Ham United face more hard bargaining if the English Premier League football club are to fulfil their ambition of moving to a new
60,000-seater home in London's Olympic Stadium.
promoted club were named on Wednesday as the leading bidders to become
anchor tenants in the stadium, but London mayor Boris Johnson warned
that a "Plan B" was being developed in case a deal could not be
Finding a tenant
who can regularly draw big crowds to the stadium in east London is seen
as vital to ensuring the area gains lasting benefits from the billions
of pounds invested in it before the Games. However, the process seems to
have been going around in circles for the past couple of years.
Ham were named as preferred bidders to take over the stadium in
February 2011, but that deal collapsed because of legal wrangling. A new
agreement would leave the 430 million pounds stadium in
public ownership but grant the football club a 99-year lease.
Ham want to install retractable seating over the athletics track and
add the features of a modern football stadium including executive boxes.
The venue would probably not be ready for use until the 2016/17 season.
stumbling blocks to any deal are how to divide up the costs of the
conversion - estimated at up to 150 million pounds - and ensuring
taxpayers stand to benefit from any increase in the value of the club
following the move.
champions Manchester City play in the stadium built for the 2002
Commonwealth Games and have prospered after being bought by Abu Dhabi's
Sheikh Mansour Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
"I hope the detailed negotiations with West Ham can succeed," Johnson said.
I am determined that any deal should protect the interests of taxpayers
who have paid for the stadium and would have to pay more for
adaptations to make it suitable for football," he added.
soccer is the preferred option, Johnson was careful to stress that the
London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) he chairs would not do a
deal with West Ham at any price.
can see a great future for the stadium with or without association
football," he said, refusing to set a deadline for agreement with West
The LLDC said it was
planning to hire a stadium operator to manage the venue and put on
concerts and other sporting events, irrespective of whether West Ham
moved in or not.
avoid the portrayal of the stadium as a white elephant, the LLDC said it
was looking at reopening it for events in the summer of 2013 before
conversion work begins.
London will stage the world athletics championships at the venue in 2017.
Olympic Stadium is also on the list of potential venues to host matches
during the 2015 rugby World Cup but is unlikely to be ready in time
should the West Ham deal proceed.
Ham have played at the Boleyn Ground, often referred to as Upton Park,
in East London since 1904. The stadium is one of the most atmospheric in
the top flight but can only accommodate about 35,000 fans.
Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold said a move would help to
establish the club as a force in the Premier League and played down
fears they could try to sell up.
"We are dedicated to West Ham United and the stadium for the long haul," co-chairmen Sullivan and Gold said in a statement.
are now committed to working with the LLDC in full consultation with
our supporters to finalise our plans to make the stadium our home."
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