Football fans’ calls for West Ham stadium inquiry rejected
PUBLISHED: 16:46 03 September 2015 | UPDATED: 10:36 04 September 2015
The government has rejected a plea by supporters of eight London football clubs to open an inquiry into West Ham FC’s tenancy of the former Olympic stadium.
The Hammers were awarded the state-of-the-art ground in Stratford earlier this year. But the deal was mired in controversy after it was revealed that the taxpayer would pay the lions share of the stadium’s conversion for football use.
A BBC documentary also uncovered that the club, playing at their traditional Upton Park home for the last time this season, would not pay for many of the stadium’s running costs.
In response, fans from clubs including Chelsea, Arsenal and former stadium bid rivals Tottenham Hotspurs sent in a petition last month to central government calling for an inquiry into the awarding of the stadium.
A spokesman for the coalition has described the deal as “shady”, adding: “The fact that so many supporter groups have come together to call for this inquiry shows that the issues raised go beyond football tribalism.
“As football fans and as taxpayers, we want to see the preservation of fair competition and full transparency in public finances.
“This shady deal is not in the interests of the game of football and does little to promote public confidence in the way our money is being spent.”
The Department of Culture, Media and Sport today rejected the petition and stood firm against calls for greater scrutiny.
In response to the petition, a spokesman said the stadium remained in public ownership, part of a joint venture between the London Legacy Development Corporation and Newham Council, and the profits from its multiple uses “will flow to the taxpayer”.
Events set to take place at the stadium, including the Rugby World Cup that starts this month, will not benefit West Ham United, he said, adding: “The agreement with West Ham United, including their contribution to transformation costs and rent, followed an open competitive process, which was delivered under EU rules, conducted visibly and exposed to significant scrutiny.
“The outcome has been tested in the courts and upheld. As the winning bid this constituted the best available return for the taxpayer and secures the commercial viability of a national asset for the next 100 years.”
The petition requires 100,000 votes if it is to be considered for parliamentary debate.
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