A fresh row has broken out over the former Olympic stadium after West Ham warned the prospect of securing naming rights was “dwindling to zero”.
Mayor Sadiq Khan has offered to help end a 10-year search for a sponsor after West Ham’s vice-chair Baroness Brady claimed the £4m a year being sought in return for renaming the stadium after a sponsor was too high.
West Ham rents the stadium under a 99-year lease but it costs the London taxpayer about £17m a year to keep it open, according to the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) which oversees the Olympic Park.
It is estimated that £40m has been lost in potential income due to the failure to find a sponsor for the venue, now known as the London Stadium.
Two months ago Lyn Garner, the LLDC chief executive, said the naming rights were worth £4m a year — but suggested a larger sum could be secured if shirt sponsorship, or a deal including the naming of other venues in the Olympic Park, could be struck.
“If West Ham wanted to pay me £4m a year for the right to sell the naming rights, then we can have a conversation,” Ms Garner told a City Hall meeting. “However, what I cannot do is sell the naming rights off cheaply.”
But this sparked a furious response from Baroness Brady, who said the naming rights were only worth £2m a year and there was an attempt to sell them to West Ham “at an inflated price”.
In a five-page letter seen by the Standard, she claimed there had been an unfair suggestion that the stadium “could not attract the best brands because West Ham United is not as attractive as other clubs”.
She said that West Ham was entitled to a share of any deal but added: “The time has come where the prospect of naming rights revenue for West Ham United is dwindling to zero.
“We will be going to market shortly for a new primary sponsor. The window to sell the naming rights will be impacted once we engage a fresh front of shirt brand partner.
“There needs to be an acceptance that the value in stadium naming rights is not what it once was. Everyone needs to be realistic. Brand partnership with Premier League clubs is in high demand. Stadium naming sponsorship on its own is not.”
Baroness Brady said the club was willing to act as an agent to find a sponsor and called for a “fresh approach” on how the stadium is run.
Mr Khan was urged at a London Assembly meeting on Thursday by Lib-Dem Caroline Pidgeon to “give impetus” to the search for a stadium sponsor.
Ms Pidgeon asked the mayor: “Doesn’t it makes sense to get everyone round the table and see if we can use West Ham’s professional skills to try and get that deal, because that helps the taxpayer?”
Mr Khan, who has been involved in the stadium’s hosting of American football and baseball games, said: “I’m more than happy to get involved, as and when I’m advised it’s the right time to do so.”
He added: “We have also got to be careful not to scare away somebody potentially thinking about being a sponsor by giving the impression we are at daggers. We really aren’t. West Ham have made huge progress working with us in the last few years.”
A West Ham spokesman said: “West Ham United has consistently maintained that the income generated at the stadium could be far higher.
“We have made clear that we are open to a new approach and are willing to help grow revenues and reduce costs, while improving the London Stadium experience for West Ham United supporters and other visitors.
“As far as we are concerned, no option is off the table. We welcome dialogue with the mayor to realise the potential of this incredible, iconic asset for the capital.”