West Ham are set to be announced as the preferred bidders for the Olympic Stadium this morning after they were judged to have met more of the criteria set by the Olympic Park Legacy Company than Tottenham. The decision is a body blow to Tottenham's long-term bid to establish themselves among the elite of English football.
The OPLC laid down five key areas for the two bidders and a report circulated to the members of the board on Wednesday is believed to have determined that West Ham met all of them while Tottenham ticked three boxes but fell short on the time span involved in reopening the stadium and the need to allow flexible use of the stadium, with a particular requirement to accommodate the local community and schools.
If the OPLC's board follows its expert advice – and the Government and Mayor of London agree with its decision – West Ham will now enter into detailed negotiation with the OPLC, with a view to signing a deal by the end of the financial year. Any other course of action would be a huge surprise.
Tottenham issued a curt statement yesterday, but chairman Daniel Levy suggested earlier this month that the club might consider Judicial Review if their bid failed. Barry Hearn, chairman of Leyton Orient, whose Brisbane Road home almost falls within the shadow of the Olympic Stadium, suggested yesterday that they also may look to the courts. Hearn said: "The West Ham bid has the potential to put a club with a 135-year history out of business."
But as Andrew Nixon, a specialist sports lawyer, writes below, any Tottenham case would have a slim chance of success. With Levy already having declared that the club's previous plans to redevelop White Hart Lane, the Northumberland Park project, are unworkable owing to an estimated cost of £450m, it leaves the club in limbo.
At present their match-day revenue is limited to £1.5m per game; Arsenal's take from the Emirates – which holds 60,000, the same as the Olympic Stadium will for football – is £3.5m. The need to attract greater revenue is paramount for Tottenham as they look to build on this season's exploits in the Champions League.
The club's statement said: "Whilst we are concerned to read that there appears to have been a leak of information from the OPLC about what their recommendation and decision may be, we regard it as premature to make any comment at this stage."
West Ham did not make any comment yesterday, but club officials have insisted throughout the process they were confident of success. They did announce a press conference with David Gold, David Sullivan, Karren Brady and Sir Robin Wales, the mayor of Newham, West Ham's partners in the bid, at lunchtime today near the Olympic Park, which is not the move of a club preparing for bad news.
David Lammy, the MP for Tottenham who has been critical of Spurs' attempt to leave the area, said: "If ratified this is the right decision for Tottenham and the right decision for London. The next few days will be important to see whether Daniel Levy decides to go for a judicial review of the decision and the people of Tottenham will be in limbo for some time yet.
"The relief will be huge as everyone has been rattled by this, as you can imagine when the biggest employer in the poorest neighbourhood in the city threatens to pull out."
The criteria West Ham met
1. Achieve a long-term viable solution for the stadium that is deliverable and provides value for money.
2. To secure a partner with the capability to deliver and operate a legacy solution for a venue of the stadium's size and complexity.
3. To reopen the stadium as soon as possible after the Games.
4. To ensure that the stadium remains a distinctive physical symbol supporting the economic, physical and social regeneration of the area.
5. To allow flexible use of the stadium, accommodating a vibrant programme of events allowing year-round access for schools, the local community, wider public and elite sport.