West Ham could sue over stadium ruling, say lawyers

WEST HAM would have a strong argument for seeking a judicial review and could even claim damages if they lose out to Tottenham in the battle for the Olympic Stadium, legal experts have told City A.M.

The Hammers could argue for a review on the grounds that such a decision would be unfair, say lawyers, since their plans for the £537m venue appear to match more closely the promised legacy for east London.

Alternatively they might look to challenge the Premier League on its rules, or seek damages from the organisation if Tottenham’s move to Stratford were to cause a reduction in their income.

The warning from two leading lawyers who specialise in sport comes after the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) postponed its decision on the preferred bidder, which had been expected on Friday.

Only once a decision has been rubber-stamped by the Mayor and government could the losing bidder take legal action – but at that point they would have several options, including judicial review.

“If a decision goes against Spurs, I don’t envisage they would look at a formal legal challenge. But if it goes against West Ham they may well look at judicial review,” said Andrew Nixon, an associate at Thomas Eggar.

“Reviewing the decision of the OPLC would be the easiest and quickest route, with the most viable chance of success, and I think West Ham would have a stronger case because they are saying they will keep the stadium as dual-purpose.”

West Ham, whose vice-chairman is Karren Brady, intend to retain the running track and continue to host athletics at the stadium. Tottenham, led by chairman Daniel Levy, propose to knock down and rebuild it as a football-only venue, with athletics being relocated to a revamped Crystal Palace.

Harry Karaolou, a senior associate at Lawrence Graham, said: “West Ham would have a better case in that their bid adheres to promises made in the Olympic bid in 2005. It’s difficult to see what possible grounds Tottenham would have, unless it could be argued that the local area benefited economically [from their arrival].”

The losing bidder could also appeal to the Premier League, who must ratify a move by any team, although it is thought they would not oppose either club. The third option would be to claim damages against the league, if they can show the decision has dented sponsorship and corporate revenue.

“Premier League rules aren’t reviewable but that doesn’t preclude West Ham from bringing a claim against it for damages,” Nixon added. “If they make a decision that causes loss and damage to West Ham then they could potentially issue a claim.”