Fourteen supporters’ trusts have joined forces to call for a public inquiry into the deal between the London Legacy Development Committee (LLDC) and West Ham United for the Olympic Stadium rental costs.
An alliance of London trusts, led by Charlton Athletic and Leyton Orient fans, launched a petition on the No10 website last week which has now been signed by more than 22,000 people – making it one of the top 10 petitions on site. A number of trusts from outside the capital city have now joined the campaign.
At the start of August Shadow Secretary of State Chris Bryant called for a public inquiry if the Government refused to publish full details of the deal.
Bryant told the BBC: “To all intents and purposes, this is a contract which gives West Ham the stadium at a peppercorn rent at most or, to be honest, for no rent whatsoever. The question is, if we were able to see the fuller facts and figures, which I think we should, would we be even more angry?”
The trusts say that the range of support shows that concerns “go beyond football rivalry” and demonstrate “enormous public concern at the use of taxpayers’ money in a deal which has been kept largely secret due, in one instance, to reasons of ‘national security’.”
A campaign spokesperson said: “We have no objection to West Ham United using the stadium. What we do object to is any club being handed an unfair advantage, and especially if that is at taxpayer expense.
“We believe public money should be used responsibly, fairly, and in a way which does not distort the competitiveness of independent sports bodies and businesses. Yet, West Ham has only contributed £15m towards the £272m conversion costs of the Olympic Stadium, with the taxpayer footing the rest of the bill.
“The club has been allowed to keep the entire proceeds of the sale of their current stadium, last valued in their own accounts at £71m. Rental is said to be £2.5m per annum, dropping by half should West Ham be relegated, but recent revelations show that the taxpayer will also be picking up the costs of stadium utilities, security, maintaining the pitch, and even the goalposts and corner flags - estimated to be worth between £1.4m and £2.5m a year.
“Considering the cost to the taxpayer, and the effect of this taxpayer subsidy on competition between clubs, a full public inquiry into the deal is needed.”
In a “sales pitch” to the Daily Mail, the club's Vice Chairman Karren Brady argued that “anyone could have bought this. Leyton Orient, the Qataris, anyone. But nobody saw it, nobody saw the potential here. So roll back that movie without West Ham. Taxpayers’ money would have poured into a big hole, been concreted over and never seen again.”
“Now the stadium is nearly finished, everyone recognises what is here and says it’s a steal. But it wasn’t a steal when we were doing the negotiations, because where was the queue of rival buyers? Without West Ham this would have been pulled down. It was going to be 25,000 with no roof,” continued Brady.
“And what would have happened then? Who would have come to that stadium? That’s a legacy? Tottenham just wanted to flatten it and start again. So no Olympic Stadium at all. This is going to be an asset, a national asset. We shouldn’t have to keep justifying ourselves.”
With so many pages of the contract between West Ham United and the LLDC redacted it is impossible to know exactly how kind the deal has been for the club in relation to similar events, such as Manchester City moving into the Commonwealth Games stadium.
It is also unknown how much the taxpayer would recover or “claw back” should West Ham United’s owners sell the club at a profit in future.
The alliance of trusts was initially led by London fan groups, more from across the country have now joined up. The organisations supporting this call are:
- Arsenal Supporters’ Trust
- Aston Villa Supporters’ Trust
- The Blue Union (Everton)
- Canaries Trust (Norwich City)
- Charlton Athletic Supporters’ Trust
- Chelsea Supporters’ Trust
- Crystal Palace Supporters’ Trust
- The Dons Trust (AFC Wimbledon)
- The Foxes Trust (Leicester City)
- Fulham Supporters’ Trust
- Leyton Orient Fans’ Trust
- Manchester United Supporters’ Trust
- QPR1st Supporters’ Trust
- Tottenham Hotspur Supporters’ Trust
Thanks to davidcjones for the image reproduced under CC license.