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West Ham look favourites to take over Olympic Stadium

Football News 24/7
Ahead of an official statement later on Wednesday 4th December it is an open secret that West Ham will be offered the keys to the Olympic Stadium to create a 60,000 seater venue. There is one major caviat though, West Ham's owners must agree to share the profits from any future sale of the Premier League club if they are to be granted the right to move into the Olympic Stadium according to the BBC.

Not surprisingly, Mayor of London Boris Johnson says West Ham's market value would be increased significantly by winning the 99-year lease and therefore any deal rests on club owners David Sullivan and David Gold meeting the key condition.

With so much public money invested in the stadium - first to build it and now to convert it for top-flight football - Johnson is concerned that the taxpayer could be left out of pocket if the duo later decided to sell the club on.

The board of the London Legacy Development Corporation, chaired by Johnson, will meet on Wednesday to rank the four organisations who have submitted bids to use the stadium. In addition to West Ham, League One side Leyton Orient, UCFB College of Football Business and a consortium linked to Formula 1 have all tabled offers.

Converting the stadium for future use won't come cheap. Adding retractable seating and fully extending the roof on the venue - now seen as an iconic venue following London's successful staging of the 2012 Games - will cost between £130m and £150m, on top of the £429m it cost to build the stadium for the Games.

The vast majority of that conversion money will come from a mix of public funding, including a £40m loan from Newham Council, the local authority.

For some time, there has been concern over a shortfall in the funding, especially with West Ham only willing to commit around £15m, but sources tell me that is now less of a problem.

Instead, the major stumbling block is the question of how to divide up the profits from any future sale of the club.

Sullivan and Gold are thought to have spent around £50m in acquiring a 50% controlling stake in West Ham in January 2010. They have also covered the club's vast debts, estimated to be around £70m.

With the Premier League's domestic TV rights set to increase by 60% from next season, West Ham could become a very attractive acquisition if they can retain top-flight status and secure a long-term future at the Olympic Stadium.

They would also raise money from the sale of their current ground, Upton Park.

West Ham, currently lying eighth in the Premier League table in their first season back in the top flight, will be ranked first - another significant step on the road to securing a lasting legacy for the stadium - but it could be some months before a deal is finally completed.

West Ham's Olympic Stadium move can create a super club in east London
The selection of West Ham as preferred bidders for the Olympic Stadium should trigger bubbles on Green Street and relief in City Hall and Westminster.

But there is another constituency who should view the decision not with delight, but deep trepidation. For West Ham’s competitors at either end of the Premier League, the move to what will be the second-largest stadium in the league is bad news.

By securing a 60,000-seat stadium West Ham will, at a stroke, move to a new competitive level. The financial benefits of a new ground in the iconic surrounds of the Olympic Park, close to the corporate fortunes of Canary Wharf with excellent transport links, should be vast.

Exploited well, the stadium should guarantee West Ham an annual contest for European football. Instead of yo-yoing between the top two divisions they will be ready to outstrip Aston Villa, Newcastle and Everton, position themselves to take on Tottenham and Liverpool on equal terms, and dream of taking on Arsenal.

KJ

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