finish. We are confident that if these judicial review proceedings are pursued, our approach will be entirely vindicated by the courts.’

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