West Ham United are facing the prospect of "major work" to repair corrosion at Upton Park if the club are unsuccessful with their bid to move to the Olympic Stadium.
The ground would need "substantial repairs" in the next few years, according to Newham council's principal licensing officer in documents seen by the Guardian that highlight the potential problem of operating from an old stadium.
The council-run West Ham safety advisory group's minutes indicate that "major works would need to be done by 2015" and that "concern [has been] expressed" about the state of the ground. There is no suggestion that it poses any danger to fans.
The club hope to be playing in their new stadium by the 2016-17 season and that potentially means considerable improvements to their current ground in the meantime. "There is the need to plan forward," the report states, highlighting "essential works such as the rust in the steelwork which is, at the moment, just surface corrosion but if not treated will get worse".
David Grant, the council's principal licensing officer, indicated to the group that "if the deal [for the Olympic Stadium] does not go through then extensive work would need doing".
West Ham's negotiations for the move have lasted more than two years and, while the club are still confident they are getting closer to a positive verdict, the saga still has some way to go before they can think about leaving Upton Park.
The London Legacy Development Corporation is preparing to rubber‑stamp a move in which the club will pay annual rent of £2.5m, as well as £6.5m in sponsorship and catering income, on a 99-year lease. However, once the deal is ratified, the council's offer to part-fund the £160m-plus conversion costs of a new cantilevered roof and retractable seats still has to be approved. A special-purpose body, set up jointly by the council and the LLDC, will have to confirm any agreement.
The safety advisory group met on 15 December when West Ham's operations director, Ben Illingworth, explained the board were hopeful an agreement would be in place by early February. The club also agreed to repair a number of "worn" metal steps and to inform the council of when it was done so more safety checks could be made.
West Ham officials told the Guardian that the maintenance work was on hold while they waited for the final go-ahead on the Olympic Stadium and was of a kind required on all football grounds every 10 to 15 years. "It's major in terms of it being a long job but it's not particularly expensive," said one executive.
The club remain confident of finalising a deal to move to the Olympic Stadium, meaning the work would not be required after all. If the deal with the LLDC is finalised, Upton Park will be sold to developers to help pay down West Ham's debt.