Police yesterday made an arrest as part of an investigation into allegations that Tottenham Hotspur used private investigators to spy on board members of the Olympic Park Legacy Company who were to decide the post-Games future of the 2012 stadium.
Earlier this year West Ham United were chosen ahead of Tottenham as the tenants for the stadium in Stratford but that deal collapsed last month in the face of legal challenges by Spurs and Leyton Orient and an anonymous complaint to the European Commission. The latest twist in an increasingly bitter saga emerged yesterday when first Baroness Ford, chair of the OPLC, accused Spurs of putting all 14 board members under surveillance and then hours later the Metropolitan Police arrested a 29-year-old man in Sussex in connection with the claims.
Tottenham have vigorously denied Ford's claims, which were made when she appeared before the London Assembly yesterday to answer questions over the collapse of the West Ham deal.
Ford told the Assembly: "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.
"All 14 members of my board were placed under surveillance by Tottenham Hotspur... the chairman of Tottenham and the Metropolitan Police are investigating that."
Tottenham's statement, issued via the north London club's lawyers, said: "The club did not undertake, instruct or engage any party to conduct surveillance on any member of the OPLC committee and we consider the making of this baseless accusation to be wholly inappropriate and irresponsible."
The police operation is being carried out by the Metropolitan Police's Economic and Specialist Crime Command unit, who are also looking into complaints by Karren Brady, West Ham's vice-chair, that her phone records had been illegally obtained. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police said: "A 29-year-old man has been arrested in Sussex on suspicion of fraud offences and has been detained at a Sussex police station."
The tender process for the publicly-funded stadium, constructed at a cost of £500m, is being re-run. West Ham remain firm favourites to move into a ground that will be reduced from 80,000 to 60,000, but as anchor tenants with the OPLC, or some other public body, remaining as landlords.
Ford said: "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."
The government and Mayor of London have insisted the running track remains, which effectively ends Tottenham's interest.
Spurs are currently deciding whether to press ahead with developing White Hart Lane and its surrounds and have been offered financial assistance by the Mayor to do so.
The future of the stadium may become even more muddied if London fails to win the rights to host the 2017 World Athletic Championships. The IAAF, athletics' governing body, will decide between London and Doha in Monaco on Friday.