Olympic Stadium Saga Goes On as Spurs Granted Judicial Review

August 25, 2011

The Olympic Stadium dispute continued yesterday as Tottenham Hotspur were granted permission to challenge the decision that awarded the Olympic Stadium to West Ham.

A High Court judge yesterday said the north London club, and Leyton Orient, had a case for a full judicial review.

Tottenham argue that a £40m loan West Ham were given by Newham Borough Council to help fund their tenancy of the stadium Newham-based Stratford which amounts to state aid and so breaches European law. It is on this basis that Mr Justice Collins allowed the case to go to review. He said they had an “arguable” case. It will be heard on 18 October.

It provides hope for Tottenham as they try to find a new home or develop the area around White Hart Lane, but their chances of eventually taking tenancy of the stadium are still distant. There were overnight reports that the club were considering withdrawing their legal challenge after two private investigations showed they had no claim.

Also the Mayor of London Boris Johnson is set to hand the club about £8m towards developing nearby Northumberland Park, with both the Mayor and Haringey Borough Council anxious not to lose the club from an area in desperate need of regeneration, especially in the wake of the riots earlier this month. “They are needed in Tottenham,” said David Lammy, the area’s MP.

The Northumberland Park development, which would result in a 56,250-seat stadium, will cost around £400m. Moving to the Olympic Stadium remains the cheaper option, and offers appreciably better transport connections, but is opposed by many Tottenham supporters.

There remains a possibility that a deal satisfying all parties will be reached before October, which would then see Tottenham drop their case. The support of the mayor was thought likely to see their legal challenge dropped yesterday. Instead by the afternoon Tottenham’s legal team had persuaded Justice Collins they had a case.

Dinah Rose, Tottenham’s QC, argued that the future of the £486m Olympic stadium remained of “considerable public importance” and that it must be “lawfully disposed of”. Tottenham had been “excluded” by the original bidding process, she said. Newham Council had loaned West Ham £40m as part of a joint bid for the tenancy. Tottenham say that money would not have been made available to West Ham by a bank so it amounts to state aid. Under European law, public money is not allowed to be used to give private companies a competitive advantage. The High Court will now review the decision by Newham to offer the loan, the decision of the OPLC to award the tenancy and the resulting backing received from the mayor and government.

A Department for Culture, Media and Sport spokesman said: “We have noted the judge’s decision today. The matter is in the hands of our lawyers.”

Barry Hearn, Orient’s owner, claims his club will go out of business if West Ham move to Stratford .

If the review does find in Tottenham’s favour the government are then likely to appeal which will draw out the situation even more. Even if Tottenham win all legal arguments and the bidding process has to start over, the presence of the running track which the OPLC and other key bodies will not want to see removed would still need Tottenham to change their initial plans for the stadium.