London Mayor Sadiq Khan has ordered an investigation into a 50 million Pounds increase in the cost of converting London’s 2012 Olympic Stadium into West Ham United’s home ground.
A spokesperson for the London Mayor said: “The mayor is deeply concerned about the finances of the Olympic Stadium, which have clearly been left in a total and utter mess by the previous administration at City Hall.“ In 2015, former mayor Boris Johnson said the change from an Olympics arena to a football stadium would cost 272 million Pounds, a figure which has now risen to 323 million Pounds.
Part of the reason for the increase is a rise in the cost to install and operate the retractable seating, which can be removed for concerts and athletics events. The cost of 8 million Pounds a year is up from an estimated cost of 300,000 Pounds because the company originally contracted for the job had gone bust, according to BBC. An expert said, the ground should be knocked down and rebuilt. Paul Fletcher, who has built or advised on more than 30 new grounds, said it should be rebuilt as fans are too far from the pitch.
Stadium operators London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and the London taxpayer will need to pick up the additional costs, with Premier League side West Ham contributing 2.5m-a-year rent, plus the one-off 15 million Pouns for the conversion cost. Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham – the borough which co-owns the stadium after investing £40m – said he “fully supported” the call for an independent review into the rising costs. “We have a duty to taxpayers to scrutinize this,” he added.
John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “For too long the details of this shabby deal were kept in secret and lacked proper scrutiny so Sadiq Khan is absolutely right to look again at the case. It’s now down to those in charge of the inquiry to get to the bottom of how West Ham were gifted the deal of the century while ensuring their investigation doesn’t end up costing the taxpayer as much as the stadium.” West Ham won the bid to occupy the Olympic Stadium in March 2013 and played their first game there in August 2016, after 112 years at Upton Park.
“It may have been the center piece of London’s glorious 2012 Games, but the story of the Olympic Stadium is becoming more and more troubled,” commented BBC sports editor Don Roan. “Last year, the BBC revealed West Ham were getting the running costs of their new home paid for them. Now its suitability as a football venue is under fierce scrutiny because of disorder at matches. A proposed naming rights partner has walked away, while there is renewed focus on the finances of a stadium that has had to be built twice, at an overall cost of 750 m Pounds… stadium’s legacy, the remarkable deal West Ham struck, and why it was not designed for dual-use from the very beginning.”
This story first appeared in the blog, The Sport Intern. The editor is Karl-Heinz Huba of Lorsch, Germany. He can be reached at ISMG@aol.com. The article is reprinted here with permission of Huba.