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News & Comment

Spurs warned off seeking stadium review


Hugh Robertson, the sports minister, has cautioned Tottenham Hotspur against seeking a judicial review over the future of the Olympic Stadium.

Yesterday, the Olympic Park Legacy Company recommended West Ham United as the preferred bidder to take over the stadium after next year's Games ahead of Tottenham.

After a four-hour meeting the 14-strong OPLC board, chaired by Baroness Ford, unanimously chose West Ham's bid, although the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, and the Government still have to ratify the final decision, a process which began yesterday and is expected to take up to a couple of weeks. It is highly unlikely they will fail to follow the OPLC's recommendation.

Tottenham said yesterday that they were "reviewing their position" and Daniel Levy, the chairman, has previously raised the prospect of taking legal action. "I sincerely hope not," said Robertson, speaking minutes after the decision was announced in Westminster. "When you have been through a process like this, which has been pretty robust and pretty competitive, people say things in the heat of battle. I hope when everybody has calmed down and had a think about this that that will not be necessary. It is a big step for any football club to take a government to judicial review."

Robertson and Baroness Ford stressed yesterday that both bids were given equal consideration and denied there had been any outside interference in the decision – Tottenham's plan to knock down the stadium, built with £537m of public money, was widely suggested to be politically unpalatable. Levy has suggested in recent weeks that it was not a straightforward choice between which bid best met the five criteria laid down by the OPLC.

Robertson said: "If [Levy] thinks there has been political interference he will have to bring forward evidence to support that. I can't see any political interference at all. The Government has been absolutely at arms-length in this process."

Ford said: "This has not been a fait accompli. This was a robust process. We made it very clear to Tottenham at the start that we would take their proposition seriously." The OPLC will not disclose the full detail of the board's findings until after the Government and mayor have reached their decision.

Robertson also revealed that there will be guarantees in place to prevent West Ham tearing up the running track in years to come. He said: "That would be a clear danger so guarantees of that sort have been sought. The provision of the running track is an integral part of the West Ham-Newham, UK Athletics-backed proposal and OPLC will be seeking guarantees that that will be delivered."

The vice-chairman of West Ham, Karren Brady, said that the club had not ruled out a design for their new home with seats covering the running track – which would address the main fear of supporters that they will be too far from the action. The club are looking at a number of different options as part of their £95m makeover that could involve "retractable" seating.

Brady said the club were considering "a number of different innovations". She said: "It is possible to put retractable seats on the running track. Our designers' job is to maximise the experience for all the supporters. It is not as much money as you think. It would be in the region of 10 per cent of the overall costs [£9.5m]."

If West Ham complete the process, they will be given a lease of 150 years and the stadium will be half-owned by the club and Newham council via an independent company. They are looking into offering season tickets for all events at the stadium, including football, cricket, athletics and concerts.