While Tottenham and West Ham fight for the 2012 venue... will the Olympic stadium end up in foreign hands?


The £500million Olympic Stadium being built for next year's London Games could end up in foreign hands if the bid to take over the venue by Tottenham Hotspur succeeds.

Opponents of the club's ambitions for the stadium claim that, despite construction costs being funded from tax revenues and Lottery money, the beneficiaries of a deal with Spurs could ultimately be a billionaire tax exile and investors from the ambitious Middle East state of Qatar.

ENIC, the investment company ultimately owned by Joe Lewis, who lives in the Bahamas, and chaired by Tottenham chief Daniel Levy, could pocket £200m by taking on the Olympic Stadium then selling Spurs to foreign owners.

Foreign land? Spurs' plans tot ake over Olympic stadium could lead to site fallign into foreign hands

Foreign land? Spurs' plans to take over Olympic stadium could lead to site falling into foreign hands

With Tottenham appointing spin doctor Mike Lee, who advised the successful Qatari World Cup bid for 2022, to argue their case, it is conceivable that the ultimate beneficiaries of the Olympic Stadium could be the Qatar Investment Authority, who would be a front runner to buy Spurs.

Tottenham are involved in an increasingly bitter battle with West Ham over which of the two clubs will win the right to move into the Olympic Stadium following the 2012 Games.

Whoever is successful would not own the stadium, which would be leased from the Olympic Park Legacy Company. But the tenant club would be able to exploit the venue for gain by, for example, selling naming rights worth around £15m a year.

Backing the bid: Tottenham chairman Levy and Mills London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills
Backing the bid: Tottenham chairman Levy and Mills London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills

Backing the bid: Tottenham chairman Levy and London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills

They would also benefit from the infrastructure of the site, also funded by the taxpayer and Lottery money. While West Ham might ultimately be sold on to foreign owners, too, if they were the Olympic tenants, the stadium would be converted into a site for community use and would retain an athletics track.

That was the promise made by Britain's Olympic bid team when they won the contest six years ago to host the Games. Bizarrely, that bid team included both Lee and current Tottenham director Sir Keith Mills, both of whom are now arguing for the stadium pledge to be broken.

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham who has had insider access to Spurs' owners and power-brokers during the bidding process for the Olympic Stadium, said: 'I've discussed this issue with Daniel Levy a number of times. He knows that my view, shared by most if not all fans, is that Tottenham should stay in Tottenham.

Tottenham v West Ham: The battle to move in after the games pt 1...

1. What plans do the two clubs have for the Olympic Stadium?

TOTTENHAM

They want to knock most of it down, rip up the athletics track and build a 60,000-seat football stadium in which AEG, the American entertainment giant, can also stage concerts.

WEST HAM

They want to scale down the arena and add in commercial facilities as part of a 60,000-seat multi-sport stadium, retaining the athletics track.

2. Would the clubs’ plans for the stadium breach the pledge given for an Olympic legacy?

TOTTENHAM

Undoubtedly. When London won the right to stage the 2012 Olympics, the bid team  promised ‘a purpose-built home for athletics for generations to come’.

WEST HAM

No, and this is their main advantage. In keeping the athletics track and involving the community, they tick most of the right boxes.

3. Where would the money for the stadium plans come from?

TOTTENHAM

From the sale of White Hart Lane, a potential share issue and £35m from the Government - plus up to £150m over 10 years from naming rights.

WEST HAM

Newham Council will loan them £80m (half of which will be  repaid after Upton Park is sold), and the Government will provide another £35m.

'It's my fear that not only will the club move to the London Olympic site in Stratford, but that the move is being driven by money and not the best interests of the club.

'Daniel has made it clear that it's about money, because we all know it will cost more to redevelop White Hart Lane (for around £450m) than to move to the Olympic Stadium (£250m).

'But I fear this is just a step to making Spurs saleable. We've all heard the rumours about Middle East interest, perhaps from Qatar. I put it to Daniel that he wanted to move so he could sell up and he just blushed.'

Tottenham v West Ham: The battle to move in after the games pt 2...

4. When would the stadium be ready for football?

BOTH CLUBS

Building work cannot start before spring 2013 and, while no moving-in date has been released, it would not be before 2014-15.

5. How much would the competing plans cost?

TOTTENHAM

In the region of £250million, with around £25m going to an athletics legacy by improving the Crystal Palace Stadium.

WEST HAM

Around £100m should pay for the work required to adapt the structure.

6. What is the Premier League’s view of the rival bids?

TOTTENHAM

They would rubber-stamp the move despite a rule which covers clubs moving into rival territory.

WEST HAM

They would rubber-stamp the move.

Spurs have said the move is not about 'chasing profit' but have stopped short of declaring that the club will not be sold within a certain time frame.

Spurs could expect to be a more saleable asset in a 60,000- seat venue near the City of London than by staying in the north of the capital. The Qatari royal family, who backed the successful 2022 World Cup bid and have recently agreed a record shirt deal with Barcelona, are understood to be considering club options in the Premier League.

A move to Stratford would be financially good for Spurs' owners, ENIC, not just because it would be cheaper than redeveloping in north London. It would also allow a lucrative fresh income stream from longterm naming rights, worth at least £150m.

Tottenham v West Ham: The battle to move in after the games pt 3...

7. How would the fans be affected?

TOTTENHAM

They would lose a key link to their heritage, have a name with no relation to their location and be too close to West Ham for comfort.

WEST HAM

They might have a few empty seats for company on matchdays, bemoan a slight loss of identity and sit a lot further away from the pitch.

8. What will the clubs do if they don’t move to the Olympic Stadium?

TOTTENHAM

They may go back to their original plan of redeveloping White Hart Lane, although the £450m cost and poor transport links persist.

WEST HAM

Go back to the drawing board. The club have no firm plans to move anywhere else and will have to find a new way to pay off their debts of around £80m.

9. What advantages can each bid claim?

TOTTENHAM

Their bid appears more secure financially, they have 34,000 people on a season ticket waiting list and should be able to offer Premier League football at least.

WEST HAM

They are the local club, can tap into a local fan base and have a plan that would be good for athletics and provide community facilities.

Crucially, a move east would also mean ENIC and Levy could cash in on land sales around their current White Hart Lane ground, where the Tottenham Hotspur Property Company and eight property related subsidiaries have accumulated land.

The board of the Olympic Park Legacy Company will choose between Tottenham and West Ham on January 28. West Ham's bid would also be potentially profitable in the long term for their owners, David Sullivan and David Gold, again because of naming rights and because they would inherit a big new venue for a fraction of the cost it would take to build from scratch.

The key difference between the bids is that Spurs intend to bulldoze the Olympic Stadium and build another one without an athletics track, while West Ham intend to keep the track and leave an Olympics legacy on site.

Tottenham v West Ham: The battle to move in after the games pt 4...

8. Who is in favour of the two clubs’ bids?

TOTTENHAM

AEG and, presumably, some Spurs shareholders who like the idea of saving around £200m on the cost of redeveloping White Hart Lane. London 2012 deputy chairman Sir Keith Mills, a Spurs director, and Leyton Orient would also prefer Tottenham to move in rather than West Ham. Tottenham MP David Lammy opposes the Spurs plan.

WEST HAM

UK Athletics and event company Live Nation, who are bid partners, Essex County Cricket Club, Lord Coe, IOC president Jacques Rogge, the BOA, the IAAF and past and present athletes, including Daley Thompson, Steve Cram and Jessica Ennis.

11. Are the fans in favour of moving  to the Olympic Stadium?

TOTTENHAM

No. A group called We Are N17 have been founded to lobby against the move with protests, petitions and letters to key decision-makers. They have a strong online presence and object to moving out of the club’s traditional base and a lack of consultation.

WEST HAM

Supporters are split with different polls producing contrasting results. There is a group against the move but there cannot be many who want Spurs to move in on their doorstep.


Ed Warner, chairman of UK Athletics, says the OPLC is 'morally obliged' to select West Ham's bid because it will keep the track, and reject what he calls the 'filthy lucre' of Tottenham, who have offered to refurbish Crystal Palace for athletics.

Some football purists argue that a stadium with a track decreases the atmosphere. Rick Parry, the former Premier League and Liverpool chief executive, said: 'When you have a track you lose atmosphere, and the further from the pitch you are the less intimate the experience.'

If there is one sign that West Ham remain slight favourites with the OPLC, it came in a letter to Lammy, who asked the OPLC to 'detail the framework that will be used to make the decision'. One sentence in the reply cites 'elite sport' in a context that suggests something other than football. Only West Ham are offering that.

 


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