Spurs Challenges Olympic Decision

Tottenham Hotspur Football Club has taken the first step to challenging the government’s decision to hand the Olympic Stadium to West Ham after the 2012 London Games.

It’s sent a “pre-action protocol letter” to the Olympic Park Legacy Company, in which its lawyers have raised concerns and requested clarification over key elements of the bidding process.

Tottenham has sent similar letters to the government and London mayor Boris Johnson “raising concerns with the processes” that led to the stadium going to one of its Premier League rivals.

The letters also requested – in the interests of transparency – for the provision of certain information concerning the processes, which the club considers it is entitled, said a Tottenham statement March 30.

The pre-action protocol letter is being seen as the first step toward the club asking for a judicial review of the decision-making process.

Such a review couldn’t lead to the decision being reversed, but it could lead to it being annulled. If that happened, the bidding process would have to begin again.

The OPLC’s criteria for selecting a new tenant to take over the stadium after the 2012 Olympics were based on that tenant providing a long-term solution for the venue that provides value for money, securing a partner with the expertise to operate a legacy solution, reopen the stadium as quickly as possible and retain a distinctive physical symbol and allow flexible usage.

The other pre-requisite was that the new tenant would retain the athletics track or propose a credible alternative.

West Ham plans to downsize the stadium from 80,000 to 60,000 seats and use it as a multipurpose venue, fulfilling Britain’s promise to retain a running track.

Tottenham proposed demolishing most of the stadium and building a 60,000-seat, football-only venue on the same site, without a running track.

The club intended to provide an athletics legacy for the Olympics by refurbishing Crystal Palace, Britain’s national track-and-field venue in south London.

Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy has openly doubted if West Ham, which is perilously close to the Premier League relegation zone, will be able to attract large enough crowds to provide value for money.

Levy said the West Ham bid wasn’t financially sustainable and predicted that the stadium could end up with a bankrupt tenant.

Leyton Orient, the third-tier football team based nearest to the Olympic Stadium, is also understood to be considering legal action against the OPLC’s decision.

Orient chairman Barry Hearn believes the club’s ability to attract supporters will suffer because West Ham is offering cut-price tickets to fans to fill the Olympic Stadium.

The OPLC has said that if the judicial review proceedings are pursued, it’s confident its approach will be entirely vindicated by the courts.

“We have been supported by independent experts in their field in terms of legal, financial, commercial and technical advice,” it said. “We have been consistent, fair, objective and entirely equal in our dealings with the bidders from start to finish.”