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Mar 3, 2011

Hammers' stadium bid approved

West Ham's hopes of landing the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games has taken another step forward after their move from Upton Park was approved by the government and Mayor of London, Boris Johnson.

Three weeks ago, the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) selected West Ham's bid as its preferred choice, but subject to further decisions from the government. Now, it has been rubber stamped, OPLC can begin contract negotiations with the club, although League One side Leyton Orient have threatened to take legal action over fears they will lose income and attendances.

In a statement, parliamentary under secretary of state Bob Neill MP said: "My colleague the Minister for Sport and the Olympics [Hugh Robertson] and I have today given our approval to the recommendation of the Olympic Park Legacy Company to select the joint bid from West Ham United Football Club and the London Borough of Newham as the preferred bidder for the legacy use of the Olympic Stadium.

"We are therefore writing to the Company informing them of our decisions as its joint Government Founder Members. The Mayor of London, as the other Founder Member of the Company, will also write separately.

"This completes the first stage of this process and means that the Olympic Park Legacy Company are now able to enter into negotiations with the consortium comprising West Ham United Football Club and the London Borough of Newham to agree a lease for the Olympic Stadium site on terms that are acceptable to Government and the Mayor of London and provide value for money to the public sector.

"We are delighted with the progress that has been made and very pleased we have reached this very significant milestone in determining the long term legacy for the Olympic Park following the Games."

The Premier League also released a statement in which they claimed that ''it would be unreasonable'' to prevent either Spurs or West Ham from moving to Stratford. While also maintaining that Leyton Orient chairman Barry Hearn's claims were ''at odds with his original submission''.

''With particular reference to Leyton Orient, full consideration was given to a letter written by its Chairman, Barry Hearn, to the Premier League prior to the Board meeting at which the decision was taken,'' the statement read.

''In the letter Mr. Hearn accepted that either Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham United would inevitably move into the Olympic Stadium while outlining his preference for Tottenham Hotspur. Mr. Hearn enclosed a copy of a separate letter written to the Tottenham Hotspur Chairman in which he wished him 'all success for the prospective move.'

''After the Board had met and reached its decision the Premier League General Secretary wrote to Mr. Hearn informing him of its decision, the reasoning behind it and thanking him for his correspondence.

''It is regrettable that Mr. Hearn is now claiming that Leyton Orient had no input into the Board's decision making process when their views, as expressed in writing at the time by Mr. Hearn, were given due consideration. Clearly the position currently being articulated by Mr. Hearn in the media is at odds with his original submission.

''The League has no view on the comparative merits of Tottenham Hotspur or West Ham United's bids. It was ultimately the responsibility of the OPLC to decide how the site would be used following the 2012 Olympic Games. With all this in mind there is absolutely no question of the Board's decision being reviewed.''

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