The owners of the London Stadium have demanded that top-flight English soccer side West Ham United take back a claim that they ‘deliberately misled’ the public when claiming the Premier League club’s rent “does not even cover the cost of staging matches”.
Sir Peter Hendy, chairman of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), which owns the 57,000-seater venue, has written an open letter to London Assembly chairman Tony Arbour outlining the stadium’s losses.
The move comes after the LLDC said on Friday that the stadium, originally built for the 2012 London Olympics, stands to make losses for the next 97 years, partly owing to the low rent paid by the Hammers, which currently accounts for around UK£3 million each year.
In response, West Ham then released a statement claiming that they contribute a total of UK£10 million annually in revenue, also criticising the LLDC for its ‘strategy to point the finger at West Ham United’.
West Ham’s move to the stadium has been marred by controversy since it was revealed that UK taxpayers are forced to stump up cash for certain running costs of the venue, and the club said they were concerned ‘the public and, more importantly, taxpayers’ were being ‘deliberately misled’ by comments made by LLDC chief executive Lyn Garner.
Hendy, however, has labelled West Ham’s response as ‘extremely serious and damaging’, maintaining that ‘it remains a fact that the West Ham usage fee does not cover event day costs’.
‘This is an extremely serious and damaging statement to make against public officials appearing before elected assembly members and we will be asking West Ham to retract the claim,’ read Hendy’s letter.
‘Their claim that we enjoy UK£10 million from our association with West Ham is simply wrong and the money we generate from West Ham does not cover the cost of putting on the match days.
‘We are not pointing the finger at West Ham for this, it is just a fact and something we have to deal with.’
Hendy added that West Ham’s contract is just one area which contributes to the stadium’s financial problems. He also cited the cost of seat moves for soccer and athletics events, the venue’s contract with UK Athletics and high running costs as other contributing factors.
The fallout marks the latest episode in a bitter dispute between West Ham and their stadium landlords. It was revealed in July close to UK£450,000 of taxpayers’ money had been spent on the unsuccessful search for a naming rights sponsor for the venue, which cost UK£323 million to convert into a soccer stadium after an original projection of UK£190 million.