West Ham could have saved the taxpayer from burden

gold3West Ham chairman David Gold has reminded his 173,000 twitter followers the Hammers tried to buy the former Olympic Stadium outright which would have saved the tax payer from forking millions in losses each year in operating costs.

Speaking to a couple of Liverpool fans on twitter about the London Stadium a West Ham fan told them: “We offered the best financial package twice. Best Olympic legacy twice. There were no other feasible options. We wanted to buy it & relieve the taxpayer of any burden. But Spurs and Leyton Orient made sure we couldn’t”

BorisGold re-tweeted  both those statements on social media to show his support.

In 2015 Gold told the Leaders in Sport conference about the bidding process: ‘It was a difficult process as a lot of people are aware of, when it became available it became available for sale, the idea was with Newham Council we were going to purchase it, we won that bid.’

‘But because the government wanted to guarantee the stadium for the Rugby World Cup and some athletics, because there were issues raised by other football clubs, Tottenham Hotspur and of course Barry Hearn from Leyton Orient, the government had to renege on a sale deal and pursue a lease deal.’

hearnLeyton Orient and Spurs both pursued judicial reviews which both failed in the high court and the actual person who sunk the deal was architect Steve Lawrence.

Lawrence was the “anonymous person” who complained to the European Union over a £40 million loan deal by Newham Council, which he perceived to constitute illegal state aid. The local authority offered the loan to West Ham as part of their partnership to act as co-tenants of the stadium, under which the ground would have housed a school and community sports facilities within the complex.

Daniel-Levy-TottenhamWhen Lawrence’s anonymous complaint to the EU came to light at the High Court the Olympic Park Legacy Company agreed to scrap the process that would have seen West Ham take it over.

“If it had been shown subsequently to be illegal, and I am not saying that it was necessarily, then in those circumstances then West Ham would have had to repay the subsidy,” Lawrence told Sky Sports News at time.

CoeSome years later the tax payer has since forked out a massive £323m in transformation works with costs consistently spiraling out of control. The owners are expected to make a £8.4m loss this year in operating losses and that is estimated to amount to £36m of losses over the next four years. The owners themselves estimate the fair value of the stadium to be just £22.5m in the current market compared to the £752m invested in it to build it twice.

Steve Lawrence, Barry Hearn and Daniel Levy have got a lot of answering to do in my opinion on top Lord Coe, Ken Livingstone and Tessa Jowell who rejected the Icelandics £100m bid to design it ready for football in the first place.


About Sean Whetstone

I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called MooreThanJustaPodcast.co.uk. A Blogger on WestHamTillIdie.com a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at http://www.youtube.com/MrWestHamFootball, I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh. Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons! Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter

24 comments on “West Ham could have saved the taxpayer from burden

  1. Nice article Sean, it really is a mystery why the architect who for some reason wanted us to groundshare with tottenscum should do this, instead of £40m of state aid and money in the bank it will probably cost at least £500m more and will continue to be a burden on the state.

    I think they should just write it off, sell us the plot and allow us to knock it down and rebuild it thus removing the state aid from any arguement, it is obvious that they cannot make it profitable in its current status and keep an athletics legacy. Its a huge expense to the club but with naming rights, corporate events they could build it with a 100k capacity and a retactable roof thus making it viable also for other sports like american football and rugby aswell as music concerts etc and more importantly have us right in the ref’s ear, I am pretty certain we would have had one or more of those penalties if we had been breathing down Oliver’s neck but there you go, definitely can blame Hearn and Levy and all the other jealous parties as well as Coe et all for the original design cock ups.

  2. Let’s see if any tv network or newspaper has the guts to pick this up and make a song and dance about it. They seem happy to give us a dig and steal articles from here most often.

  3. I have said it twice before on here and I’ll say it again (if only so I can say I told you so) Sullivan will buy the stadium for anything betweeen zero and £50M. How can they justifiably turn down an offer of £50M for a stadium that is currently costing them £8M loss per year and will continue to do so for the next 20 years and then get worse because maintenance costs will kick in? Brady will start negotiations at zero and earn herself another £1M bonus! Sullivan is playing a blinder, we will do a deal after the athletics championships then the legacy can be removed and we can lower the pitch and bring the fans closer.

    They’ll be begging Sullivan soon.

    • I don’t think you are far wrong John … unfortunately the pitch can not be lowered though due to contamination which is a shame …

      • The contamination issue does not stop the pitch being lowered, this issue is all about conversion cost.
        I’d estimate, from many years of carrying out major civil engineering/excavation works in London that no matter how “contaminated” the ground is, you could dispose of the spoil from dropping the stadium bowl (whole track area) by 3-4m for a maximum of about £30m (excluding reconstruction costs). Now that aint cheap but if you were getting the stadium for peanuts then spending £100m-150m on dropping the pitch, moving fans closer, external cladding & maybe a mezzanine floor/internal works would transform the place into the best ground in the country (or atlest give Spurs a run for their money).

    • Interesting article Sean, it always intrigues me how our club is the focal point here and never the planners and decision makers … we may know Mr Lawrence but he has been quoted as saying ‘I was instructed to build as anti a football stadium as possible’ there in lies the issue .. he did a great job …

      For me I can foresee in time that wealth will invest in the club and take us on to challenge the top six, with that wealth they will either build elsewhere and blame breach of tenancy agreements etc etc or they will redevelop the LS itself … how athletics is allowed to dictate where our goverments spends its money is also absurd … £8m a year will soon be stopped for sure … spend that money developing Crystal Palace ..

  4. Great article by the way Sean. Proper Monday morning article right here on C&H. Click bait at its finest lmao. Come on Sean give us your opinion. Sullivan will buy this stadium for less than £50M right? He won’t need Newham to do that either as the banks would back him all day long.

    • John, It is a political issue. Difficult for the politicians to sell something that cost £753m for under £50m. We also still have the EU state aid issue. If we bought a stadium which cost £323m to convert that Steve Lawrence could be filing his complaint. Sure we are leaving the EU but it is impossible to understand as yet which treaties and policies we will sign up to. It would seem the obvious solution to sell the stadium but government doesn’t work like that. I also think West Ham would have to do a tremendous amount of due diligence on what can be done to fix the seat moving problem. Why would we abandon our sweet £2.5m per rent deal to face £10m of operating losses in a year. The business plan would need to change to reduce the cost of police, stewarding and moving seats while increasing revenue from tours, catering, hosting other events and naming rights.

      • Good response Sean. Well thought out as I would expect. However government or not it can’t sustain £8M losses every year and with us on a 99 year peppercorn rent it will always make a loss. I do agree Sullivan will need to do a strict due diligence but most things are achievable and the cost of that will simply effect what he pays for it. I have said before the one factor that may prevent this purchase happening is that West Ham have such a good deal for the next 99 years. However Sullivan is an entrepreneural property owner and his type prefer ownership to leasing. They’ve already tried to buy it once and they will do again. Imo only of course. I’d wager within 5 years and for a lot less than £50M. Gold’s comments above might be part of the process.

        • I don’t think its a ‘peppercorn’ rent. We gave up naming rights and the food & drink income. That total is more than the £4m a year rent that Manchester City pay.

      • I don’t think we would get it and furthermore I don’t think DS and DG would want to buy it, we do have the deal of the century, a rent that will diminish over time, no specific cost for stewarding or policing, a percentage of food and beverages a share of the naming rights etc and all for £2.5m a year for 99 years commercially its a no brainer, the chairmen are sitting on a gold mine.

        • We should actually post to CAST and Richard Head to thank him for helping us get the deal of the century, one to Levy and Hearn also, send them a bottle of Champagne each (cheap stuff, the good stuff is wasted on them).

        • Our £2.5m rent is index linked so will increase over the 99 years

  5. no way will we get the stadium for £50m, get rich owners & offer half the cost of conversion. it would cost another hundreds of £m to make it in to a proper football stadium, so much money has been wasted on this stadium which could have been avoided. Levy never wanted it & Hearn just wanted a hand out

    • So if we don’t get it for a sum that is better than the deal we have already Essex then the government will continue to lose £5/8M year on year for the next 100 years. They have to sell and we are the only buyer in town.

  6. Political hot potatoe. We have to be presented as the saviours of this white elephant rather than someone taking advantage. Perception is the key.

    • Exactly … look at how successful the O2 is these days … why don’t they just let us run the facility full stop … cut out all these management companies bleeding anything they can out of it … they must of had a right laugh over the conversion farce …

  7. Here is my personal idea for what it is worth. The stadium cost the tax payer £323m to transform minus the £15m from West Ham and £1m from Athletics. So the tax payer paid £307m to rebuild. Divide the £307m over 99 years you get £3.1m per year. So the government gives us a 99 year interest free mortgage for £3.1m per year but the stadium is then ours on to do what we want to do with it. Naming rights, other rentals, catering, tours are all ours etc. The business plan would need to tight but it is possible way out for the politicians.

    • Why don’t they just stop the financial bleed on the tax payer now, whatever way they cut the deal someone is going to complain so they may aswell just sell it to us on the proviso we knock it down completely and rebuild it. They should employ the firm that built the Dallas Cowboys Stadium that is the benchmark for what is possible, I still can’t understand why anyone that builds a huge stadium in britain and doesn’t put a roof on the thing, its not like nearly a million of years of history shouldn’t tell you most of the year the weather is bad, the last time we had decent weather we were attached to africa and had elephants roaming across the plains.

      • mammoths even, maybe they had baby Elephants 😉

      • That stadium did cost circa $1.4b though. Lille built a decent 50,000 capacity, retractable roof number for about €300m (not such good value on current exchange rates).

  8. On the back of this, there is an article in the Daily Mail today about government write offs due to failures or changes in direction etc etc, which run into £billions, so this is relatively small scale and could be written off after the championships due to unsustainable operating costs or similar.

    I would think it entirely possible to clean the pitch substrate to enable it to be lowered. There was an asbestos factory nearby to me, which was cleansed by removing and chemically cleaning the land and that is now a housing estate ! so it can be done!

    • I didn’t think that it was a pollution problem. I thought that we couldn’t dig down any further because it would be well below the water table.

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