West Ham United may face further frustration in its efforts to secure London’s Olympic Stadium as its new home, amid reports that the future of the venue may not be decided by the original deadline of the end of this month.
Following an extension to the bidding period, the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in July announced that bids had been received from Premier League club West Ham, League One team Leyton Orient, Intelligent Transport Services “in association with Formula One” and UCFB College of Football Business. West Ham is widely believed to be the front-runner in the process to secure a new anchor tenant for the centrepiece of London’s Olympic Games and is keen to move in ahead of the 2014-15 season. However, negotiations with the LLDC are reportedly at a delicate stage over modifications to be made to the stadium at a cost of up to £160 million and who will pay for them.
LLDC chief executive, Dennis Hone, told The Guardian newspaper that talks were entering the “end game” ahead of a crucial board meeting next week, but said there was no “knockout” bid and the arguments for and against football and the changes demanded by West Ham remained finely balanced. “If we can’t come to a conclusion, in the scheme of things if it slips another month or two I’d rather get the right solution,” said Hone. “Yes, the stadium is tricky. But it’s tricky because we want to get it right. I would hate to bung someone in there and see it fall apart in five years. If it takes a couple of extra months to get there, then so be it.”
The bids aim to add to the legacy uses already secured for the £486 million Olympic Stadium. It is already set to become the new national home for athletics and host to the 2017 World Athletics Championships. While football would attract large crowds on a regular basis, Hone said that aside from the stadium conversion there were also additional costs in terms of stewarding and transport considerations. He added: “We’ve had discussions with all of the bidders. The difficulty is that we’re balancing the adaptations we have to make to the stadium against the proposals that have come in and the benefits – financial and otherwise – that those proposals bring. If it was a knockout (verdict) it would be an easy decision, but it’s not.” The Guardian reports that a decision on the stadium could be pushed back as far as December if no agreement is reached at this month’s board meeting.