West Ham were celebrating today after being named as the top choice to move in to the Olympic Stadium but there is still some way to go before a deal is done.
The London Legacy Development Corporation board unanimously decided to name the Premier League club as the "preferred bidder" ahead of rival offers from Leyton Orient, a consortium proposing F1 motor racing and a football business school.
It follows assurances from West Ham owners David Sullivan and David Gold in response to an 11th-hour demand from mayor Boris Johnson that they would share any profits with taxpayers should they sell the club.
However, there are still terms to be thrashed out including how the £190m upgrade of the stadium to install retractable seats over the running track will be paid for. Gaining planning permission and obtaining appropriate national governing body approvals are among the other issues which must be sorted before a long-term lease can be signed.
It is thought that the iconic Stratford venue will not be ready until August 2015 at the earliest but West Ham are delighted they are a step nearer realising their dream.
Vice-chairman Karren Brady said: "For the last three years it has been my firm, unwavering belief that the stadium can truly become a multi-use destination of which east London and the nation as a whole can be proud.
"I have never lost sight of our vision to play our part, along with the stadium's major stakeholders, in ensuring it grows into a global asset. It is the 'jewel in the crown' of the Park, watched by the world.
"Our vision for the stadium has always been about standing up for the promises made for London back in Singapore in 2005.
"We are committed to delivering our promises as set out in our bid. The hard work really does start here. We guarantee millions of visitors and customers, which will galvanise the Park and act as the catalyst to spark a thriving economy in this part of east London.
"In selecting West Ham, the LLDC have secured a long-term viable financial future for the Park. On behalf of West Ham United, I feel privileged to have been granted the responsibility to play a key part in delivering a true Games legacy.
"We are now committed to working closely with our new partners and stakeholders in the stadium to successfully conclude our discussions and bring our collective ambitions to fruition."
Moving into the stadium will instantly increase the value of the Premier League club, who are £80million in debt.
However, although West Ham's co-owners Sullivan and Gold have consistently invited new investors to join the board they have no intention of leaving the Hammers if a deal to become tenants is concluded.
In fact, the businessmen are looking forward to helping West Ham thrive in a stadium which will have almost double the capacity of their current home, Upton Park.
Sullivan and Gold issued a joint statement in which they said: "We believe that this move, together with the realisation of other key goals that the Board set out to achieve from the outset, will play a huge part in helping to realise our ambitious vision to move the club to the next level on behalf of our fantastic and deserving fans.
"We also wish to extend our social inclusion agenda to encourage greater community cohesion and expand our equalities and diversity work to make both West Ham and football as a whole more accessible to key target groups.
"We realised our lifelong ambition upon becoming chairmen of the club we both so passionately support. We are dedicated to West Ham and the stadium for the long haul.
"We are now committed to working with the LLDC in full consultation with our supporters to finalise our plans to make the stadium our home. We are ambitious for our great club and aim to set the benchmark for visiting away and neutral football supporters from across the globe to come and enjoy the iconic stadium and be part of our Premier League club experience.''
Mayor Johnson hailed today's news but spelt out the challenges that lie ahead. He said: "We've got a first-ranked bidder for the stadium and we are very pleased about that.
"If it goes through it will mean a football legacy for the stadium but it needs to get sorted out between the LLDC and West Ham about the terms. If we can't do a deal that protects the Olympic investment including half a billion pounds on stadium alone that's fine and stadium will have a fantastic future in any event.
"We're confident there's plenty of time to get the events under way either with plan B but I am sure that we've got plenty of time to get in a football solution."
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