West Ham Ready to Sue Sunday Times/Spurs Over Bid Corruption Claims
July 4, 2011
English Championship soccer club West Ham United have announced they will take legal action against The Sunday Times newspaper and former Premier League rivals Tottenham Hostpur after allegations involving the Olympic Stadium cast further doubt over the process used to choose them as the tennants after London 2012.
The London club chosen to inherit the newly constructed stadium was accused of making secret payments to an executive employed by the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the body that awarded West Ham preferred bidder status to the venue after the 2012 Games are completed.
The allegations were made after OPLC director of corporate services Dionne Knight was suspended after it was claimed she worked for West Ham during their bid to use the Stadium.
West Ham has said they are treating the claims made by the newspaper “with the utmost seriousness” but denied that the bid process had been compromised with a spokesman adding: ‘West Ham United can confirm the club are taking legal action in relation to allegations made in today’s Sunday Times. We are certain of the robustness of our successful bid for the Olympic Stadium.”
On Friday, July 1, it was announced that Knight had been suspended on full pay after it emerged she had been employed as a consultant by West Ham.
When she started working at the OPLC she declared that she had “a personal relationship” with a West Ham employee, later identified as the club’s Olympic Project Director Ian Tompkins. However, she allegedly only revealed on Thursday, June 30, that she had worked for the club as a paid consultant.
An article published by the Sunday Times claims payments of more than US$32,000 were made to Knight by West Ham United before and after they were announced as tennants of the new stadium.
They were allegedly put in place by Tompkins who has also been suspended as a result of the allegations, and the newspaper also claimed West Ham’s vice-chairman Karren Brady was aware of the payments.
Documents which include bank and telephone records are said to prove the payments were made after they were obtained by a corporate investigations team hired by Tottenham Hotspur, who lost out to West Ham in the race for the Stadium, and shown to The Sunday Times.
According to report, the investigators were hired by Tottenham two days before West Ham was voted the preferred bidder on February 11 and reportedly obtained bank statements, credit reports, utility bills and telephone records for Knight and Tompkins.
They established that four payments had gone into Knight’s bank account between December and April from a West Ham United account at the Bank of Scotland, for $910, $2,093, $5,465 and $7,394. They also say there was a further sum of $7,715 in June.
When presented with the evidence, Knight admitted receiving a total of $32,791 from West Ham and said it was for consultancy work.
Both West Ham and the OPLC have confirmed that Knight had no involvement in the decision. She has now been suspended and the OPLC confirmed they would would be investigating any possible conflict of interest.
“The OPLC has confirmed that Ms Knight had absolutely no involvement in the bidding process and we repeat that secret cash was not paid to her,” West Ham said in its statement.
“Her work was very transparent and the bidding process was never compromised.”