British taxpayers have just handed West Ham a stadium worth half a billion pounds… where’s my bit of this £630m council house?
Could you please send me the part of the Olympic stadium that I now own? It seems the Government has given you millions of pounds of public money and, as a result, I have bought a piece of your new arena. I’d like that back, thank you.
Can you believe it? British taxpayers have just handed a Premier League football club a stadium worth half a billion pounds which, in these austere times, you might think is charity enough.
But not content with that almighty handout, the Government is throwing another £25million of public money in their direction to ensure the interior fittings, including new seats and a roof, are to their liking when they move into their gigantic new council house.
At the end of the process, West Ham will receive more than £630m of real estate with huge commercial potential and donate only £15m and £2m a year in rent for the privilege.
Now read those numbers again and tell me if you ever expect to understand the world of economics? I’m not sure I do but I know when I’m being ripped off.
They are getting the keys for less than it would cost to buy an average left-back. Worse still, they moaned about handing over even this meagre amount.
If West Ham wanted to put in retractable seats and modify the original design they should have paid for the changes themselves. Boris Johnson and Co had done enough for the Hammers to accept the stadium as it was, even with its flaws.
But Mayor Boris has buffooned his way through this whole process. Terrified he might be left with a ‘white elephant’, he caved in to every whim and moan. Friday’s press conference was so obsequious, I half expected him to unveil the new centre-forward the taxpayer had bought for the club.
‘It’s a deal people said could never be done,’ he jabbered. No they didn’t. They just hoped it wouldn’t be done quite like this.
It is excellent the stadium is being utilised, yet the terms are laughable. Let me put West Ham’s contribution in context. They could conceivably recoup their £2m rent within three or four home games with a capacity of 54,000.
It also grates to hear they made a song and dance about stumping up £15m towards the revamp when West Ham handed out cheques worth £4.4m to football agents last season alone.
The vice-chairman of West Ham, Karren Brady, declared: ‘We accept the cost of making this into a world-class stadium has come from the Government, but we hope over 99 years we can pay that back.’
Man of the people: Boris Johnson made the announcement that West Ham would take over the stadium
I’m not sure the British taxpayer is going to be won over by a polite ‘thank you for the stadium’ card accompanied by an IOU for £600m dated a century from now, but you could only admire the cheek.
No word as yet, either, on what will happen to West Ham’s current Upton Park home when they move to Stratford? If it is sold off, does the money go back to the Treasury? Let us hope so. But experience suggests it might not be an idea to hold your breath, not even for a hundred years.
Let us hope this is not our Olympic legacy. The country is nigh on broke. Hospitals are being closed, schools cannot afford books and soldiers are sent into combat with weaponry that is about as useful as a mop, should anything as inconvenient as actual fighting break out. Yet a member of one of the most lucrative sporting institutions in the world is effectively receiving a huge benefit handout from the State.
The Premier League is awash with cash. The new television deals are worth upwards of £5.5 billion over three years and that windfall will be shared between just 20 clubs. Even the bottom club will pick up £60m merely for turning up for one season.
The Premier League’s revenue last year — give or take a prawn sandwich — was £1,286,000,000.00. I’ve included the row of noughts because it’s easy to talk about a million here and a billion there without realising the true scale of the numbers involved.
Fireworks: The Olympic Stadium has seen just a few weeks of competitive action, but they were spectacular
This is big money. Contrast it with headlines in the newspapers warning half-a-million families were losing childcare vouchers, gas bills were going up 15 per cent and tax rises could be on the way unless someone hits George Osborne around the head with that red briefcase.
Let me bring it closer to home and ask you a question. How do you plan to finance your pension portfolio? Is the answer…
a) My what?
b) With a winner at Newbury today.
c) By selling a kidney.
Many people are skint and resentful. The economic pinch has turned into something more bruising.
And with perfect timing, Danny Boyle, the man behind the spectacular London 2012 opening ceremony, suggested the Olympic spirit had been killed by the recession. Killed? It was more a contract assassination. Then a few million more was slapped on the table to try to dispose of the body as quietly as possible.
So a football club owned by two multi-millionaires not only picked up a stadium for next to nothing, but also persuaded others to make it even more profitable for them.
Raring to go: West Ham’s Carlton Cole, Elliot Lee, Joe Cole, Kevin Nolan, Blair Turgott and James Tomkins
This is a fine deal for West Ham, but not for the people of Sheffield, who saw their Don Valley athletics stadium close this month. Or for little Leyton Orient, who fear going bust with this tax-funded goliath on their doorstep. Or for supporters across the country sitting in their own decrepit grandstands. They all paid for this new ground, though.
So well done to David Gold and David Sullivan, men who originally built their fortunes on profits made from the pornographic industry. I’d say they pulled it off, but it might be misconstrued. At least they should be able to count the cash from here on in.
I just wonder what their next money-spinning product might be? My suggestion is a film entitled The Great British Taxpayer — Shafted!
When Dave was a lad
The media industry is always on the look out for engaging football pundits. It’s not even essential to be right, since being loudly wrong is often more lucrative.
Professional frown collector and Darth Maul impersonator, Roy Keane, demonstrated this when he was praised for being completely mistaken about the infamous Nani red card against Real Madrid.
Even as he fixed everyone around him with his serial killer stare and dared them to disagree, the reaction was gratitude that a former player had offered up a thought that was genuinely controversial.
In a similar style, another ‘brave’ voice appeared in the sporting firmament this week, lighting up the landscape with his incendiary and startlingly incorrect view.
Dave Whelan, the Wigan Athletic chairman, reviewed a video of Callum McManaman’s tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara that was part kung-fu assault, part DIY amputation attempt and announced: ‘He won the ball clean as a whistle’.
What were you watching? Dave Whelan (centre) claimed Callum McManaman won the ball (below)
Even allowing for the customary bias in football, it’s an alarming remark.
But I already have a title for his new column — ‘Whelan’s Ye Olde World’ — where Dave gives his view on global events through clouded irises of misplaced nostalgia. Imagine the knowledge he could dispense?
Whelan on technology: ‘In my day there were none of those fancy gadgets youngsters have now. We couldn’t afford a washing machine. Or rocks. We cleaned our clothes in the canal by pounding them with our heads’.
Whelan on the Palestine/Israel conflict: ‘They should just shake hands. It’s a fuss about nothing, for heaven’s sake. We didn’t have any of that religion in my day, I swear to God.’
Whelan on Global Warming: ‘We’d have been glad of it. In my day we didn’t have central heating. Or foreigners. It was never a problem when the Sun went round the Earth.’
Whelan is 76.
Hodgson’s Rio recall was never going to take off
Every time I fly first class on an aircraft, I experience all sorts of pain. It’s usually earache — after the accounts department receive the invoice and ground me for the foreseeable future.
There are also other perils. Sometimes the ‘hot towels’ are lukewarm. The Puligny-Montrachet is too chilled to draw out its sophisticated mineral tones. And economy passengers use the first-class toilets, which is a sign that the fabric of social order is tearing apart. Or so I’m told, easyJet doesn’t have first class.
Jet set: Rio Ferdinand travelled to Qatar to appear as a pundit for England’s match with San Marino
But after noting Sir Alex Ferguson’s obvious surprise at Ferdinand’s inclusion in the squad, I warned last week: ‘Now we’ll find out how much Rio really wants to play for his country.’
It turned out to be not that much.
Ferdinand is approaching the end of his career and is unable to perform regularly without intensive help. Add that he is unlikely to figure in the 2014 World Cup finals squad after another 15 months of football — assuming England make it — and he withdrew from the last World Cup Finals because of the same injury, and it’s no shock.
Blow: Roy Hodgson had called Ferdinand into his squad for the crucial World Cup qualifiers
His back is not going to be better four years on from South Africa, is it? Remember too, he has not been picked by England for two years, has heard manager Roy Hodgson declare his career was over, was overlooked for John Terry in dubious circumstances and was drafted back this time due to injuries to others.
How much did Ferdinand want to play for England? Not as much as he wants to secure a new contract with Manchester United.
But while heading to Qatar this weekend was probably a deliberate two fingers to Hodgson, it was hamfisted of the England coach to recall the defender without making the common sense move to sound out the state of his mind and body beforehand.