Olympic legacy chief Margaret Ford made the allegations before the London Assembly today (Getty)

(WFI) (WFI) Tottenham Hotspur have been accused of spying on London Olympic
legacy officials during the English Premier League club’s failed bid to take
over the 2012 stadium.

OPLC chair Margaret Ford made the explosive claims on Tuesday before a meeting of
the London Assembly’s economy, sport and culture
committee, that focused on the ongoing legacy saga
surrounding the 80,000-seat stadium.

“Over the last 12 months, there has been all kinds of behaviour I did not expect. It was not very pleasant,” she said.

“My board were put under surveillance by Tottenham Hotspur. The
Metropolitan Police are now conducting an investigation into that
surveillance.”

Dee Doocey, chairman of the London Assembly committee, labelled the allegations facing Spurs as “reprehensible”.

“It almost beggars belief that this could happen. The idea of any board
being put under surveillance is absolutely disgraceful,” she said.

Spurs denied the allegations in a statement.

“The club did not undertake, instruct or engage any party to conduct
surveillance on any member of the OPLC Committee and we consider the
making of this baseless accusation to be wholly inappropriate and
irresponsible,” said the statement carried by Sky Sports.

“We totally reject the accusation in the strongest possible terms.”

The OPLC last month scrapped negotiations with West Ham football club to
take over the stadium after the Games, a decision triggered by concerns
over possible delays in post-Olympics conversion caused by a legal
dispute with rival club Tottenham Hotspur and an anonymous complaint to
the European Commission.

Ford said she is confident the new tender process to find tenants for
the London 2012 stadium has potential for a “really good” outcome to the
legacy saga.

“I am not apologetic for closing down the last [bidding] process. To
have left the Olympic stadium in limbo for another 18 months or two
years, through 2014 and 2015, and in the dark possibly into 2016 would
have been an absolute travesty,” Ford told London Assembly members.

“We could not be held to ransom for another year with vexatious claims
to the European Commission,” she said. “We have to get this stadium
transformed after the Games.

The OPLC decided to keep the $760 million stadium in public ownership,
delivering a mixed-used venue. OPLC chiefs are seeking to enhance the
athletics legacy plan for the stadium by renting out the stadium to an
anchor football tenant and staging other entertainment events at the
venue. A new tender process is underway.

Ford said the new plan “narrowed the scope for litigation”.

In the hour-long grilling by Assembly members, Ford also revealed that
Newham Council was still committed to contributing $64 million towards
the conversion costs of the Olympic stadium. Money for stadium
transformation costs is allocated in the Olympic Delivery Authority
budget. Depending on the final legacy package, public funding might
still need to be used to make up for a shortfall in funding the
conversion.

OPLC chief executive Andrew Altman told Assembly members the fresh bid
process “gives us maximum flexibility” to make the venue commercially
viable, although he said details of the plan to offer multiple licences
were to still to be finalized before the OPLC board’s Nov. 28 meeting.

“The point is we can go to the market and have more bids and there are
many ways to put that together,” Altman said of the option to offer a
number of leases.

Despite widespread criticism of the football-athletics combination, Ford
suggested it could work post-Games, citing 14 stadia across Europe that
had successfully done so.

Ford said the OPLC had an idea of what the legacy operating costs of the
stadium might be but preferred not to discuss them claiming they could
prejudice the new bidding process.

With the IAAF choosing between London’s Olympic stadium and Doha’s
Khalifa stadium for the 2017 world athletics championships on Friday,
Ford noted that the OPLC had given reassurances and emphasised that the
Olympic Stadium legacy plan was now in a “much, much stronger position”.

Scotland Yard said the investigation into Ford’s surveillance claims
was ongoing, after announcing the arrest today of a 29-year-old man on suspicion of
fraud offences.

By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson

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