By Tony Attwood
If you are a regular reader you may know that we have already run quite a long article about the way the new West Ham stadium is being financed with the club paying little towards the transformation of the ground into a football stadium, and the state financing the building costs, and the day to day running of the stadium.
It was interesting that most of the answers that came back to the Untold view that this is not how it should be, were answers that really had little to do with what seem to me to be the key issue. People wrote in saying that we would shut up if it were Arsenal’s stadium, that if WHU didn’t take it over on these terms, it would lie there empty, that our figures were just plain wrong (even though we were using the same figures as those that the BBC used) and that it wasn’t a breach of EC rules anyway.
The fact is that I’ve been against state aid in terms of football stadia all the way through the history of Untold, and we’ve regularly carried updates on the situation in Spain where several clubs are under investigation for this sort of activity.
The problem we have however is that football clubs tend not to point the finger at each other very often, as they have to do business with each other, and a row with WHU now, could mean a failure to buy a player from there in the future.
So it is now down to the supporters, which is why an alliance of supporters’ trusts including the AST are promoting a petition on the Government website calling for an a public inquiry into the deal for West Ham United to become tenants at the Olympic Stadium.
There are some very serious question to be asked of ministers, Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Mayor of Newham Sir Robin Wales. At a time of massive cuts in central and local government benefits and services, plus a long pay squeeze on public employees why is central, regional and local government offering huge subsidies to the owners of West Ham United?
West Ham has only contributed £15m towards the £272m conversion costs of the Olympic Stadium, with the taxpayer footing the rest of the bill.
On top of the minimal conversion contribution, West Ham has been allowed to keep the sale proceeds of their current stadium, valued at £71m. Rental is £2.5m a year, halving should WHU be relegated. Taxpayers will cover the costs of stadium utilities, security, pitch maintenance, goalposts and corner flags – estimated to be worth £1.4m – £2.5m a year.
Our argument is that public money should be used responsibly, and in a way which does not distort the competitiveness of independent sports bodies and businesses.
And thus considering the cost to the taxpayer, and the effect of this taxpayer subsidy on competition between clubs, a full public inquiry into the deal is needed.
The petition has been a success in that we have already raised enough signatures to ask the government to make a response to the petition. But it is still worth adding signatures. Indeed if we hit 100,000 signatures we would have a chance of a debate in parliament.
Given that Untold gets 1 million page views a month, this ought to be possible!
If you feel that this is a cause worth following, and you are resident in the UK please do click on this link to join the petition.