x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

West Ham plan legal action for claims over Olympic stadium

Tottenham Hotspur and an English newspaper are facing the heat over allegations of corruption as the Olympic agency body also asserts West Ham's innocence.

The bidding process was not compromised, insist West Ham officials.
The bidding process was not compromised, insist West Ham officials.

Tottenham Hotspur and an English Sunday newspaper are facing legal action from West Ham United over allegations of corruption during their successful bid to take over the Olympic stadium.

West Ham United, relegated from the Premier League at the end of last season, were awarded the right last February to move to the new stadium in east London after the 2012 games, beating city rivals Tottenham in the process.

A report in the Sunday Times yesterday claimed that secret payments had been made to an executive on the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the body which unanimously made the decision, during the selection process.

"The suggestion of 'secret cash' in the Sunday Times article is absolutely and categorically denied," West Ham said in a statement on their website.

"As such, legal action is being taken against the Sunday Times, as well as Tottenham Hotspur."

The paper said the executive, Dionne Knight, had been paid £20,000 (Dh118,000) before and after the decision was made. West Ham said Knight's work was in relation to the procurement of a construction partner after the Olympics.

On Friday, the OPLC confirmed one of its employees had been suspended for undertaking paid consultancy work for the football club without permission.

"This individual had no involvement whatsoever in our stadium process," the OPLC said.

"The individual concerned had declared a personal relationship with an employee of West Ham United FC when she joined the organisation and we therefore put robust measures in place to ensure our stadium process was not compromised."

West Ham plan to retain the athletics track in the £500 million arena, with capacity reduced to 60,000 from 80,000 for the 2012 Games, and to move in for the start of the 2014/15 season.

Last week, Tottenham, who planned to remove the track and build a new purpose-built football stadium, applied to the High Court in London to continue their battle for a judicial review into the decision to award the stadium to West Ham.

The court has previously rejected legal moves from both Tottenham and Leyton Orient, a League One club, who are based near the stadium.

West Ham said they are certain of the "robustness" of their bid.

"The OPLC has confirmed that Ms Knight had absolutely no involvement in the bidding process and we repeat that secret cash was not paid to her," the statement said. "Her work was very transparent and the bidding process was never compromised."

Elsewhere, Birmingham City, who were relegated in May from the Premier League, have been reassured by Carson Yeung, their owner, that he will still financially support them despite facing charges of money laundering in his native Hong Kong.

Peter Pannu, Birmingham's acting chairman, flew out to Hong Kong to hold talks with Yeung, who has been released on bail until the next court hearing on August 11.

The news will not quell speculation that the club will have to sell a number of their players ahead of their attempt to return to the Premier League from the Championship, with Scott Dann, Cameron Jerome and Roger Johnson all rumoured to be close to departing.

Pannu insists Yeung will continue to show his support for Birmingham and that he hopes to attend the opening game of the season on August 6 against Derby County. Yeung had to surrender his passport under the terms of his bail agreement.

Pannu told the Birmingham Sunday Mercury: "I have met with Carson and have an assurance his support for the club continues.

"He will visit once some priorities are sorted out in Hong Kong, hopefully for our first game."

The charges against Yeung relate to the period 2001 to 2007 - two years before he became Birmingham's major shareholder.

Pannu insisted any players would be sold only with the approval of Chris Hughton, the new manager.

"Reasonable but only market [value] offers will be considered and with the agreement of our new manager," said Pannu.