Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Shadow On The Line

You see the truth is like lightning, it always follows the line of least resistance. So, for what we do, the trick is simple. All we have to do is find the line and then follow it back up. And, whatever it is, it's all going to be sorted out neat and tidy, 99% of the time. But with this, with what we see here. Well, you try and find the line on something like this and all it's going to do is fur up your arteries so thick you'd think you're a fucking werewolf. So, we just pass it on. And then we step right out of the picture because whoever it is who has to pick up this sorry rag of rope it'll sure as shit be the devil of them...

The Olympic Park Legacy Company has launched two independent investigations into its "internal stadium procedures" as the row over the Olympic Stadium continues to escalate. The quango, which awarded the 250‑year lease on the Olympic Stadium to West Ham United over Tottenham Hotspur, last week suspended its director of corporate services on full pay after it emerged she had been paid by the east London club to carry out consultancy work during the bidding phase.

An OPLC statement read: "The Olympic Park Legacy Company has launched an independent investigation into its internal stadium procedures as a result of the allegations made concerning employee Dionne Knight. The auditors Moore Stephens have been appointed to carry out this investigation into our procedures. They have put together a team led by their specialist forensic unit. We are also investigating the nature of the consultancy work that Dionne Knight undertook without our knowledge or permission. We will communicate the outcome of investigations when the work is complete. We remain confident that the integrity of our processes has not been compromised."

An independent barrister will also be appointed to conduct the "employment elements" of a separate investigation into how Knight came to be working for West Ham on the procurement process for the conversion work the club needed to do on the stadium. The OPLC has said that it had no knowledge that she was working for the Hammers. The club were told by the West Ham Olympic Stadium project director, Ian Tompkins, with whom Knight was in a long‑standing relationship of which all parties were aware, that she had obtained permission from the OPLC. Tompkins has also been suspended pending an investigation.

The OPLC continue to insist the decision to award West Ham tenancy of the stadium after the 2012 Games stands, despite them launching the twin-pronged inquiry. They remain confident that Knight was isolated from the Olympic Stadium decision-making process once she declared her relationship with Tompkins. The process was handled by a separate team based at its law firm Eversheds. Spurs will return to the high court this month in an attempt to force a judicial review of the decision-making process. The OPLC board voted 14-0 in favour of the joint bid from West Ham and Newham Council, with the decision rubber-stamped by the government and the mayor of London, Boris Johnson. West Ham have said they will sue the Sunday Times for claiming the payments to Knight were "secret" and have claimed they will also take legal action against Spurs, who have used a security firm to investigate the bidding process.

In the meantime, Tottenham continue to press ahead with their plans to build a potential new stadium at Northumberland Park in Haringey. They hope to fund the development by asking supporters to pay upfront for premium seat packages costing as much as £53,000 over 10 years. Writing in the Telegraph, Paul Kelso states the club wrote to supporters on Tuesday asking them to take part in a survey designed to determine the level of demand for premium packages including food and parking options.

The survey indicates that the club is pursuing the Northumberland Park development adjacent to White Hart Lane in parallel with its legal challenge to the loss of the Olympic Stadium bid to West Ham. It also reveals the club’s strategy for paying for a stadium development that as recently as January was described as unaffordable by chairman Daniel Levy. The survey offers 39 different seating and hospitality packages in a tier of premium seating that appears similar to the Club Wembley middle tier at the national stadium that effectively bankrolls the ground through the sale of 10-year packages. Spurs appear to be adopting a similar model, asking supporters to pay as much as half of the fees upfront to help repay loans incurred in stadium construction.

Finally, we have another shadow on the line as the London mayor has been persuaded to vociferously back Tottenham's bid for public funding to help develop their plans for the new stadium. It comes after Spurs insisted any public cash would only be used for improving the local area. "It has potential to inject investment in stadium-led regeneration in the heart of the community," Boris Johnson said. "This level of investment will safeguard existing jobs, create considerably more local employment opportunities as well as enhance the public realm and vibrancy of the whole of Tottenham."

Spurs had plans to develop the Northumberland Park site approved by the mayor in 2010 but escalating costs turned their focus towards taking over the Olympic stadium in Stratford. After appearing unsuccessful in their appeal against the decision to hand over the Olympic stadium to West Ham, Levy confirmed that they are investigating the development of the new site behind the Paxton Road end of the White Hart Lane stadium. Tottenham have now applied to the government's Regional Growth Fund for a grant to cover costs which would be associated with moving to Northumberland Park. They include upgrading public transport and providing training and employment opportunities for local people.

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