Obama’s top soccer team wins London Olympic Stadium backing

Published 12:58 PM EST, Wed December 5, 2012
The Olympic Stadium in London was packed to the rafters during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The Olympic Stadium in London was packed to the rafters during the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
PHOTO: Getty Images

Story highlights

Soccer club West Ham selected as preferred bidder for London's Olympic Stadium

Premier League side beat off competition from third-tier team Leyton Orient

Reconstruction work on the arena expected to cost between $210-240 million

U.S. president's favorite English team will contribute $24 million

(CNN) —  

Barack Obama received the backing of a nation when he was elected for a second term as U.S. president last month, and now his favorite English soccer club has also won a significant ballot.

English Premier League side West Ham United – the team of choice of the 44th president of the United States – has been selected as the preferred occupant for London’s Olympic Stadium, the venue which hosted the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

The London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) announced on Wednesday that the east London club – whose stadium is located near to the former Olympic Park site in Stratford – had beaten off competition from neighboring third-tier team Leyton Orient, a proposed sports university project and a consortium looking to bring Formula One to the British capital.

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“The LLDC’s board unanimously agreed that West Ham United’s bid for a concession to play at the Olympic Stadium should be ranked highest of the bids received, and that negotiations should be held with the club on final commercial terms for them to move to the stadium,” read a statement on the organization’s website.

West Ham had initially tried to buy the stadium and was named the preferred bidder in February 2011, but that deal collapsed in October of that year after threats of court action from rival candidates and an independent review of the process.

The stadium was then offered to potential tenants, and from an initial 16 interested parties the list was cut to four bidders in March 2012.

Despite backing West Ham’s bid for the 80,000-seater arena, the LLDC insisted any future tenant would have to accommodate the 2017 World Athletics Championships.

If West Ham cannot cater for track and field, the club would be unable to complete its proposed move to the site.

“If a football use can be agreed the stadium would be reconfigured to provide a retractable/moveable seating solution so there could be a quick change over between athletics and football use,” the LLDC said.

“The legacy corporation recognizes that West Ham and other parties may not be able to meet the necessary conditions, so is progressing a detailed design for a non-football option. This would allow the stadium to be brought back into use as soon as possible.”

West Ham’s joint chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold hailed Wednesday’s announcement as the latest step in realizing the vision they had for the club when they purchased a 50% shareholding for $85 million in 2010.

“We are ambitious for our great club and aim to set the benchmark for visiting away and neutral football supporters from across the globe to come and enjoy the iconic Stadium and be part of our Premier League club experience,” they said in a statement.

Reconstruction work on the stadium, including extending the roof and adding retractable seating, will reportedly cost between $210-240 million and will be funded by a mix of public money and a $64 million loan from the local Newham Council.

West Ham is expected to contribute $24 million to the restructuring of the public-funded stadium, which cost $690 million to build.

The club returned to the English top flight in August following relegation in 2011, and has made an encouraging start to the season under the guidance of manager Sam Allardyce, sitting eighth in the table with 22 points from 15 matches.

Obama has reportedly been a fan of “the Hammers” since a trip to England several years before his election to office in 2008.

The club’s supporters have even sung songs in his honor during matches, according to the Goal.com website.