The Government’s response to calls for a public inquiry into the deal between the London Legacy Development Corporation and West Ham United for the rental of the Olympic Stadium has been condemned as “wholly inadequate” by a coalition of 14 football Supporters’ Trusts. The coalition had set up a petition on the UK Government website, calling for a public inquiry into the terms of the deal.
The petition reached the 10,000 signatures required for a government response within 24 hours. That response, belatedly issued yesterday, rejected the call for an inquiry, and it was immediately condemned by the supporters’ coalition.
“This statement only recycles arguments we have previously heard from the London Legacy Development Corporation and West Ham United,” said the coalition. “The facts we have uncovered need to be addressed by the Government. This statement ignores them. It is wholly inadequate.”
“The Government claims the contract has been widely scrutinised. Yet the taxpayer continues to be denied sight of it. The Government speaks of ‘profits’ flowing to the taxpayer, yet we have shown that no profit comes from West Ham’s rental because matchday overheads normally paid by clubs are in this case paid by the taxpayer.”
The Information Commissioner has still to rule on whether the rental agreement cannot be released to the public because it is “commercially sensitive”. The coalition has sent detailed submissions to the ICO which challenge the assertion that disclosure of the contract would cause commercial damage.
“We are currently obtaining professional verification of new information which appears to cast further doubt on the value of the deal for the taxpayer,” said the coalition. “As soon as we are confident of the facts and their implications we will make a further announcement. It would surely be in the Government’s interest to release the entire contract. If it continues to fall to concerned citizens to uncover the facts, drip by drip, the impression of a cover-up will grow.”