- Team gets stadium operator to pay for security, maintenance
- Details of deal released under freedom of information act
West Ham United is gaining a major financial advantage over its Premier League rivals with next season’s move into London’s Olympic stadium.
The East London team won’t have to pay many of the costs associated with hosting games that other teams do. The Hammers move into the facility that hosted the London 2012 Olympics next season, and information released Thursday shows the publicly-owned arena’s operator will pay for everything from security to turf maintenance and even corner flags.
West Ham, which is sixth in the league this season, will pay 2.5 million pounds ($3.5 million) annually in a 99-year agreement with the London Legacy Development Corp. The 207-page contract was published following public anger and freedom of information requests over the deal. The stadium was built to be a track-and-field facility that didn’t require a soccer tenant to remain economically viable. That had been the pledge of Sebastian Coe, who led the London 2012 games, and who is now the president of the International Association of Athletics Federations.
It cost more than 270 million pounds to convert the 60,000-seat facility into one suitable for soccer, taking the total cost of the Olympic Stadium to more than 700 million pounds. West Ham is contributing just 15 million pounds towards the work.
The release of the contract “is the right decision for the taxpayer, and the right decision for football,” said the Olympic Stadium Coalition, a group that petitioned for the details of the contract to be released. "This is a victory for the power of football supporters: Organized, focused and willing to work together to achieve a collective goal."
The stadium’s operator said it was "disappointed" the details of the deal were published, and that it may hurt its ability to negotiate future contracts.
"The stadium needs to be a profitable and successful commercial operation otherwise it will rely on public subsidy," a LLDC spokesman said.
The contract shows the agency will keep the first 4 million pounds of a stadium-naming rights agreement over the next 20 years, with the remainder being split on a 50-50 basis. West Ham will pay 100,000 pounds a game should the team exceed a total of 25 matches a season, and face paying further costs of up to 1 million pounds a season based on the team’s on-field success.
"We welcome the publication of the concession agreement as it proves that, as we have always maintained, the club has nothing to hide," West Ham said in a statement.
The fate of the stadium is the most high-cost struggle of re-using facilities from London’s largely successful staging of the Olympics. After the legacy corporation decided to scrap plans for an athletics only arena, there were legal challenges and a complaints from London teams. West Ham beat out a a bid from Tottenham, which planned to demolish the venue and rebuild its own facility.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger last week described West Ham’s move into the stadium as "winning the lottery."
Arsenal financed its move to a new stadium in 2006. Repaying loans related to 470 million pounds construction meant the team wasn’t able to, until recently, spend as much on buying new talent as some of its rivals.
"We offered the best deal and the only option for a true and lasting legacy for Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park," West Ham said.