Kicked into touch: Jowell deals a blow to West Ham's stadium plans

Minister insists the London Olympic site must remain primarily a venue for athletics
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The Independent Football

The Olympics Minister Tessa Jowell has dealt a blow to West Ham United's proposed move to London's Olympic Stadium by insisting that the venue's primary purpose will be to host grand prix athletics.

David Gold and David Sullivan completed a takeover of the Premier League strugglers last month and immediately set about looking at ways to improve the financially perilous state of the club. The main policy of the duo's bid to rescue the Hammers was to leave Upton Park and move to the capital's 80,000-capacity Olympic Stadium in Stratford.

Officials insist that the Games must leave a legacy to athletics in East London and are adamant that grand prix meetings will be held at the stadium.

That could prove a stumbling block for Sullivan and Gold, who would prefer to host matches without having an athletics track around the pitch.

"Let's be clear about this. It will be a grand prix athletics stadium because we need one," Jowell said. "We have made that commitment, that was one of the reasons that we bid to win the Games and so that is a given."

The government has set up the Olympic Park Legacy Company to resolve what the stadium's purpose will be after the Games. Jowell criticised the new owners' decision to publicly state the club was ready to relocate to Stratford, and insisted that any move will have to be sanctioned by the committee.

She said: "I don't think you can jump from a press conference where the new owners sit down and say 'we'd like to move to the Olympic Stadium' to how it might work. In order to make sure we maximise the legacy of the park, we have set up the Olympic Park Legacy Company and they will shortly be inviting bids and business plans from any business that wants to apply for a commercial stake in the stadium and if West Ham want to made a bid at that time it will be considered alongside all the others."

One issue that was settled yesterday was West Ham's dispute with their former manager Alan Curbishley. Curbishley is now free to return to management after agreeing a pay-off over his Upton Park exit 17 months ago.

The 52-year-old recently won a claim of wrongful dismissal against the Hammers. He walked out after the club sold Anton Ferdinand and George McCartney to Sunderland against his wishes – sales which breached his contract. But Sullivan and Gold acted quickly to bring the matter to an end.

In a statement given to the League Managers' Association, Curbishley spoke about his record at the club, before adding: "I would like to thank David Sullivan for acting quickly and concluding the settlement since his arrival at West Ham.

"It has taken many months to conclude this case but I am proud of my record at West Ham which included a win ratio of 40 per cent, after initially keeping the club in the Premier League and a 10th-place finish in my only full season in charge.

"I would also like to thank the LMA, Mike Morrison of Hill Dickinson and Paul Gilroy QC for their support, hard work and confidence in my case. I am now looking forward to the future and getting back into management."