by Tony Attwood
“West Ham United use their stadium largely at taxpayers’ expense”. Yawn yawn, you’ve heard it before. Typical Tony Attwood boring rant.
Except this time that sentence came from the Daily Telegraph, a newspaper generally associated with free enterprise, and read by rear admirals.
But not any more it seems for they continue by mentioning that the lease on the Tax Payers’ Stadium (my name not theirs) “even includes powers to give the club a veto on any naming rights deal to offset costs.”
It appears that “More than half a million pounds has been spent in vain trying to find a stadium sponsor as the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) desperately attempts to balance the books. Sponsorship talks have repeatedly broken down in recent years, with the London Stadium set to lose £140 million over the next decade.”
By why do the sponsors not want to take on the stadium? Is it because they don’t want to be associated with one of the greatest politico-financial cock-ups since the Northern Ireland Green Energy Scheme? Or is because they don’t want to be associated with a club who in the course of 117 years have won the FA Cup three times and the Cup Winners’ Cup once? (That is a trophy every 29 years in case you are wondering).
No! Apparently it is because when a sponsor is found the LLDC has to seek consent from West Ham.
So he we are, us mugs who pay our taxes, now at the whim and mercy of West Ham (annual rent £2.5m and liable to be much smaller next season if they go down – Boris agreed a discount in such circumstances). They did have Vodafone lined up, but they pulled out. No one else is on the horizon. In fact it seems even the horizon has upped sticks and jacked it in.
Meanwhile, relations between LLDC and West Ham, who pay an annual rent of just £2.5million, have apparently been at a very very low ebb of late. The sort of low ebb that is like the Thames when the tide is out. Muddy, mucky, and smelly.
Despite having a contract for the stadium which is the bargain deal of all time since the start of the football league back in the medieval period, West Ham have been making a fuss. They don’t like the beer. There’s some sort of problem with Sky and the covering of the running track that keeps the spectators several km from the pitch is the wrong colour.
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Oh yes and when the snow fell it was the wrong sort of snow. (Actually I made that up, but the rest is all true).
The LLDC want the club to pay £300,000 a year to cover the commercial benefits of this sort of pitch-side branding saying, “Given its potential for the club, and their extremely low level of usage fee, we think they should pay not a one off cost but an annual fee. We have said we do not want a one off price but we want a commercial fee and we will bare the capital costs.”
Meanwhile the money (taxpayers money paid by mugs the like of me) pours out. IMG was paid £260,000. ESP was given £187,000, each to try and get someone, almost anyone, to sponsor the wretched place, but no one wants it. Still, one thing that can be said for Boris deal – it only has another 96 years to run. After that there is a chance that the new agreement might actually make West Ham pay for stewarding, goalposts, corner flags, cleaners and turnstile operators.
There is now even an argument about who should pay for the big screen maintenance in the ground. You might think that WHU would agree to pay at least for that, but seemingly no. Karren Brady (who said that this was the “most successful stadium migration in the history of football”) has accused LLDC of holding the club to ransom with “underhand” tactics.
Blimey if that is a ransom, my door is open to anyone who wants to hold me to ransom. Just give me a stadium to operate and you can ransom me all you like.
As an LLDC spokesman said: “There are unpaid bills that need to be settled before we enter a deal for 2018-19.” It really does make one blink. Or swear a bit. Or jump up and down.
Should they ever get a company bold enough to stick their name on the ground, LLDC get the first £4m and then WHU get half the rest.
I don’t have anything particular against West Ham. Of course I’m an Arsenal supporter, so there’s all the usual rivalry but nothing more than that. My prime argument is with Boris Johnson who signed off the deal. He is that absolute crook in the affair, the idiot, the nincompoop, the poodle, the burk, the twirp, the turnip, the jobbernowl, the ninnyhammer, the niddy-noddy, the stookie, the puzzlehead, the dizzard, the doddypoll, the dunderwhelp, the clodpate, the sumph.
And then some.
Get rid of him, oh but on the way, make him pay for this almighty cockup.