UKA hits back in row over shifting Anniversary Games from London Stadium over £3million bill

Matt Majendie
·3-min read
 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

UK Athletics is adamant the Anniversary Games will stay put at London Stadium this summer despite proposals to relocate it because of a £3million black hole.

UKA said that any move to shift the July 13 meeting in the capital would be an “unacceptable breach of a longstanding agreement”.

The governing body’s response comes after Standard Sport revealed discussions had taken place between the London Legacy Development Authority (LLDC) and UKA over transferring the annual event elsewhere.

The proposed change of venue comes as a result of the cost of reconfiguring the stadium for an anticipated 20,000 spectators from football to athletics and back again proving prohibitively expensive at what would be the taxpayers’ expense.

But a UKA spokesperson said: “This would be an unacceptable breach of a longstanding agreement that forms an important part of the 2012 Olympic legacy plans.

“We expect the contract to be honoured and the event to take place at the Olympic Stadium as do the athletes, broadcasters, sponsors and most importantly the fans.

“This is not only a key part of our Olympic and Paralympic athletes’ preparation for Tokyo but an opportunity for fans and young athletes from the local community to return to one of the most iconic athletic venues in world sport.

“It would be a travesty for the sport after such a long wait for world-class athletics to return to the Olympic Stadium if our athletes and fans are denied a crucial send-off to Tokyo.”

Usually, the cost of the seating change for the summer is spread alongside a series of high-profile concerts but, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, the Anniversary Games is the only event lined up to take place at the venue either side of West Ham’s respective Premier League seasons.

Stadium bosses have offered to cover the costs of UKA relocating to another venue. It is believed that Gateshead or Manchestes are the only two viable options to step in, although Gateshead was recently chosen to host next month’s Diamond League season opener instead of Morocco.

A spokesperson for the LLDC told Standard Sport: “Like many venues, the Covid pandemic means London Stadium will not host the usual summer events in 2021.

“For the stadium, and ultimately the taxpayer, to face costs of around £3million to prepare for just one evening of athletics rather than the full summer calendar, where the cost would be spread between several events, seems disproportionate in these extraordinary times.

“We have reached out to UKA to discuss alternative options for this summer’s event, including an offer to cover the costs of moving the event to another venue. We believe this is a sensible way forward for all concerned under the circumstances.

“It will mean the event can still be held without disrupting Team GB’s Olympic preparations and delivers best value to the taxpayer. We would want UKA to see this is the best way forward in light of the circumstances caused by the pandemic.”

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