Spurs facing investigation

BY foxsports • November 8, 2011

OPLC chairman Baroness Ford told the London Assembly the Metropolitan Police were now conducting an investigation into that surveillance. The bitterness of the battle for the £486million Olympic Stadium was publicly laid bare as Ford, head of the body in charge of securing a viable economic future for the home of the London 2012 Games, said: "The thing that I have learned in the last 12 months is that there has been all kinds of behaviour. "There has been legal challenges and people have stood behind it anonymously - all kinds of things have happened. "My board were put under surveillance by Tottenham Hotspur and the chairman of Tottenham Hotspur felt confident enough to say that in the Sunday Times several months ago that all 14 members of my board were put under surveillance. "The Metropolitan Police are now conducting an investigation into that surveillance. "There has been all kinds of behaviour here that I could not have anticipated which, believe me, has not been pleasant in the last 12 months.'' A deal with West Ham and Newham Council to use the stadium in Stratford, east London, after the 2012 Games collapsed last month amid legal challenges, with the Government announcing that the stadium would remain in public ownership. Tottenham had already lost out to West Ham in the race to become the OPLC's first choice to move into the stadium after the Games. Legal challenges by Tottenham and Leyton Orient, plus an anonymous complaint to the European Commission, had led to fears that court action could drag on for years while the stadium remained empty. A new tender process is being launched by the OPLC and the showpiece venue, complete with an athletics track, will now remain in public ownership and be rented out to an anchor tenant. Baroness Ford told the London Assembly's Economy, Culture and Sport (ECS) Committee: "I am expecting the unexpected because that is what the last 12 months has taught me. "Our job now is to narrow as far as we possibly can the scope now for legitimate legal challenge in this next process - that is all that we can do. "If people want then to be vexatious, frivolous and vindictive or whatever they want - they will do that.'' ECS committee chairman Dee Doocey said: "I personally find it appalling, and I am sure I speak for the rest of the committee, at the very idea of your board being put under surveillance is reprehensible. "It almost beggars belief that this thing can happen. The idea that any board can be put under surveillance is absolutely disgraceful.'' Scotland Yard confirmed today that the investigation into the surveillance claims are "very much active''. A spokesman said: "We can confirm that West Ham Football Club and the Olympic Park Legacy Company have made allegations to the Metropolitan Police Service in respect of the unlawful obtaining of personal information. "These allegations have been assessed and an investigation has now commenced by officers from the Economic and Specialist Crime Command.'' Controversy has surrounded the future use and legacy of the Olympic Stadium with critics saying that the insistence of keeping a running track may have put off potential tenants and users. This has always been a bone of contention with critics suggesting that a football-only stadium would be the best way to maintain the atmosphere for fans. Capacity at the 80,000-seat stadium is set to be shrunk after the Games. A football club as a tenant is still possible. Original proposals were for the stadium to become a 25,000-seat venue with an athletics track. West Ham, in its joint bid with Newham Council, had intended to convert the venue into a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use. The state aid of £40 million that Newham were putting into the project had become a point of legal challenge. Tottenham's plans, as part of a joint bid with the AEG sport and entertainment group, was to create a football-only stadium without the track and redevelop Crystal Palace for athletics. Baroness Ford pointed to arenas in Berlin and Zurich as among the examples of 14 European venues which are "mixed use stadiums that are commercially viable''. This is the plan for the London 2012 stadium. There can be no cast-iron guarantees but the starting point of the process for the future of London's Olympic Stadium is to avoid public subsidy for the venue or for revenue from other parts of the Olympic Park to subsidise the stadium. OPLC chief executive Andrew Altman said: "We are looking to maximise every potential different source of revenue from the naming rights to the different operating concessions. The goal here is to try and drive it down so there is not any public subsidy. "Do not forget that the base would have been ongoing public subsidy because it would have been a 25,000-seat athletics stadium - implicit in that is public subsidy. What we are doing is trying to do as much as we can to reduce away from that model. "It will take some time and it will take some clever restructuring, but I think that we can get there.'' Asked whether the OPLC would expect to make up any shortfall with proceeds from the Olympic Park or from the taxpayer, Baroness Ford said: "We are not anticipating there will be any shortfall. We are entering commercial negotiations, not anticipating a shortfall. "We are not going into this competition with the notion that there will be cross-subsidy. We are going into this competition on the basis that there is enough commercial value in there for this to work. "In the event that does not happen, there is planning consent to convert the stadium. There is money in the budget to transform that stadium and there was always an understanding that would take public subsidy to run. "I am trying to get away from that position but if we have to go back to that and if that means going back to the national athletics stadium and that is all that is there - then yes, it will need public subsidy. We are hoping not to go there.'' The previous preferred bidder deal had became stuck in a legal paralysis which hamstrung the OPLC over the timings of future progress on the stadium, Baroness Ford said. She stated she was "not apologetic'' for shutting down the West Ham deal, adding: "It became evident whatever the outcome the Commission had decided to take however long they wanted to review this. "It was evident that forever as long as this original competition was running the we could not get over and do the work we needed to do to close this deal to transform this stadium. "This time we have narrowed the scope for any challenge on state aid by offering a rental as opposed to ownership of the stadium - that will be a key difference. We could not have carried on with the original competition in the teeth of complaints. "I also find it quite sickening that it was an anonymous complaint to the Commission. If you have a complaint, you should have the backbone to say who you are and fight your corner.'' The competition for the stadium is now being restructured in light of the "serious complaints'' and the OPLC will go to the market "shortly'' with an offer for rental of the stadium. The OPLC will be in charge of the transformation. "We as the OPLC will be doing it to our timescale and not doing it while dancing to somebody else's tune,'' Baroness Ford stated. The new process is due to end by the spring.

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