UK & World News
Olympic Stadium: West Ham Handed The Keys
West Ham have been handed the keys for the Olympic Stadium after a deal for the London 2012 venue was finally agreed.
The announcement ends a seven-year battle for the showpiece venue in Stratford between rival football clubs that often saw the process bogged down by legal challenges.
West Ham were named preferred bidders ahead of Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, but negotiations with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) have been lengthy and complicated.
However, the LLDC announced this morning that a deal has now been signed off that sees the Barclays Premier League club become anchor tenants, paying £2m a year on a 99-year lease.
The club says it will pay back the government "and more", but former sports minister Richard Caborn and London Assembly Conservatives Olympic spokesman Andrew Boff slammed the deal as poor value for taxpayers.
As expected, it was confirmed that the LLDC will receive a windfall payment should West Ham's owners sell on the back of the move within 10 years.
It is thought the deal was agreed after the Government agreed to put in an extra £25m towards the cost of converting the venue for football, taking the Treasury's overall contribution to £60m.
West Ham are also understood to have upped their funding of the project from an initial offer of £5m to around £15m.
The rest of the cost of adapting the stadium - estimated at between £150m and £190m - will come from sources including the Mayor of London's budget, a £40m loan from Newham Council and a £20m loan from the LLDC.
As well as the £2m rent and a possible share of any future sale of West Ham, the taxpayer stands to claw back money from a share of naming rights and catering and hospitality revenue.
Plans for the revamped stadium were also unveiled, with the facelift due to be completed in time for the 2016-17 football season.
It will be transformed into a 54,000-seater venue with a new roof, corporate areas, toilets, concessions and retractable seating. As well as football the stadium will also be used stage athletics, live concerts and other events.
London Mayor Boris Johnson told reporters: "This is a truly momentous milestone for London's spectacular Olympic Stadium, ensuring its credible and sustainable future.
"Through this deal with West Ham United FC, we are defying the gloomsters who predicted this landmark would become a dusty relic."
West Ham vice chairman Karren Brady insisted that the club intends to "pay its way".
She told reporters: "We want to pay our way, we accept that we have to pay our way and myself and the two owners of West Ham have been very clear on that.
"We will put in a lump sum, we will pay a rent that will cover most of the running costs and then of course we're sharing naming rights and other revenues.
"We accept that the cost of making it that world class stadium is coming from the Government but we hope that over 99 years we pay back not only that but an awful lot more than that."
West Ham's owners David Sullivan and David Gold said the decision gives the club a platform "to compete on the pitch at the highest level".
But former sports minister Richard Caborn branded the deal "the biggest mistake of the London Olympics".
Mr Caborn said that he welcomed the fact that the future of the stadium was now settled but insisted there has been unnecessary cost to the public purse.
He said: "This is the biggest mistake of the Olympics and lessons should be learned from this. West Ham are basically getting a stadium costing more than £600m for just £15m and a small amount in annual rent.
"The mistake was made in 2006-7 when they [the Olympic Board] ruled football out of a retro-fit design as we has done successfully in Manchester with the Commonwealth Games stadium."
An application by Leyton Orient for a judicial review of the decision to award West Ham preferred bidder status is still outstanding, but it is not expected that it will affect the outcome.
Orient owner Barry Hearn said the LLDC had made "a massive, massive mistake".
He said: "What does the word legacy really mean? I hear the word from politicians all the time and I don't think they can even spell the word.
"It is just a game. Well we are not in a game, we are in a fight for survival and we have to do everything available to us to continue the fight."
London Assembly Conservatives Olympic spokesman Mr Boff called for the deal to be scrapped.
He said: "It is a disgrace that another £25m from the public purse will now be used to prop up this agreement."
what do you think?
And will the athletics track remain?
Will it h@@l
Yes there will be retractable seating fitted
I hope they get relegated
Surely you didnt want to move from The Lane
Another complete mess, when will the UK ever learn?
What a joke. 60m of taxpayers money on a football stadium Everyone knows West Ham will now be sold to the Arabs.
Im glad the more local team got it.
Better open a kebab shop down there
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