Olympics: Executive suspended amid 2012 stadium claims

LONDON, July 3, 2011 (AFP) - A 2012 Olympic Park Legacy Company executive has been suspended after a Sunday newspaper revealed she had been working for West Ham, the football team which won the bid to take over the main stadium.

The OPLC board voted 14-0 in February to make the Hammers the first choice to move into the £486 million ($776 million) Olympic Stadium once the London Games are over, edging out Tottenham Hotspur.

The future of the 80,000-seater venue in Stratford, east London, has been a bone of contention, trying to match the Games organisers' pledge for an athletics legacy with the need to make the stadium viable in the long term.

West Ham confirmed that OPLC director of corporate services Dionne Knight had carried out consultancy work for the east London football club but vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Knight is in a relationship with West Ham director Ian Tompkins, who spearheaded the club's bid to take over the stadium.

The OLPC said it knew about the relationship but had not given permission to undertake any work for West Ham, who were relegated from the English Premier League in May. The body has suspended her pending a probe.

The Sunday Times newspaper claimed the payments totalled £20,000 ($32,000, 22,000 euros).

The broadsheet said the payments were uncovered by private investigators hired by north London club Tottenham, which lost out to West Ham in the bitter fight to take over the stadium. Spurs would not comment on this claim, the weekly said.

The stadium battle is still ongoing. Spurs applied Wednesday to the High Court to renew its application for permission to bring a claim for a judicial review of the decision.

The OPLC is a government body set up to manage the handover of the giant bowl and the surrounding park once the Games are over.

The body said in a statement: "It has come to our attention that an employee of the OPLC has been undertaking paid consultancy work for West Ham United.

"The company had no knowledge of this work and no permission was given to undertake it. This individual had no involvement whatsoever in our stadium process.

"The individual concerned had declared a personal relationship with an employee of West Ham United FC when she joined the organisation and we therefore put robust measures in place to ensure our stadium process was not compromised.

"As soon as this new information came to light the company took immediate action and launched an independent investigation. The employee has been suspended pending the outcome of this."

Meanwhile West Ham said it was taking legal action in relation to the claims.

"We are so confident of the probity of our actions that we will take the strongest action possible against any suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of West Ham United or its officers," the Hammers said in a statement.

The club said the only wrongdoing was "by those who have broken the law and obtained private information".

Knight's work was "very transparent and the bidding process was never compromised".

Knight denies that she ever had access to or passed on confidential information to West Ham, The Sunday Times said.

West Ham, in a joint bid with the Newham Council local authority, intend to convert the stadium into a 60,000-capacity facility which retains an athletics track.

The club plans to move from nearby Upton Park in 2014/15 with a 250-year lease, and give a 250-year lease to UK Athletics.

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