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Stadium's future remains unclear

The long-term future of the Olympic Stadium remained unclear after it was confirmed that the deal with West Ham United and Newham Council had collapsed.

Sports minister Hugh Robertson said it was better to stop the current arrangement "dead in its tracks" rather than let it remain "bogged down in legal paralysis" as court challenges to the previous plans loomed.

Former London mayor Ken Livingstone described the situation as a "fiasco" and called for swift action to resolve it.

Legal challenges by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient, plus an anonymous complaint to the European Commission, had led to fears that court action could drag on for years while the stadium remained empty. It will now remain in public ownership and be leased out to an anchor tenant following a new tender process by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady confirmed the club would bid to become a tenant. The collapse of the deal for West Ham to buy the stadium has left a funding gap of up to £60 million needed to transform it so it can be leased out.

The plan would have seen the £95 million cost split, with £35 million from the Olympics budget, £20 million from West Ham and £40 million from Newham Council. If similar changes are to be made then only the £35 million is guaranteed and a gap of £60 million will have to be filled.

The biggest problem concerned the complaint to the Commission that the £40 million from Newham was effectively "state aid" and therefore broke competition rules.

The minister said the public ownership of the stadium would allow Newham to commit that money - though it has yet to say it will do so - and any gap would be covered by rental income.

Prospective tenants will be asked to bid for the stadium, with the running track remaining in place. It is understood that no contract has been signed with West Ham, allowing the move to a fresh tender process, but the club will be encouraged to bid again.

A joint statement by Ms Brady and Newham chief executive Kim Bromley-Derry said they welcomed the move to end uncertainty "and allow a football and athletics stadium to be in place by 2014 under a new process".


From Belfast Telegraph