West Ham are refusing to back down over comments accusing London Stadium chiefs of making “wrong and misleading” accusations about the Premier League club’s tenancy.
Last week, the Irons criticised Lyn Garner, chief executive of the London Legacy Development Corporation, over several claims regarding the venue’s cash problems which were made at a London Assembly meeting.
E20, the company set up to run the former Olympic Stadium, recorded operating losses of around £22million for the last financial year and faces the possibility of being dissolved.
Garner said one of the main financial issues was the £2.5million annual rental fee which West Ham secured the stadium for in 2013. According to the LLDC official, that amount does not even cover the cost of staging matches – and she described it as “the elephant in the room”.
The club responded with a strongly-worded statement, saying such claims were “deliberately misleading the public and, more importantly, taxpayers.”
West Ham, who remain in dispute with their landlords over various issues, said they now pay £3m in rent “due to additional annual fees” since their original 2013 agreement, while a further £6m was generated through “food and beverage” sold at games.
LLDC chairman Sir Peter Hendy subsequently wrote an open letter to London Assembly chairman Tony Arbour, in which he said West Ham had made an “extremely serious and damaging statement” against public officials and would be asking the club to “retract the claim.”
West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady has now delivered her own response, in which she says Garner’s statements to the London Assembly “omitted a number of key facts”.
In a letter to Arbour, which was published via www.london.gov.uk on Tuesday evening, Brady set out the club’s stance to the inference West Ham “pay too little by way of rent”, referencing their own figures of “c. £10million a year.”
She added: “In our view (with many years of experience of operation a stadium behind us) we are staggered that the operating costs at the London Stadium exceed revenue.
“In our view, the actual elephant in the room is the E20’s failure to manage the operating costs competently.”
Brady continued: “The words ‘elephant in the room’ created an impression that West Ham United was to blame for not paying enough to meet operating costs.
“We felt that Ms Garner could have made clear that in drawing attention to this ‘elephant in the room’ that she was not laying the blame at West Ham United’s door, but she did not.
“It is plain to see why the media reported her comments as they did. We were forced into issuing a statement of our own to correct inaccuracies in the reports.
“I would like to make clear to you that at no time did West Ham state that LLDC officials had lied.
“We said the statement Ms Garner had made was misleading the public because it did not present all the facts. We stand by that statement.”
In closing, Brady also highlighted the “global audience” West Ham’s Premier League exposure brings to the London Stadium, without which, she said, “many of the rights currently being sold by E20 would have no value”.
West Ham lost their opening four Premier League matches of the season under new boss Manuel Pellegrini, to sit bottom of the table.