Probe clears 2012 stadium bid procedure

LONDON, (Reuters) – English soccer club West Ham  United cleared another hurdle in their bid to move into London’s  Olympic stadium after the 2012 Games when an independent  investigation yesterday said the procedure surrounding the bid  had not been compromised.

Auditors Moore Stephens were called in after the Sunday  Times newspaper in July said secret payments had been made to an  executive on the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC), the body  responsible for finding tenants for the venues after the Games.

The OPLC board last February unanimously chose West Ham,  later relegated from the Premier League, as preferred bidder to  take over the new 486 million pound ($799 million) stadium in  east London ahead of city rivals Tottenham Hotspur.

The newspaper said the OPLC’s corporate services director  Dionne Knight had been paid 20,000 pounds by West Ham for  consultancy work before and after the decision was made.

West Ham said Knight’s work was in relation to the  procurement of a construction partner after the Olympics.

Knight, who had disclosed a personal relationship with West  Ham director Ian Tompkins when she started at the OPLC, was  suspended and the OPLC appointed the auditors to review its own  internal stadium procedures.

Moore Stephens found there was no evidence to suggest Knight  had access to or had passed on confidential information about  the stadium process, or that she influenced the selection, the  OPLC said in a statement.

The OPLC added that its founder members, the Mayor of London  and the government, “concluded that there are no grounds for  re-considering their decision to select West Ham United FC and  the London Borough of Newham as Preferred Bidder”.

West Ham plan to retain the athletics track in the stadium  and reduce the capacity to 60,000 from 80,000 before moving in  for the 2014-15 season.

West Ham are not out of the woods yet. Tottenham, which  planned to remove the track and build a new purpose-built soccer  stadium, is pursuing a judicial review of the OPLC’s initial  decision in the High Court in London.

An oral hearing is scheduled for tomorrow.

The court has previously rejected legal moves from both  Tottenham and Leyton Orient, a third-tier club based near the  stadium in east London, who fear they could lose fans.

London 2012 officials feel keeping the athletics track is  crucial to offering a sporting legacy which they promised the  International Olympic Committee would happen after the Games.

A London bid for the 2017 athletics World Championships  largely hinges on the track being kept in the Olympic stadium.        ($1 = 0.608 British Pounds)

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