Top-flight English soccer side West Ham’s rent at their London Stadium home “does not even cover cost of staging matches”, according to the ground owners.
The Premier League outfit have paid an annual rent of just UK£2.5 million since moving to the 57,000-seater venue in 2016. Since then, however, the stadium, which was built for the 2012 London Olympics, has been riddled with controversy after it was revealed that UK tax payers are forced to foot the bill for certain running costs such as stewarding, goalposts, cleaners and turnstile operators.
Lyn Garner, the recently installed chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), has also warned that “high operating costs” and “a lack of commercialisation” means the stadium faces losses “for the next 97 years”, which is the amount of time remaining on West Ham’s lease.
It was revealed in July that the search for a naming rights sponsor for the stadium has also cost UK taxpayers close to UK£450,000, with LLDC coughing up significant sums to two agencies in an attempt to accelerate the process.
It had been hoped that a sponsorship agreement might offset some of the UK£140 million the stadium is expected to lose over the next ten years, but Garner has now also revealed that West Ham’s lease includes the power to veto any potential naming rights deal.
It was reported that possible naming rights deals for the stadium with telecoms company Vodafone and Indian conglomerate Mahindra have collapsed, but Garner emphasised that the main factor for significant losses continues to be insufficient rent paid by tenants.
“To be honest, what is really driving the problems here are the low rents paid by the concessionaires, particularly West Ham,” she said. “The elephant in the room is the fee that they pay us in a usage cost does not cover the event-day costs, and that's before we go anywhere near a commercial advantage. It simply does not cover the costs of running the events on a day-to-day basis.
“The stadium is a centrepiece of the legacy of the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. It's really important that we tackle the public subsidy issue over the next few years. There is much to do and many reasons for it.”
West Ham have since issued a statement of their own to make it clear that they have offered to help the LLDC identify potential commercial opportunities and have only ever honoured the terms of their tenancy agreement.
"West Ham United initially offered to purchase London Stadium but our request was denied," a club spokesman told BBC Sport. “We were given a tenancy agreement because we were the best offer by far on the table.
“As LLDC acknowledged at the hearing today the losses at the stadium are due to a number of factors, including the extraordinary cost of moving the retractable seating, inefficient operating costs and the absence of a naming rights partner.
"There are other commercial opportunities that they have ignored. West Ham United have offered our experience, expertise and opportunities for shared endeavour every step of the way but these have so far been rejected, as well as considerable cash for additional rights, all of which have also been rejected.
“All we have ever done is honour the terms of our tenancy agreement which has 97 years to run.”