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West Ham take legal action over 'secret payment' claim

West Ham United has confirmed it will take legal action over claims that it made ‘secret payments’ to an Olympic Park Legacy Company executive during its bid to take over the Olympic Stadium.

The club will launch legal proceedings against both Tottenham Hotspur and The Sunday Times over claims published in the newspaper that Dionne Knight received more than £20,000 in ‘secret payments’ during the bidding process.

The OPLC awarded the stadium to West Ham in a joint bid with Newham Council, ahead of rivals Tottenham.

The club wants to convert the 80,000-seater stadium into a 60,000-capacity arena for football, athletics, concerts and community use.

West Ham confirmed in a statement that Ms Knight carried out paid consultancy work on its behalf during the bidding process.

It said: “Dionne Knight’s work for the Legacy Stadium Partnership (owned 50 per cent by London Borough of Newham and 50 per cent by West Ham United) was in relation to the procurement of a construction partner after the Olympic Games.

“A number of companies applied for the procurement contract. It was awarded to Ms Knight as she was able to provide expertise at a significantly competitive price. The work that she subsequently undertook for the LSP was of a very high standard.”

The club added: “The OPLC has confirmed that Ms Knight had absolutely no involvement in the bidding process and we repeat that secret cash was not paid to her.”

West Ham and Spurs have been at the centre of a protracted battle to win rights to use the stadium post-Olympics. Spurs’ initial application for a judicial review of the decision to grant use of the stadium to West Ham was turned down by a high court judge last week, but the club has now requested an oral hearing into the decision.

The OPLC also released a statement which said that the company had no knowledge that Ms Knight was doing consultancy work for West Ham but that she had not had any involvement in the bid process.

It said: “It has come to our attention that an employee of the OPLC has been undertaking paid consultancy work for West Ham United FC. The company had no knowledge of this work and no permission was given to undertake it. This individual had no involvement whatsoever in our stadium process.

“The individual concerned had declared a personal relationship with an employee of West Ham United FC when she joined the organisation and we therefore put robust measures in place to ensure our stadium process was not compromised.”

The OPLC confirmed it has suspended Ms Knight pending the outcome of an independent investigation that it has launched.

Construction News was unable to contact Tottenham Hotspur at the time of going to print.

Meanwhile Spurs has applied for Regional Growth Fund support for its Northumberland Development Project (NDP) - the club’s proposed new stadium and associated development scheme.

The project, an alternative proposal to taking over the Olympic Stadium, would see the club redevelop the current site of its White Hart Lane stadium into a new 56,000-seater stadium as well as developing the surrounding area.

Spurs chairman Daniel Levy said: “The NDP plans represent sport-led regeneration, anchored by our proposed new stadium. It would directly create thousands of new, private sector jobs, attract millions of pounds of additional expenditure in the local economy and lever further private sector investment into the area.”

If successful, the club would use RGF funding for infrastructure works including station upgrades, public community space, employment and training facilities, restored listed properties, combined cooling heating plant, site enabling and public realm works.

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