Sunday 23 January 2011

Tessa Sanderson Threatens Legal Action on Stadium Vote

Now that the finances have been underwritten by Newham council, it seems extremely unlikely that West Ham will fail this Friday to secure their bid to take over the Olympic stadium in Stratford. Lord Coe's opposition to the Spurs plan today is likely to hold considerable sway with the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC).

But it's still unclear whether one OPLC board member, Tessa Sanderson, will participate in Friday's expected vote. Last Wednesday, Sky Sport reported that she had been excluded because of a "personal consultancy contract" with Newham council. A statement from the OPLC said that "this had not been disclosed to the company" and that "Board members are obliged to give declarations of interests, including pecuniary interests, in any matter where there is a potential conflict of interest."

However, yesterday Sanderson threatened legal action unless she is allowed to participate in the decision on the Olympic stadium. She denies a conflict of interest, which appears to relate to her involvement with the Newham Sports Academy, saying:

"My involvement with Newham has been well-documented in the national and local media over the last four years and clearly is in the public domain, indeed you only have to look at my own entry on the OPLC website to see my ongoing involvement".

And indeed it does, although this doesn't mean that the formal contractual arrangements with the local authority, who core-fund the Acadamy, were fully declared. Nor is Sanderson's instance that she can "remain objective and open-minded to the two proposals" really relevant - in a decision as big as this and with so much money involved, the appearance of propriety is just as important as the suitability and experience of Board members to take part in it.

Most people, myself included, had no idea of Sanderson's consultancy and now that the council is about to become either a significant funder or possibly even a joint lessee (see here) of the stadium, her participation in any vote on its future would clearly appear partisan.

UPDATE - 24 January

The OPLC has asked for more time to consider the West Ham and Spurs bids and "there may now not be a final ruling until the end of March". Partly a consequence of the threatened legal action?

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