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Barry Hearn: My dog could've negotiated better Olympic Stadium deal for taxpayer

Published 14/04/2016

The details of West Ham's deal to lease London's Olympic Stadium, built for the 2012 Games, have been published
The details of West Ham's deal to lease London's Olympic Stadium, built for the 2012 Games, have been published

Former Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn says his dog could have negotiated a better deal than the one which will see West Ham play at the Olympic Stadium for £2.5million per year.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the publicly-funded authority which owns the stadium, on Thursday published its full deal with West Ham, who will take up their 99-year tenancy in August.

And the £48,000 per week deal shows the LLDC must provide the goalposts and corner flags and is responsible for costs associated with maintenance, policing, cleaning and pest control at the 60,000-seat arena.

Hearn, who failed in a bid for Orient to share the stadium, told BBC Sport: "It's a hugely beneficial deal to West Ham and good luck to them. They've negotiated a good deal.

"I can't say the same for the LLDC who should go back to negotiation school. My dog could have negotiated a better deal for the taxpayer."

An Information Tribunal on Monday rejected LLDC's appeal against a London Assembly ruling that the contract between it and the Premier League club should be made public.

LLDC, responsible for transforming venues used for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, did not appeal and the contract was published in full on Thursday. A redacted version was made available last October.

TaxPayers' Alliance chief executive Jonathan Isaby said the contract was "ludicrously generous" and "the deal of the century".

He added: "Those of us footing the bills deserve a proper explanation."

Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger, who oversaw the Gunners' move from Highbury to the £390m, 60,000-seat Emirates Stadium and the accompanied straitened spending, last week compared West Ham's deal to winning the lottery.

Speaking prior to the full publication of the contract, Wenger said: "I say 'well done, you have won in the lottery, and you do not need to sweat like I did for long years, and fight for every pound'."

Tottenham lost their bid to be lead tenant of the Olympic Stadium and are now building their own stadium adjacent to their White Hart Lane home at an estimated cost of £750m.

And football finance expert Rob Wilson, of Sheffield Hallam University, says it is clear why some of the Hammers' Premier League rivals might complain about the deal.

Wilson told Press Association Sport: "They've really got it for a steal. Anything £5m and upwards would have been an appropriate figure that would probably give better value to the taxpayer.

"The costs to Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur will be far, far greater and you can probably understand why some of West Ham's closest competitors in the Premier League are saying this is competitively unfair. They've got much more disposable income."

LLDC's objection to the publication of the contract was based around securing future business for the multi-purpose venue on the 340 days a year when West Ham are not playing. That would include hosting music concerts, for example.

An LLDC spokesperson said: "We were concerned that the publication of this contract and the precedent it may set for future agreements could make it harder to do this."

The stadium will host the 2017 IAAF and IPC Athletics World Championships and there is a 50-year agreement for British Athletics to use the venue each July.

The transformation of the venue from its Olympic and Paralympic condition cost £272m, with West Ham contributing £15m.

The Hammers will pay an annual rent of £2.5m for 25 matches - or £1.25m if they fall out of the top flight - with a £100,000 fee for any additional match.

Performance-related payments are in place for finishing positions in the Premier League (first to fifth place costs £100,000) and winning the FA Cup and Europa League (both £100,000).

Qualifying for the Champions League would incur a fee of £250,000, while winning it would cost £1m.

The Hammers, who are the sole beneficiaries of ticket sales, are currently sixth in the Premier League.

The contract also showed the first £4m of any naming rights for the stadium would go to LLDC, with any figure above that split 50-50 between LLDC and West Ham.

Wilson believes the Hammers could command £8m to £10m per year for naming rights.

LLDC would receive between £9m and £90m if West Ham were sold, although co-chairman David Sullivan and David Gold have no intention of offloading the club.

Revenue from catering and stadium tours would also go to LLDC.

The Hammers are due to move into the arena in time for the start of the 2016/17 Premier League season.

In a statement on their website, West Ham made it clear they had no objection to the contract being made public.

"The club has nothing to hide," the club statement said.

"We firmly believe it is a great deal for both West Ham United and also the taxpayer."

Olympic Stadium Coalition, a coalition of 14 supporters' trusts and groups, had been campaigning for the contract to be published.

It said it would take time to digest the 207-page report.

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