West Ham United FC threaten to take legal action over beer prices
West Ham United FC have threatened to commence legal proceedings against E20 Stadium LLP (the owner of the London Stadium) for breach of contract, arising out of the price of drinks sold at the stadium.
On the opening weekend of the Premier League 2022/23 season, West Ham United FC (“West Ham”) played against Manchester City FC at their home ground, the London Stadium (“the Stadium”). Fans flocked to social media to share their anger at the prices being charged for beer and other drinks at the Stadium. A picture of a refreshments menu that was shared on Twitter showed that a pint of Heineken would cost £7.60, and a bottle of Coca-Cola would cost £4.50.
Who is responsible for prices of refreshments sold at the Stadium?
It is not West Ham who control the prices for concessions sold at the Stadium. In accordance with a Concession Agreement dated 22 March 2013, it is E20 Stadium LLP that is responsible for the provision of refreshments and catering services, and any contracts for catering services are entered into by E20 Stadium LLP.
In a statement released on 18 August 2022, the club confirmed that discussions with the Stadium to reduce food and drink concession prices were ongoing. West Ham also stated that, whilst prices had been reduced for the UEFA Europa Conference League fixture against Viborg FF which took place that evening, the reduction was not to their satisfaction and “if the club does not get a satisfactory resolution, it will commence legal proceedings against London Stadium”.
A further statement was released on 21 August 2022, in which the club stated that whilst there were some reductions to additional food and drink concession prices, discussions remained ongoing as “the Club agreed the concession agreement to ensure clear protections for West Ham United supporters – it will reserve its position and will not rest until a satisfactory outcome is reached”. The statement also included a price list of the food and beverages that were to be sold at the Stadium during West Ham’s Premier League fixture against Brighton & Hove Albion later that day. The list showed that the prices for a pint of Heineken and a bottle of Coca-Cola had been reduced to £6.90 and £4.10 respectively. As at 31 August 2022, those prices remained the same for West Ham’s fixture against Tottenham Hotspur FC.
Has there been a breach of contract?
Clause 18.11(a) of the Concession Agreement provides that E20 Stadium LLP shall ensure that terms and conditions relating to catering contracts “including without limitation as to the prices for food, refreshments and beverages and the corresponding service levels in respect thereof match (to the best of [E20 Stadium LLP’s] knowledge) the mean average of equivalent terms and conditions at the Comparable Clubs”.
The Concession Agreement defines Comparable Clubs as “the three leading Football clubs (as determined by the capacity of their home ground) with London as their registered home address which: (a) play regular home league Football fixtures in the Premier League; and (b) have a capacity at their home ground of more than 40,000”. The three “Comparable Clubs” are Arsenal FC, Chelsea FC and Tottenham Hotspur FC. Reports suggest that the price for a pint of beer at the stadiums of these three clubs are £6.35, £5.70, and £5.19 respectively. In accordance with Clause 18.11(a) of the Concession Agreement, the price for a pint of beer at the London Stadium should therefore be around £5.75.
However, simply proving that there has been a breach of contract would not be enough to establish that there are grounds for a claim. West Ham would also have to show that there has been a loss suffered as a direct consequence of the breach, and that they should be compensated in damages for the loss caused.
For more information on how to claim for a breach of contract, click here.
Commercial contracts govern many aspects of sports law, from relationships between clubs and their stadium (as shown by this case), to relationships between players and intermediaries / agents. If you are in a contractual relationship and believe that the other party has acted in breach of their contractual obligations, or if you are facing such a claim, our expert civil litigators can advise you on effective courses of action.