Belfast Telegraph

Boris Johnson happy to publish details of West Ham's Olympic Stadium move

Boris Johnson says he would be "perfectly happy" for the financial details of West Ham's move to the Olympic Stadium to be made public.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) - set up to ensure the long-term success of the London 2012 site - and West Ham have insisted the deal involving the largely taxpayer-funded stadium should remain private for reasons of commercial confidentiality.

But the Information Commissioner has ruled the details of the deal should be disclosed and Mayor of London Johnson says he has no problems with that decision.

"I would be perfectly happy to publish the details of the arrangement," Johnson said at the London Assembly Mayor's Question Time on Wednesday.

"I understand the football club concerned is not so keen because they think it will give other clubs an inside into their finances and so forth."

The Hammers will take on a 99-year deal as anchor tenants starting from next season but the decision to hand West Ham the keys to the stadium has been questioned since it was first announced two and a half years ago.

A BBC documentary aired last month detailed figures it claimed West Ham would be saving due to the agreement with the LLDC, the annual rental fee on the 99-year lease reported to be around £2.5million.

Johnson was quizzed on the deal by Andrew Dismore, the Labour London Assembly for Barnet and Camden, who said the Mayor had wanted to cover up the "anti-competitive" deal until the Information Commissioner's ruling "because the football has taken you to the cleaners".

"We have been very up front over not publishing the details so far as we have only just concluded the final letting contracts," Johnson said.

"We did not want to put anything out that would impact on our ability to negotiate future contracts.

"But it should be a matter of public record and we should be very proud that we have got a Premiership football team in that stadium.

"The stadium has been a fantastic success. It is doing brilliantly and it is basically unlike any other Olympic Stadium around the world as it has a long-term viable future with Premiership football at the heart of the deal.

"I thought that was the right way forward for London and the right way forward for the Olympic Stadium. There are Olympic Stadiums around the world that are totally mothballed and don't have any real activation in them. Go to Athens, go to Beijing.

"It was perfectly obvious to me that the stadium could not have had a long-term future without a Premiership club in it.

"We've got nothing to hide, we've got a very good rental agreement with West Ham and it's fantastic that we will not be spending any more public money on this, so let's get it out there."

West Ham, in a statement on Wednesday afternoon, said they supported Johnson's stance that their move from Upton Park provides a sustainable future for the Olympic Stadium.

But the Barclays Premier League club challenged Johnson's comments suggesting the financial terms of the deal should be made public and endorsed the LLDC's view that doing so would damage the taxpayer in future.

"West Ham United shares the Mayor's view that our presence at the former Olympic Stadium guarantees it a viable and sustainable future," said a club spokesman.

"Our 99-year agreement will not only return hundreds of millions of pounds to the taxpayer, it will also ensure that London's Olympic Stadium will not join the long list of other former Olympic Stadiums that are rotting away through lack of use.

"The LLDC have stated their disappointment at the Information Commissioner's Office ruling as they believe it will damage their ability to secure the best deal for the taxpayer in future and we share those sentiments.

"The club would like to point out, so that everyone is 100 per cent clear, that it is not party to the Freedom of Information Act, and that the Information Commissioner's Office ruling is not against West Ham United, it is against the LLDC.

"The club is now working with the LLDC to decide the appropriate next step."


From Belfast Telegraph