English Premier League club West Ham United has stated it can now focus on its “groundbreaking” plans to transform London’s Olympic Stadium after League One club Leyton Orient lost its bid to win a judicial review into the contentious decision over the legacy usage of the venue.
Orient had argued that the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) was wrong to award sole tenancy to West Ham and wanted to share the venue. Orient chairman Barry Hearn has long battled against the decision, claiming West Ham’s move into its local catchment area would have a damaging effect on the future of his club. Orient had stated it did not want to “disrupt or delay” West Ham’s move. However, at the High Court, BBC London said Mr Justice Lewis stated the LLDC was entitled to make the decision which was not “irrational”.
West Ham was confirmed as the anchor tenant for the Olympic Stadium in March after a final agreement was reached on the nature of the funding package for the facility’s redevelopment into a venue suitable for top flight football. The end to the long-running process to secure the future of the Olympic Stadium sees the Premier League club’s 99-year concession commence in the summer of 2016. West Ham will move into the Stadium after it is transformed into a UEFA category four venue with 54,000 seats – a reduction from its present 80,000 capacity. Following the full opening of the venue in 2016, the Stadium will also become the new national centre for athletics. Commenting on Thursday’s High Court ruling, West Ham said: “Although the application for a judicial review would not have had any impact on West Ham United’s move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the club have always believed the process was robust, fair and transparent. The club and other key stakeholders in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park can now focus fully on progressing their groundbreaking plans to create a stunning venue of which the whole country can be proud, alongside a long-lasting and tangible Olympic legacy with a real community club at its core. West Ham United will continue its consultation with supporters to ensure the Hammers’ new home is the pride of east London and the envy of the rest of the footballing world.”
Orient said it feels “a real sense of injustice” at the decision, adding that it will now consider how best to proceed. The club said in a statement: “Our real concern is the lack of transparency that has been shown throughout the process by a public body. It is deeply disappointing that both the Court and the LLDC have made decisions based only on financial considerations, when the purpose of the Stadium’s legacy was regeneration of the area with a community focus. We believe that the LLDC exercised its discretion to favour West Ham United, no doubt under pressure from West Ham United to make them sole football tenants for the benefit of their ‘brand’. Delivering a new brand to West Ham United was not the intended purpose of the Olympic Stadium, and we now have to look to the House of Lords to find a common sense solution for Olympic legacy and local community.”