During the week Premier League side West Ham United became yet another club in the top flight to be taken over this season, but for once it was not by foreign investors. The takeover comes from David Sullivan and David Gold former owners of Birmingham City, who only a couple of months ago sold the midlands outfit to Carson Yeung.
Sullivan and Gold have bought 50% of the Hammers for £105million, with the option of buying the other half in the future from the bank Straumer, anytime within the next four years. The pair have previous at Upton Park having owned a 27% stake of the club 22 years ago.
Their move back to the club is certainly one that should please the fans, especially when you look at their realistic plans for the future, both short term and long term. “We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League and turn them into a big club and over the seven-year period we do plan to spend a lot of money,” were the words of David Sullivan at their takeover press conference mid-week.
The deal to takeover the club has been done in Sullivan’s name, but both he and Gold will be joint-chairmen. Further changes in the boardroom means the Scott Duxbury has stood down as chief executive, and Karren Brady who has worked with the pair at Birmingham City as Managing Director, will take up the position of vice-chairman.
One thing that I admire about the new owners is that they were completely honest about the debts and troubles the club is in, running very close to the abyss. Portsmouth should certainly take a leaf out of their book, then again, who owns the South Coast club these days?
The previous Icelandic owners of the Hammers left the club in debts of about £80million plus, but it doesn’t stop there as Sullivan stated in the press conference: “There’s £50m owed to banks, there’s £40m owed to other clubs. There’s not a penny to come in, they (the previous owners) have borrowed against the next two years of season-ticket money. The sponsors have paid 70 per cent of their three-years up front.”
The London outfit also needs to raise £20million in the next two transfer windows to keep the club afloat – that is £8million in January and £12million in the summer.
Once again, it is a case of simple mismanagement, and wage imbalance at the club. In research, I read that the Hammers were paying former player Lucas Neill £60,000 a week, that is Champions League wages for a club who finished 9th last season, outside the European places.
The fans and players alike will also be happy to see that Gianfranco Zola will remain on as manager, and now with a bit of financial backing he maybe be able to get in a player or two before the transfer window closes because the Hammers have been very unlucky with the timing of injuries to players this season. Although, for now, the main aim of the manager and the team will be to stay in the Premier League and finish as high up the table as possible.
Champions League football? No doubt a few eyebrows were raised when Sullivan and Gold mentioned this, eyes may have even be rolled among fans, thinking here we go again, Manchester City all over again. However, seven years is a long time in football, which is why if the pair run the club properly then I don’t see why West Ham can’t be playing with Europe’s finest in the next couple of years.