Deal Of The Decade?

West Ham United’s move from the Boleyn Ground to Stratford’s Olympic Stadium will cost a mere £2.5 million per annum in rent, according to figures contained in the LLDC’s contract with the club.

Photo by Gerard McGovern. Available for use under the Creative Commons License.

Both West Ham United and the London Legacy Development Corporation had wanted to keep quiet about the figures involved, but a Freedom of Information request initiated by football supporters, has led to the publication of a 207-page document which reveals how much the Hammers will be paying for use of the former Olympic stadium.

The stadium has undergone a number of changes including the addition of a retractable lower seating tier with a capacity of 21,000 seats. This can be rolled forward during the hosting of events such as Premier League football matches, and retracted for athletics events which typically draw smaller crowds. But overall capacity has been reduced from 80,000 during the Olympics to a 60,000 arena, which would still make the stadium one of the largest in the Premier League.

Costs have risen during the transition period, and it is understood that conversion costs have been settled at £272 million. Of that figure, only £15 million will be covered by West Ham United, leaving the remaining costs to be met by the taxpayer.

The stadium’s running costs also seem to been worked out in the club’s favour. Bills to covered by the LLDC include not only minor items such as corner flags, pest control and Tannoy systems, but also important utilities such as security, CCTV surveillance systems and drug testing facilities.

Although on the face of it West Ham have got one of the deals of the century, with Arsenal’s Arsene Wenger declaring that the Hammers had “won the lottery”, costs to the club will rise as a result of performance based clauses contained within the contract. Each season 25 homes games are allowed for within standard terms, but any more than that, and the club will have to pay £100,000 towards the running costs of every game. Furthermore, West Ham will have to pay the same again if they finish in the top half of the Premier League table, with a further £1 million payable if the club wins the UEFA Champions League.

Responding to the Freedom of Information Act ruling, a spokesperson for West Ham United said: “As the commissioner identifies, the factor which sets the agreement with West Ham apart from that of any other stadium user is our commitment to a 99-year commercial lease, which ultimately secured the stadium’s future and the success it is now guaranteed to enjoy. It will be sold out for every West Ham home game from next season onwards, meaning our presence will bring hundreds of millions of additional people and billions of pounds of extra revenue over the course of the tenancy. But whilst someone renting the stadium for 25 days a year cannot be responsible for 365 days’ running costs, going by our performances this season, we hope to deliver additional revenue to the stadium via extended cup runs and big European nights.”

In contrast, a spokesperson for the coalition of supporters’ clubs said: “The hard work now begins to understand the deal, its costs to the taxpayer, and to football, and any further implications. This is a victory for the power of football supporters: organised, focused and willing to work together to achieve a collective goal.”

The Hammers are due to move from Upton Park to Stratford at the beginning of the 2016/17 Premier League season, after beating off competition from Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient for occupancy of the stadium back.

The move comes as part of the London 2012 Legacy project.

Drew Goodselll