Last month we wrote about a Freedom of Information request, submitted through WhatDoTheyKnow, on West Ham’s lease of the former Olympic Stadium. The resulting information was interesting enough that it became the subject of a BBC TV programme.
The request, submitted by WhatDoTheyKnow user Richard Hunt on behalf of a group of Football Supporters’ Trusts, received some but not all of the information required. The rest was held back on grounds of ‘commercial confidentiality’, a decision which Richard asked the ICO to review.
On 3rd September the ICO found in his favour: the stadium owners, London Legacy Development Corporation, must now provide the full contract, including details of the rent being paid. Read more in this BBC story, which states:
The commissioner said neither West Ham nor LLDC had been able to show how revealing the details of the tenancy agreement would place them at a commercial disadvantage or how this information could be exploited by a competitor.
This is an important point, Richard says:
The commercial confidentiality excuse is a huge problem. I think that if a private company is involved, and the requester doesn’t have a business background, they just assume that it must be reasonable. So they don’t challenge it.
Fortunately we had plenty of business brains, and in particular an understanding of the football business. We challenged the excuse in detail… The overall lesson is, if you get this excuse, try to gain knowledge of the business in question, and ask yourself how exactly a competitor could take advantage of the company if the information was disclosed, and whether the damage outweighs the public interest.
Richard says he is happy to share their submissions to the ICO with anyone facing similar difficulties in obtaining information. You can contact him via WhatDoTheyKnow.
The London Legacy Development Corporation now has until 8th October to disclose the full details of the tenancy agreement.