London Stadium conversion cost 'astronomical', says Commons Sports Committee chairman

A general view outside the London Stadium ahead of the  English Premier League football match between West Ham United and Bournemouth in east London on Aug
Image: The cost of converting the London Stadium has proved controversial

The cost to the taxpayer of converting the Olympic Stadium for use by West Ham has been branded "astronomical" by the chairman of the Commons Sports Committee.

Damian Collins said it looked like ex-London mayor Boris Johnson, now Foreign Secretary, wanted to bring Premier League football to the Stratford site at "almost any cost".

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Deputy mayor of London, Jules Pipe, explains why the London mayor, Sadiq Khan has ordered an inquiry into the rising cost of converting the London Stadium

Collins' comments about his fellow Conservative MP come after London mayor Sadiq Khan ordered an investigation into the conversion costs after they rocketed by £51m.

Speaking to BBC Radio Four's Today programme, Collins contrasted West Ham's deal with Johnson to the one Manchester's local authority struck with Manchester City for the 2002 Commonwealth Games stadium.

Damian Collins MP poses for photographs during the Sport Industry Breakfast Club on March 10 2016
Image: Damian Collins MP, chairman of the Commons Sports Committee

"These costs seem to be out of control. Compared to the conversion costs for the Commonwealth Stadium in Manchester, these seem astronomical," said Collins.

"The big concern is does it look like, ultimately, the mayor of London was determined to get Premier League football into the Olympic Stadium at almost any cost? Because that is what it looks like now."

Mayor orders stadium probe

Mayor orders stadium probe

Mayor Sadiq Khan orders probe into soaring costs at London Stadium

Khan, who succeeded Johnson in May, announced on Tuesday that he was "deeply concerned" at the way the conversion costs at the venue - now known as the London Stadium - had been allowed to soar.

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The mayor's intervention was also welcomed by the Olympic Stadium Coalition, a campaign group comprised of supporters' trusts and fans' groups from 14 clubs across the country.

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The coalition was formed to force the mayor's office, London 2012's legacy development company and local council Newham to reveal the details of their deal with West Ham, a campaign that ended in victory in April 2016.

"This is a breakthrough in our long campaign to highlight the intolerable burden on taxpayers of the rebuilding of the Olympic Stadium to the specification of a well-off Premier League football club," a coalition statement said.

"We have never objected to the idea of West Ham playing at the stadium; the question is simply one of how much the club should pay, and how much the taxpayer should be expected to fund."

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The group pointed out that the stadium's much-publicised difficulties this season, with several incidents of crowd trouble and criticisms about a lack of atmosphere, appear to have delayed a naming rights deal, which West Ham would have shared with the GLA (Greater London Authority).

"We believe this means the stadium will operate at a loss for the foreseeable future, especially if the police seek to recharge the costs of their increased presence at the stadium due to crowd control issues," the coalition added.

"The entire deal, and not just the rebuild costs, should be examined in detail, by the mayor and the taxpayer."

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