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Khan and the blame game


Filed: Friday, 1st December 2017
By: Paul Walker


Here we go again, get prepared everyone for West Ham to be given another public kicking over the nightmare that is the London Stadium.

As if things are not bad enough on the pitch at the moment, with relegation looming ever-larger with every match. Unless we can beat Manchester City, that is.

We have become a political football. Tenants in the Time Share stadium, with--we are told--water-tight contracts that stretch for 99 years.

And it is these contracts that are going to be tested, legally and morally, to the limit now by the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who has virtually put his political credibility on the line. The man who has fronted up the President of the USA without flinching, will no doubt reckon we are easy prey now.

And on our side of the fence it will be the lady herself, Tory peer Karren Brady who will equally find herself in the firing line as the gloves come off (yes, I know, mixed metaphors there).

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Clearly we have seen this coming, from the report commissioned by Khan into the sorry back-catalogue of how a publicly-owned stadium can get itself into such a financial mess. Our carefully-worded statement today wasnít just knocked out in a flash. We said all the right things, praised Khanís intervention while stating the legal situation as we see it.

But that still means we should stand by to be slaughtered, not only by Manchester City, but by both ends of the media political spectrum. The Daily Mail will be straight down our throats, they hate us because they reckon Karren and the Dildo Brothers have taken their Tory mate Boris Johnson for a ride.

The Guardian will be in there shouting from the moral high ground because they hate the fact that West Ham have benefited from the public purse, to an alarming degree it must be agreed. And they also have a deep dislike of unelected Tories like Karren and football chancers like David Sullivan and David Gold, only recently seen in public with Brady at a Tory fund-raising dinner. Oh, the shame.

And the BBC? Well, just for a change today (Dan Roan was at the World Cup draw and couldnít stab us from there) their news people put both sides of the argument. They had one of our mates from WHUISA in the studio and the reporter made it very clear that West Ham approved of Khanís involvement, and would not be too keen to have perfectly legal agreements torn up just to give Khan a political victory over Johnson.

And thatís the point here. Khan and the mayor of Newham, Robin Wales were scathing of Johnsonís administration for the horrific deals struck that from their point of view, been a financial disaster. The steal of the century from our point of view.

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But Johnson, now Foreign Secretary and still with desires to be PM, has already come out fighting. His sources have claimed the fault is with the Tony Blairís previous Labour government, the former Labour London mayor Ken Livingstone and anyone else with a red rosette who gave the OK for the stadium design in the first place.

A stadium only set up for athletics, despite the blindingly obvious view that only regular Premier League football would provide the revenue to save the Stratford venue from being a hideous white elephant. Borisí people, of course, avoided making the obvious point that the real villain with his demands for athletics only was Tory peer Seb Coe.

So you can all see the way this is falling. A year ago I wrote here that Khan wants Boris on a wire, his big political rival to take the blame for the mess that is the former Olympic stadium. Ever since then, Khan has had this as his aim. He has had some sad distractions with the terror attacks in the capital, the shocking Grenfell fire and a certain Donald Trump slagging him off at every opportunity for basically being a Muslim.

But now Khan has his report. It talks of mind-blowing mismanagement, of ďonerousĒ contracts costing the tax payer millions, of the need to ďrevisitĒ those deals.

We have Newham Council now no longer our part landlords, they have given up their interest in the stadium --where they are going to see none of the loan they put in at the start of the redevelopment--for the promise of 25 years of more cash to be ploughed into their coffers to be spent on the poor and deprived in Newham.

They must be breathing a sign of relief to be rid of the albatross that is the stadium and able to concentrate now on what they were elected to do.

Our landlords now will be just the LLDC, and we are assured that all the contracts involving the soon to be defunct E20 body will become the legal responsibility of the LLDC, and basically Khanís authority.

And thatís the rub. He will try now to renegotiate those contracts with us, and our board will fight him all the way. Their attitude is that what was signed by Borisí lot is legally binding, watertight, for 99 years.

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They will say we are only tenants for around 20-odd days a year. If we were not there, then the stadium would be been bulldozed by now as being a financial basket case.

Maybe Spurs were right. It should have been knocked down and rebuilt as a football stadium. But that would have been a political disaster for any government, the much-talked about legacy a thing of the past.

But we have seen this coming. Only this week David Gold was involved in a twitter exchange blaming David Levy and Barry Hearn--Spurs and the now quickly disappearing Orient-- for stopping West Ham and Newham Council from reconfiguration the Olympic Stadium into a football ground.

Thatís all history now, though. It is what it is and with the Greater London Authority and Government now in full control, the chances of the stadium falling to us for nothing, just to get it off their hands, seems a long way away.

But there will be negotiations. And you can see there is a way for a peace plan. If we are to be bullied into paying more rent, we will want something back. Maybe those 10,000 extra seats so far denied us, maybe a better interior design with real retractable seating.

Because it has been clear for some while that the relationship between West Ham and the ground owners has been poor. The recently-departed head of the LLDC made a reference to continued legal action by West Ham that is costing the owners £3.5m. So things cannot be hunky dory if the relationship between tenants and landlords is being dealt with through lawyers.

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What is also clear is that Khan has put a stop to any further expense for the owners with regard to those extra seats and the stewarding. Somewhere along the line there does not seem to be provision in Karrenís carefully negotiated contracts to cover those extra seating use and who pays for the extra stewarding. I do hope there are not other loop holes in those deals that we donít know about and that can be exploited by Khan.

And now we come to the crux of the matter, the non-retractable, removable seating that is costing millions to move in and out of athletics mode to suit the football. Or the other way round, if you get my meaning.

That alone is a farce. The sensible outcome would be to leave the seating in football mode, because that is what makes the real money for the Government, 60,000 people twice a month passing though the turnstiles and funding businesses throughout the Stratford part of East London.

To leave the stadium without the movable seating just to benefit a twice-a-year athletics event is nonsense. But you can bet Coe and his mates will be lobbying for just that.

And that, of course, it will mean moving athletics to the soon to be rebuilt stadium in Birmingham. That makes sense, because then football would be the only money making gig in town. But then when were the people running the stadium ever sensible about anything?

So, as I said, stand by for a kicking everybody, as our board fight their corner, for a stadium many of us wish would just disappear into the River Lea, never to be seen again. With a new home for our great, ailing club built in its place. Wishful thinking, I know.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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