“We want the Olympic Stadium, but not at any price”

A month ago, on a Thursday evening the spotlights were tested at the Olympic Stadium at Stratford, East London, which seems to have looked awesome according to those who have posted comments on Twitter. And it was the same evening when more than 60 members of the West Ham United Supporter Advisory Board (SAB) gathered in the 66 Club Suite at Upton Park to get information and give their opinion on West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium after London 2012.

Both events may have heightened the anticipation of those being present in east London that night – not only of the games, which will start with the Opening Ceremony on July 27th, but also of West Ham’s possible move to the Stadium at Stratford by 2013 0r ’14. At least the SAB meeting at Upton Park instilled some confidence that the club’s moving in the right direction.

Vice-Chairman Karren Brady and Marketing Director Tara Warren were present in the meeting a month ago to provide some key information on the current bidding process and listen to the supporters, who were given the opportunity to ask questions and voice their concerns. As the club was bound by the Olympic Park Legacy Company‘s confidentiality agreement, all members attending the SAB meeting had to sign a Non Disclosure Agreement ahead of the meeting. That is why it was not possible to disclose any confidential informations on the ongoing bidding process.

But Karren Brady made it quite clear that West Ham was really weighing all options and considering very carefully if the move to the Stadium was making sense under the terms and conditions of the new tender process.

More than a year ago, on February 11th, 2011, West Ham (making a joint bid with Newham Council) had been selected as the preferred bidder of the first tender to take over the Olympic Stadium after the games, but in October the deal collapsed. Ministers and the Mayor of London were said to be concerned that legal actions taken against the outcome of the tender by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient as well as a complaint at the European Commission could drag on for years during which time the venue would remain empty.

The OPLC revoked their decision and started a new tender process in January, the stadium now remaining in public ownership and going to be leased out to a tenant.

Under the new process the cost of transforming it after the 2012 Games will be met by the OPLC and the successful tenant will then pay an annual rent for using the stadium, which is only a little over a mile away from West Ham’s current home Boleyn Ground.

Looking for a real home

On its official website West Ham had already stated that they would tender again when the second process began and they promised to do that with the same energy, vision and determination as they had done when they made their first successfull bid.

Now having submitted a new bid in time on March 23rd, West Ham seems to have the belief that the move to the Olympic Stadium still makes sense under the the terms and conditions of the current tender. But Karren Brady has also stated that West Ham wouldn’t sell Upton Park and rent the Olympic Stadium from the government if it was not clear-cut that the new stadium was going to be a real home to West Ham United.

“We want it, but not at any price,” Karren Brady said some weeks ago, and that statement was not only meant in the economic sense. She vowed that West Ham was going to keep the promise not to turn their back on its history and heritage, and to make sure that the stadium works for the loyal West Ham supporters first and foremost.

Supporters will be consulted

WHU’S VIEW have called for an independently audited supporters’ consultation to be carried out by the club over the proposed move to Stratford back in October 2011. Karren Brady has already stated that it is planned to consult the supporters on the move. Though it seems that it hasn’t been decided how this consultation will be shaped, a poll will take place only if the outcome of the bidding process is clear and West Ham is the selected potential tenant of the Stratford based stadium. In fact to be named the preferred bidder will not be the end oft he process, but the starting shot for detailed negotiations on the very details of the deal.

The next step of the tender process is the selection of the preferred bidder. This step is scheduled to be completed by May 21st, and according to Brady’s statement at the SAB before that no poll will take place.

Regardless of what decision the OPLC will make in the end, let’s hope the outcome of the process will be a good one for West Ham United. Well, since last month’s Supporter Advisory Board meeting I’ve been a little more confident that it will be.

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