Premier League football club West Ham United is reportedly open to the possibility of buying London Stadium, its home venue since 2016.
The Times, citing sources close to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, who acquired a 27-per-cent stake in West Ham in November 2021, reported that the 47-year-old would consider an outright purchase of the stadium.
London Stadium served as the centrepiece of the 2012 Olympic Games. It is owned by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), with West Ham renting the stadium under a 99-year lease.
Unaudited accounts seen by The Times show that E20 Stadium Group, a subsidiary of the LLDC and operator of the stadium, made a £31.1m (€35,3m/$38.2m) loss for the year ending March 31, 2022.
London Stadium is still without a naming-rights partner and in January Karren Brady, the vice-chair of West Ham, told the London Assembly that the hopes of attracting a sponsor were “dwindling to zero” due to the body’s unrealistic expectations of how much a deal might be worth.
Baroness Brady said that the naming rights were likely worth £2m a year – around half the amount the LLDC believe a deal is worth. Garner had previously mentioned a figure of £4m and earlier this month expressed confidence that a deal could be struck this year.
According to The Times, Garner has told London politicians that the stadium will continue to operate “at a deficit year on year”. West Ham currently rents the stadium for £3.6m a year, with the figure having recently increased from £2.5m.
Garner said: “Ultimately, whether we like it or not, we have signed up to a 90-year contract, which sees the public sector operating that stadium and taking the risk for increased costs. If we want to run London Stadium in this way we are going to see year-on-year operational deficits.”
London Stadium also hosts concerts, athletics events and Major League Baseball games. West Ham increased the capacity of the stadium to 62,500 for the 2022-23 season.
In July, the Diamond League athletics series will return to the stadium for the first time in four years. UK Athletics confirmed plans for the event in August last year. It came after reports had emerged that UK Athletics was in talks with the LLDC over a settlement to end its long-term agreement to stage events at London Stadium.