West Ham enter 'serious' talks over move to Olympic stadium

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The Independent Football

West Ham United are in "very serious negotiations" with the Olympic authorities about moving into the 2012 stadium, the Sports Minister, Richard Caborn, confirmed yesterday.

The Premiership club have been interested in the stadium for some time and earlier this week the chairman Terry Brown held talks with officials while also conducting negotiations over a possible £75m takeover.

The move does not hinge on the success of one of the two bids although it will undoubtedly help Brown in his discussions if he can claim that the club can move from Upton Park to the site at Stratford, east London.

Brown and West Ham's managing director, Paul Aldridge, are understood to remain far more enthusiastic about the bid fronted by the Iranian businessman Kia Joorabchian and financed by the Israeli property magnate Eli Papoushado, who has also personally engaged the bankers NM Rothschild and is currently in London.

An alternative bid led by Eggert Magnusson, an Icelandic businessman and also head of his country's football federation, has received little encouragement. Magnusson has also been in London and is believed to be frustrated at the way he is being treated. "There has been no meeting and no meeting is intended with those people at the moment," said Phil Hall, West Ham's public relations consultant, who also represents Joorabchian.

Papoushado, in particular, is interested in the "real estate" possibilities of acquiring the Upton Park site if West Ham move and has already admitted that he is not a great football fan and knows little about the club.

West Ham's interests in the Olympic Stadium pre-dates any talk of a takeover although the board is understood to be split as to whether it is a good idea. Caborn is supportive of the move, although it has met resistance from the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone.

Caborn said yesterday: "There is a very serious negotiation going on between West Ham and the Olympic authorities about the stadium. Talks are going on about whether they could do a similar thing to Manchester City when they took over the Commonwealth Games stadium in 2002."

The minister added: "I've have not had any contact with either of the reported bidders at any point - nor would I if they approached me as this would be totally inappropriate."

Manchester City spent £20m on the changes needed to the Commonwealth Games stadium and have a 250-year lease. Under their deal, they also pay a percentage of their ticket revenue back into grassroots football.

If a football club does move to the Olympic Stadium, London 2012 are keen that the ground would still be able to hold athletics events.

Tottenham have also looked at the viability of moving to the stadium but the sporting director Damien Comolli said they would not want to move to a new home where there would be an athletics track.