Olympic Stadium deal was a disgrace as West Ham were allowed to sell Upton Park and keep the money, says Barry Hearn

BARRY HEARN has been one of the most colourful figures in British sport for half a century. 

Here, in the first part of SunSport’s exclusive serialisation of his autobiography, he tells how he got the a*** with officials over a young Ronnie O’Sullivan, royally revamped darts.. and fumed as West Ham were handed the Olympic Stadium.

Barry Hearn: My Journey: Knockouts, Snookers, Bullseyes, and Tight Lines is out on April 28Credit: Barry Hearn / Hodder & Stoughton

David Gold and David Sullivan got a great deal with the Olympic Stadium

David Gold and David Sullivan got a great deal with the Olympic StadiumCredit: Getty

THE final deal over the Olympic Stadium was a disgrace and should never have been sanctioned.

Put simply, West Ham were allowed to sell their own ground to developers and keep the proceeds.

In return for a 99-year lease, they contributed £15m to the cost of the stadium — but by that time the cost, plus the conversion, was probably in excess of £700m.

They were charged £2.5m per year as rental but the Olympic Park Legacy Company was responsible for all stewarding, policing and pitch upkeep.

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So West Ham were effectively given a free rental.

It was the deal of the century and my dog could have struck a better one.

I told Boris Johnson, then London Mayor, it was a terrible deal for the taxpayer.

We tried everything we could to block West Ham but we failed. It cost me over £1million in legal fees.

Time will tell, but every time I read about the London Stadium, I know I was right.

The operators of the stadium were soon in financial trouble as an arrangement that so favoured tenants West Ham was untenable.

The athletics track is still there but is covered by an inane seating configuration that takes days to install.

It isn’t commercially viable.

Despite everything, I bear no malice towards West Ham.

In 2021, West Ham announced the sale of 27 per cent of the club to Czech billionaire, Daniel Kretinsky, for around £180m, valuing the club at £700m.

Some way above the less than £100million joint chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan reportedly paid.

A huge part of this is surely attributable to the acquisition of the London Stadium.

Part of me wants to congratulate the shrewd Sullivan, Gold and vice-chair Karren Brady; another part of me thinks all of us, as taxpayers, have been royally ripped off.

*My Life: Knockouts, Snookers, Bullseyes, Tight Lines and Sweet Deals, by Barry Hearn, is out on April 28 and available to pre-order now (Hodder & Stoughton, £20).

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