By Tony Attwood
The issue of the Olympic stadium is one of the most embarrassing for the government, and one of the most difficult to resolve.
In the build up to the Olympics we were encouraged to snigger at Greece in particular for its failure to find much use for the facilities it built for the two weeks of Olympic tournaments. Now London finds itself in a similar position over the main stadium.
Tottenham Hotspur, Leyton Orient, and West Ham United have all at different times expressed an interest in the ground, although the problem of the running track, which has to be kept at least until the next big athletics meeting is over, is a problem for all of them. Leyton have I think proposed a ground share.
Throughout the whole affair people have been suggesting that something very underhand has been going on, although details have been hard to find. Leyton’s owner has regularly suggested that if matters are not done properly he will take legal action. And the first round of bidding was abandoned with wave after wave of threats of legal action pending. We still don’t know what will happen to the place.
Now in the latest move three people have been charged with fraud. The allegations are that Tottenham Hotspur Football Club spied on Olympic officials during its stadium bid. This follows claims by West Ham United that something very untoward happened to the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).
This is not the first time such an allegation has been made. Olympic Park Legacy Co chairwoman Baroness Ford claimed in November 2011 that Tottenham Hotspur FC had all 14 members of her board monitored by private investigators. It was an astounding allegation, not just that it was made at all, but that it was made on such a scale. Not just tapping the phone of one person, but monitoring all 14! Tottenham Hotspur denied putting officials under surveillance.
Then it emerged in 2011 that the accountancy firm PKF was instructed by Tottenham Hotspur to carry out an investigation linked to the bid. This was highly irregular and the matter was brought up in the High Court. Tottenham did not deny the claim.
So now at last we are starting to see the fall out.
Howard Hill has been charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation – one with Richard Michael Forrest and the other with Lee Stewart. Forrest and Stewart are accused of conspiracy with Hill to commit fraud by false representation and will all appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on November 28.
What is interesting is what might now come out in court. Tottenham Hotspur were much relieved that nothing untoward was revealed when Mr Redknapp was taken to court by the Revenue over the issue of tax evasion. It is unusual for football clubs to be in court in this manner, and to be in court twice in one year must be unprecedented.
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What we do know is that there was a deal of sorts between West Ham United and Newham Council to use the stadium after the Olympic Games, but that ran into trouble both through the desire to hold a major athletics championship there, and the challenge from Tottenham Hotspur and possibly others to fight the decision.
There was also a very curious anonymous complaint to the European Commission. I have never got to the bottom of this one, and it is most odd, since anonymous complaints of this nature are made all the time, and rarely are they taken seriously. But the government felt that if the complaint did come to anything the legal argument could go on for years and years and then some.
So, now we are off again, and once again Tottenham Hotspur seem to be implicated – although we must be very fair and say that no one is charging Tottenham Hotspur with any wrong doing.