Belfast Telegraph

West Ham United's 'deal of the century' on stadium just got worse for taxpayers

West Ham United has become embroiled in further controversy after it emerged the club will pay just a fraction of the £2.3 million annual business rates bill on its London Stadium home.

Owners E20 Stadium, a joint venture between publicly funded London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council, have revealed the Hammers will pay additional rates on just the retail and office space in the 66, 000-capacity stadium.

In a response to a Freedom of Information request seen by the Press Association, E20 confirmed it will pick up the bill for the rest of the entire stadium, dealing yet another blow to the taxpayer after West Ham secured the lease last year for just £2.5 million a year in rent.

The revelation comes days after mobile phone giant Vodafone pulled out of a £20 million naming rights deal to sponsor West Ham's London Stadium.

It also follows just weeks after o fficials from HM Revenue and Customs dramatically raided the Premier League club's offices at the stadium as part of a wider investigation into allegations of tax evasion in football.

E20 declined to reveal how much West Ham would contribute in business rates, saying this was still under discussion, despite West Ham having relocated last year.

It is likely to be far less than the £1.3 million it would have forked out in rates each year for its former home at The Boleyn Ground, according to business rent and rates specialist CVS.

Dubbed by critics as the "deal of the century", West Ham's lease agreement has come under heavy fire while it has also been revealed the taxpayer will foot the bill for the costs of policing, stewarding, heating, maintenance of the pitch and even corner flags and nets.

Its deal to share the rates bill is also likely to fuel anger among rival clubs, many of whom are paying millions of pound in property rates each year.

The TaxPayers' Alliance said the "deal of the century now looks even worse for taxpayers".

James Price, campaign manager at the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "When other football stadiums are paying millions in business rates, it is ridiculous to expect taxpayers to pick up this tab for West Ham every single year, especially when considering the deal they got for the stadium in the first place.

"The whole relationship between West Ham and taxpayers needs to completely change."

The annual rates bill for the London Stadium was £2.1 million in 2016/17 and surged to £2.3 million after the tax shake-up on April 1, according to CVS.

A spokesman for E20 said : "West Ham United does not own the stadium and only has full use of it on a certain number of days each year, for which they pay £2.5 million annually.

"In addition, they pay the business rates for the office space and other areas they occupy exclusively. They do so via a contribution to the overall rates bill."

Rivals clubs are also facing steep hikes in their rates bills, with new Premier League Champions Chelsea paying £2 million this year in business rates for Stamford Bridge, while Arsenal will pay £3.3 million for rates on the Emirates Stadium.

The £700 million London Stadium has been dogged by negative headlines about its expense for almost a decade. Last year, London mayor Sadiq Khan ordered a review into the spiralling costs of converting it from an athletics arena into a multi-purpose venue with football at its heart.

A spokesman for West Ham United said: "West Ham United only use the stadium facilities on matchday so, as tenants, we pay for the share of rates on those matchdays.

"We also, as tenants with our own specific areas, are liable for rates on the club offices, shop and warehouse. We will be separately assessed on this by the Valuation Office and this will be backdated to when we first moved in."

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