West Ham preferred bidder for Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium
The Olympic Stadium saw some great athletic moments this summer, but now looks set to host football. Photo: PA

West Ham United have been named as the top choice to move in to the Olympic Stadium when it reopens.

The London Legacy Development Corporation board (LLDC) unanimously made the decision in favour of the Premier League club ahead of rivals from Intelligent Transport Services in association with Formula One, UCFB College of Football Business and Leyton Orient.

LLDC chairman and London Mayor Boris Johnson said: "We had four good bids, as everybody knows. The bid that has been ranked top is West Ham United. I am very pleased about that.

"It will, if it goes through, mean a football legacy for the stadium but there is still a lot of negotiation to go on between the LLDC and West Ham United about the terms of the deal."

Factors such as the final specification for adaptations to the stadium and the funding needed for it, gaining planning permission and getting obtaining appropriate national governing body approvals are among the issues which need to be sorted before a final deal can be struck.

There is also the finalisation of commercial terms to be considered.

Legacy chiefs know the value of the club could increase significantly by a move to the high-profile Olympic Stadium.

They want to protect the investment made by taxpayers in building the venue so they can also get a share of any future benefit.

If a football use can be agreed, the stadium would be reconfigured to provide retractable/moveable seating so there could be a quick changeover between athletics and football use.

Mr Johnson said: "There is no deal-breaker as such.

"It is just a question of making sure that an asset which is a public asset and something that taxpayers put half a billion pounds into, that the value of that is properly reflected in the commercial deal that is now being done with a private sector entity.

"People will understand that my job is to get the best possible deal for the taxpayer."

Mr Johnson said he could imagine a situation where football was not the solution for the future use of the 60,000-seat stadium in the Olympic Park in Stratford, east London.

The LLDC is also working on a detailed design for a non-football option in case West Ham are not able to meet the conditions as first ranked bidder.

Mr Johnson said: "We are very confident there is plenty of time to get the negotiations under way or either to go with Plan B - lots of cultural events or sporting events.

"There are lots of operators coming forward to say how they could animate the stadium in a way that would draw huge numbers of people to the Park."

Plan B would include a mix of cultural, sporting and community use events which would also make it possible to reopen the stadium for use quicker than if it was needed for football.

LLDC chiefs would not be drawn on when a decision for a tenant for the stadium needs to be made but they hope there is still not a lengthy negotiation period still ahead.

A decision on whether football gets the go-ahead would need to be known by March 2013 if the venue were to potentially be part of the plans for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

This would help the rugby organisers who want a long lead-up time to advertise the venue and sell tickets.

The LLDC are now looking for a stadium operator to manage the venue, co-ordinate community and sporting use, and to bring in various concerts and events for whichever option is eventually pursued.

If a deal is reached with West Ham, the LLDC will also explore the possibility of accommodating University College of Football Business in the stadium. Leyton Orient FC has been unsuccessful due to issues relating to commercial viability.

The Intelligent Transport Services proposal for the stadium use had too much uncertainty in relation to key aspects of their bid and assumptions in their business plan, the LLDC said.

London 2012, the Olympic and Paralympic Games organisers, are due to hand over the stadium to the LLDC on December 14.