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Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Hammers await Olympic Stadium decision

Harry Harris, Football Correspondent

West Ham are refusing to get excited about a decision on the future of the Olympic Stadium scheduled for Wednesday after so much stalling on the decision and so many false starts and legal arguments.

A potential 20 million "black hole" in the funding is another cause for concern but West Ham remain the clear favourites, as they have done for some considerable time, to become the tenants of the Stratford-based arena.

Sources inside the east London club have told ESPN they are unable to comment due to confidentiality, however there remains a degree of concern within the club over the long delayed decision making process, as they take a wait and see approach to D-day.

"Let's see what the announcement is," was the cautious observation from within Upton Park.

The stadium cost 429 million to build but needs a futher investment of almost 200 million if it is to become suitable for both football and athletics, and there is still a 20 million shortfall in overall funding.

The whole drawn out and often controversial saga is due to be discussed at the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) board meeting where LLDC chairman Boris Johnson - the Mayor of London - wants to reach a conclusion.

West Ham increased their upfront offer from 10 million to 15 million for the 99-year lease, on top of the 2.5 million RPI-linked annual rent, and giving up catering rights and boosting the value of any stadium naming deal, their tenancy will be worth an extra 6.5 million a year to the LLDC.

LLDC's board will have to pay all of West Ham's matchday costs for the 25 days a year it will have access to the stadium under the terms of the tenancy agreement. West Ham will redevelop Upton Park using the proceeds to help pay down debt before the move.

UK Athletics are guaranteed 20 days of use a year and will host the 2017 World Athletics Championships in the stadium, while Newham Council will be guaranteed a specific number of days for community use.

Newham Council will increase their loan from 40 million to 70 million, and while 38 million is available from the Olympic budget towards conversion costs, that still leaves a gap of about 20 million.

LLDC chief executive, Dennis Hone, admitted that it could be as late as the summer of 2016, four years after the Olympics opening ceremony, before West Ham play their first competitive match in the stadium.

West Ham have made a compelling case, suggesting they would bring 1.2 million additional people to the Olympic Park every year, raising the profile of the entire Olympic Village through the global reach of the Premier League and its mushrooming overseas TV rights.

The Hammers plan to have a maximum attendance of 100,000 in the all-purpose new stadium with retractable seats to cover the running track to include pop concerts and hand out a section of cheap tickets.

West Ham believe they would have the ideal legacy for the Olympic Park when they pledged to ensure "the park and local businesses would continue to see the increase in footfall they witnessed during the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The Hammers pledged to create 720 new jobs if selected as anchor concessionaires, with a further expansion of the award-winning Community Sports Trust mentor programme promised.

The West Ham bid received support from a host of public figures, who have signed an open letter; actors Ray Winstone, James Corden and former Olympic champions Sally Gunnell and Mark Hunter backed the club's proposals.

The Excel Centre and the East London Business Alliance expressed a desire to see their bid succeed "to ensure that the Olympic Stadium maintains its standing as an international landmark and focal point for business".

Liam Kane, chief executive of the East London Business Alliance, said: "West Ham have been at the heart of east London for longer than I care to remember.

"A move to the Olympic Stadium would not only allow all the fans who can't get tickets now to see the games but, more importantly, the jobs generated by the move, both during construction and in operation, would be very welcome to the unemployed residents of the area."




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