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Orient to put up stadium fight

06 March 2013, 15:09

London - Leyton Orient have started a legal fight against the decision to allow fellow football club West Ham United to move into the Olympic Stadium, it was announced on Wednesday.

Orient, who play in England's third tier League One, are geographically the nearest football club to the Olympic Stadium, which is in the east London borough of Stratford, and have long been concerned about the potential impact of Premier League West Ham moving to the site from their existing Upton Park ground.

Orient signalled their willingness to ground share at the £429m venue but the club's owner, Barry Hearn, the leading British sports promoter, has become alarmed by the prospect of West Ham becoming the sole football side based at the stadium.

Now Hearn, also the World Snooker chairperson, has asked for a judicial review of the bid process.

"The rules of the bidding process created by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) we do not believe provided for teaming, which is for all parties to share the stadium," Hearn said on Wednesday.

"It is our legal opinion that this is a fundamental flaw of the bidding process.

"We have gone to the High Court to have the decision struck out."

The LLDC board, the body which has the responsibility for securing the stadium's future, in December named West Ham as the number one choice to move into the Olympic Stadium.

"We have been notified that Leyton Orient have made the decision to issue proceedings for judicial review," said an LLDC spokesman.

"Whilst this is disappointing, we believe that our processes have been robust, fair and transparent and that the challenge is misconceived."

Hearn argues the process did not allow Leyton Orient to make a case for a ground-share.

"We have to protect ourselves," he said. "We are doing everything we can to protect Leyton Orient Football Club, which is endangered by West Ham moving to the stadium."

Ground-sharing, while common in Europe, with the likes of Italian giants AC Milan and Inter Milan both playing at the city's San Siro stadium, is a rarity in England.

The original deal for West Ham to take over the stadium collapsed in 2011 due to legal challenges from both north London side Tottenham Hotspur and Orient.

However, the LLDC's decision to rank the Hammers as the preferred bidder means they are in pole position to move to the stadium, but will not be able to take up residency until the 2016/17 season at the earliest.

Final commercial terms have yet to be concluded between the LLDC and West Ham.

Whatever the football future of the 60 000-seater stadium, something regarded as vital if the venue is not to become an expensive 'white elephant', pop concerts and the 2017 World Athletics Championship are also scheduled to take place there.



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