News24

Police investigating Spurs

2011-11-08 17:27

London - Police are investigating allegations that Tottenham ordered surveillance on Olympic board members during the Premier League club's failed bid to take over London's Olympic Stadium.

With the post-games future of the £486 million stadium unclear after the collapse of West Ham's planned move, Olympic Park Legacy Company chair Margaret Ford told the London Assembly on Tuesday that the bidding process had been mired in clandestine dealings and legal wrangling.

"The chairman of Tottenham Hotspur felt confident enough to say that in the Sunday Times several months ago that all 14 members of my board were under surveillance," Ford said. "The metropolitan police are conducting an investigation into that surveillance.

"There has been all kinds of behaviour that I had not anticipated, which has not been pleasant over the last 12 months."

London's Metropolitan Police confirmed that an investigation was under way but declined to discuss details, while Tottenham denied the allegations.

"The club did not undertake, instruct or engage any party to conduct surveillance on any member of the OPLC committee and we consider the making of this baseless accusation to be wholly inappropriate and irresponsible," Tottenham said in a statement released by law firm Russell Cooke. "We totally reject the accusation in the strongest possible terms."

Tottenham had been unhappy that Dionne Knight, the OPLC's director of corporate services, was discovered to have been paid by West Ham as a freelance consultant during their successful bid. The OPLC had not been aware of the payments and Knight was suspended.

"I personally find it appalling ... the very idea of your board being put under surveillance is reprehensible," the London Assembly's economy, sport and culture committee chair Dee Doocey said. "It almost beggars belief that this thing can happen. The idea of any board being put under surveillance is absolutely reprehensible."

Tottenham and third-tier side Leyton Orient planned a legal challenge to West Ham's bid when they claimed that a £40 million local government grant to the Hammers constituted unfair state aid and prejudiced the process.

Ford said the OPLC scrapped West Ham's bid last month before a hearing into the case after an anonymous complaint to the European Commission threatened to delay the handover of the stadium.

"I find it sickening that it was an anonymous complaint," Ford said. "If someone has an issue, they should have the backbone to make it public."

The OPLC's revised plan is for the stadium to remain publicly owned after the 2012 Games and be rented out. UK Athletics is expected to be among multiple tenants to pay for the stadium after a new bidding process.

The OPLC is still open to a football club being among the tenants, and West Ham have said they will be bidding again. The London Assembly committee requested the OPLC provide evidence that other stadiums across Europe combining football with athletics were profitable.

OPLC chief executive Andrew Altman said that the sale of naming rights and sponsorship were being considered to help cover the £95 million cost of converting the 80 000-seat stadium to a 60 000-seat venue after the Olympics.

West Ham had agreed to pay £20 million toward the cost.

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