We are a coalition of 14 supporters’ trusts and groups. We are groups representing tens of thousands of football supporters from across the country, and across the leagues.

We successfully campaign for the full publication of the financial terms of the contract agreed between Boris Johnson and the LLDC (London Legacy Development Corporation) and West Ham United FC on April 11th 2016. You can read our press release announcing this.

The campaign is now focused on the inquiry announced by Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, into the costs of the stadium conversion and wider project costs.

  • This campaign continues to be about ensuring public money is used well, and that it is not used as a subsidy to give one football club a financial advantage over others
  • This campaign has attracted thousands of supporters, more than a dozen supporters’ trusts from across English football, politicians from the GLA and Parliament and campaign groups supporting it.

More about why we’re campaigning
English football fans are seen as a pretty tribal bunch, so it is quite a big deal when no less than 14 Supporters’ Trusts come together to back a campaign.

This campaign, calling for a public enquiry into West Ham’s rental of the Olympic Stadium, started with a Freedom of Information (FOI) request, and a petition on the Government website. It raced to the 10,000 signatures required for a Government response within 24 hours. Within a week it had reached 25,000.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

But, especially outside London, fans may still be wondering why it is causing such a big fuss, and wondering if they too should support this campaign.

We’ll come to the key facts and figures shortly. But let’s start by explaining the situation as a parable.

Imagine you own a house near the City of London. It’s a bit down at heel, but prices have shot up around there, so you know it’s worth something. But you are tipped off that a body controlled by the government has a luxury house nearby it wants to rent in a hurry, and doesn’t know how to find a tenant. You enquire.

The terms are fantastic. The rent they are asking is only equivalent to what you pay for utilities (gas, electricity, water, council tax) in your existing house. But – and you check this several times because you can hardly believe it – the landlord is going to pay all those utilities himself if you pay the rent!

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

You can see they are desperate, and you don’t actually need to sell your house and move out, so you play hardball. You specify your requirements for how the house is configured, and how it will look. They agree to spend as much again as they have already spent on building the house. They ask you only for a small contribution to all that re-modelling. You agree, but you will only pay after you’ve sold your house. They don’t ask you how much your house is worth. So you sell your house for more than twice as much as your contribution to the rebuild, and pocket the rest.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

You think we’re exaggerating? OK, here are the figures…

The cost of refitting the Olympic Stadium to make it fit for Premier League football is now £272m. West Ham are contributing just £15m: less than ten percent. However they have sold the Boleyn Ground, and while they do not have to say how much for, it was valued in their 2013 accounts at £71m. So West Ham pocket a windfall before moving in. Contrast what happened with the City of Manchester stadium, where Manchester City handed over the keys to their old Maine Road stadium to the Council for nothing

As for the actual rental contract, Charlton Athletic Supporters Trust (CAST) have been fighting for 18 months to have it made public under Freedom of Information (FOI) law. Eventually it was released to them – but nearly every item of interest (including the table of contents) was ‘redacted’ (blacked out). You can read it here, but we don’t recommend printing it off – it’s a sea of black ink!

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

Even the annual rent figure is redacted, but has been widely quoted (and never disputed by West Ham) as £2.5m p.a. However one of the few items in the contract which was not redacted (which we think might have been an oversight which has left some lawyers red-faced) showed that all the matchday overheads are paid by the stadium operator. This is on top of the laying and maintenance of a top quality playing surface. The BBC documentary “The Olympic Stadium; How the Hammers Struck Gold” had the value of these overheads priced, and at least one source priced them at £2.5m – the same amount as the rent. A separate document obtained by CAST showed that in the event of relegation, the rent is reduced. It did not show by how much, but a West Ham blogger, who appears in the film, has claimed it is halved to £1.25m.

West Ham have tended to defend the deal by claiming they are “giving up” revenues, as part of the deal. They often mention stadium naming rights, but of course they never sold them at the Boleyn. They only get a share of matchday catering revenue (how much, we don’t know) but also don’t need to worry about managing the stadium. One thing they don’t mention is that they keep 100% of the lucrative corporate hospitality revenue. This excellent article describes that advantage as “the business strategy behind the relocation”. Mind you the ultimate business objective is widely thought to be the sale by the current owners of the club in the near future. How much the taxpayer may see of the profit from the sale is also kept secret.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

CAST joined Leyton Orient activists a year ago in seeking to expose the unfair nature of the deal. It may not be obvious to those outside London, but Charlton face new competition from West Ham due to the excellent new cross-river transport links that were built for London 2012. Charlton have always been ready for this, but no one was ready for a deal that makes West Ham a virtually cost-free business apart from wages. We estimate that with the corporate hospitality revenue, West Ham will already be laughing all the way to the bank if they sell 35,000 tickets at much the same prices as at the Boleyn. Charlton’s worry is that much of the other 19,000 tickets will be used to attract a new generation of younger supporters with cheap Premier League tickets, south of the river in Charlton territory.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

However many more clubs than Charlton are affected. Instantly West Ham will become financially as powerful as the top 4-5 clubs in the country. This will not have happened because of on-field success, nor will it have been underwritten by an owner. It will have been underwritten by the taxpayer. That is why, when CAST went to the recent Supporters Summit ready to publicise the issue, they found ready support among nearly all the Trusts they spoke with. An informal Coalition of Supporters’ Trusts in London quickly formed. Eventually the group has expanded to include supporters’ trusts and groups from across the country. A nationwide coalition of fans.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

Nobody wants to stop West Ham playing there, nor does anyone blame West Ham’s owners for seeking the best deal they could negotiate. Our goal is to persuade politicians to re-examine the deal and re-balance it so that the taxpayer pays less and West Ham pay more. It is more and more obvious that huge blunders were made on the government side of the negotiation. Yet far from facing up to them, government bodies continue to desperately maintain the veil of secrecy. CAST and the coalition is continuing the fight, at the Information Commissioner’s office, to have the full contract published. We have argued that the excuse of “commercial confidentiality” does not stand scrutiny (see downloads at http://www.castrust.org/olympic-stadium-campaign). We believe that instead the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) is worried that when other clubs see just how sweet West Ham’s deal is, they will move to re-open complaints to the European Commission about unfair State Aid.

It is a murky mess, which threatens to distort competition in football using your hard-earned money. We’ve already got the support of MPs, Chris Bryant (former Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport) and ex-culture minister David Lammy – both of whom are calling for a public enquiry. There may be easier ways to find a solution, but politicians will only respond if they see real public interest, not just in London but across the country. There is also plenty of cross-party support from GLA (London Assembly) members to opening up the deal to proper scrutiny.

We welcome anyone else who wants to support the campaign. If you’re a supporters’ trust this could just mean adding a Trust’s name to the 14; it could just mean that as an individual you want to back our calls and sign the petition; you might even want to contact your MP and ask them support the publication of the deal.

Got a question? Head to our FAQs section

If you want to express your support for the campaign, or ask us a question, you can email us on olympicstadiumcoalition@gmail.com

The website header details for the purposes of Copyright are as follows: “Olympic Stadium (London), 16 April 2012” by EG Focus – 120416 LOCOG Aerials_043Uploaded by BaldBoris. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Olympic_Stadium_(London),_16_April_2012.jpg#/media/File:Olympic_Stadium_(London),_16_April_2012.jpg

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