West Ham in £6m legal row with London Stadium owners
West Ham are in the middle of a £6m legal row with their landlords over who should pay to make the London Stadium more supporter friendly.
The Hammers pay the London Legacy Development Corporation £2.5m a year to use the stadium as part of a 99-year lease, a sum that will halve should they get relegated to the Championship.
However, they have identified a number of areas - including the sale of draught beer and availability of Sky TV - that do not meet their requirements.
The two parties, who are already in one legal dispute over the capacity of the London Stadium, are going to have the fresh case heard by a mutually agreed independent legal expert, who will make a decision both sides have agreed to abide by.
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News of the legal wrangle comes before a meeting on Monday between West Ham's vice-chairman Karren Brady and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan over the future of the stadium and its financial viability - it is currently set to lose £140m over the next 10 years.
In December, Khan said he was taking direct control of the stadium "in order to renegotiate deals and minimise ongoing losses" after publication of a damning report about the financial planning around the London Stadium.
What are the issues?
For their £2.5m annual payment, West Ham believe the LLDC should meet all the running costs of the stadium, including stewarding, catering and policing.
The LLDC counters that the payment actually only covers what could be regarded as a 'bronze' level of service and that West Ham should pay for the 'platinum' option being demanded.
West Ham's demands include:
- The sale of draught beer at all bars, currently impossible because of the lack of pumps
- Sky TV on all televisions at the ground. West Ham pay for the licence but the London Stadium has adverts on some screens
- That the LLDC, not the club, should pay for hospitality staff who work in the corporate boxes at the stadium
While these sums on an individual basis are quite small, it is estimated that over the length of a 99-year lease they would exceed £100m, which is why they are being contested by the LLDC.
The joint cost of the current legal dispute is expected to be £6m.
Behind the goals
There has been an ongoing dispute between the club and the LLDC over the carpeted area behind each goal.
It is presently green. West Ham want it changed to claret, so it is more in keeping with the club's colours, and have their crest on it. They say they are willing to meet the estimated £140,000 cost.
The LLDC is resistant because it feels this would impact on other events. A West Ham source has told the BBC the LLDC wants an additional £150,000 to agree to the change of colour, and claims the carpet will need changing soon anyway because it is starting to become worn.
The one area of agreement is that a repeat of the scenes witnessed at West Ham's last home game against Burnley should be avoided at all costs.
A number of fans invaded the pitch, supporters unhappy with the club's board protested in front of the directors' box and joint owner David Sullivan was hit by a coin.
A West Ham source has said the stewarding for that game, and others, was "inadequate", a view shared by many fans.
The LLDC believes it has fulfilled its requirements in terms of stewarding. A safety advisory group report specifically into the trouble at the Burnley game said the level of disorder "would have been almost impossible for any security team to manage".
However, the group has warned the stadium could be closed if there is a repeat and additional police and stewards will be present for West Ham's Premier League game against Southampton on 31 March.
West Ham are currently 17th in the Premier League, one place and two points above Southampton and the relegation zone.
What they say
A LLDC spokesman said: "We believe West Ham is claiming rights under the concession agreement that are not theirs. West Ham has initiated all of the legal action but we would much prefer to resolve these matters through negotiation. There is great value in these rights over the lifetime of the agreement and we have a duty to defend our rights in order to protect the public purse."
A senior West Ham source said: "We have bought a new house but it doesn't feel like a home yet because we can't get all our stuff in it and get it the way we want it. Also, if you buy a house and agree a price, you don't expect to start getting charged more once you have moved in."
There are a number of different West Ham fans groups but in a recent survey by the West Ham United Independent Supporters Association, only 19.79% of respondents said their match tickets were better value for money, taking into account stadium experience and transportation issues, than they had been at West Ham's former home Upton Park.