Murray to sell Sunderland stake if the price is right

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The Sunderland chairman Bob Murray last night maintained his readiness to sell his stake in the club - if the right offer comes along.

Under Stock Exchange rules, Murray was obliged to formalise the declaration he made last week, when he announced that "the door is open" for potential investors to come forward.

Murray, who owns 56.8 per cent of shares, said in yesterday's statement that he "would be willing to consider a change of control of the company [by selling all or part of his shareholding] subject to this being in the best interests of the company and its shareholders".

If, as expected, Sunderland drop into the Championship, passing them in the opposite direction will be Reading, who made certain of promotion to the top flight at the weekend. The club's director of football, Nick Hammond, believes Reading will have no problem attracting new players for their assault on the Premiership.

The Carling Cup finalists Wigan found it difficult to attract new players following their promotion from the Championship last season, but Hammond is confident that the same thing will not happen to the Royals.

"Plans are in place and we have ideas about what we want to do during the close season," Hammond said. "One of the most pleasing things for me as a director of football is obviously the results and all the attention that comes with it.

"It has been a record-breaking season for us. We went on a 33-game unbeaten run and the profile of the club and the brand, if you like, has really grown this year and that's important for us as we go forward.

"It's a great football club and it has fantastic facilities. Location-wise it's in a great spot and we have a great manager. I think people are beginning to see that and more importantly the style which we play is interesting people, too."

Hammond added: "We have played with pace and good technical quality this year. It has taken the club to a wider audience and that can only be of benefit to us, so why wouldn't people want to come here?"

The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, has ruled out any possibility of a football club taking over the Olympic Stadium after the 2012 London Games.

The stadium has been earmarked to become a permanent athletics venue but with its capacity reduced from 80,000 to 25,000, but there have been persistent suggestions that West Ham United or even Tottenham Hotspur could use the ground.

However, Livingstone said that the International Olympic Committee would block any move to change the stadium's use post-2012 because London has already given legally-binding guarantees about it being a future athletics venue.

Speaking at a sports industry conference in London, Livingstone said: "After the fiasco of Picketts Lock, what was decisive in shifting some votes was that there is going to be a world-class athletics venue at the centre of a transport hub in a great, modern city for the next 30 or 50 years," Livingstone said.

"I can't make any change to that without the IOC agreeing. If I and Seb Coe were to go to see Jacques Rogge and the IOC and say, 'We know we promised you an athletics stadium but we would much rather have West Ham in there as they would make more money out of it', they would simply say, 'We have a contract and you can get lost'.

"The deal we made is that it's an athletics stadium."

Livingstone, one of the four members of the ruling Olympic Board, also said that London organisers had learned the lessons of the Wembley Stadium saga.

He added: "We have opened the Tube station so people can get there but it's not going to be used until next year's Cup final. If there has been anything stupid about the way it has been gone about, it's the idea that you simply draw up a contract with someone to build it and transfer all of the risk on to them. At the end of the day, if it gets sufficiently nasty they can go into liquidation and that's the end of that.

"The lesson we have got out of the Multiplex and FA problems is that adverserial contracts are not going to be what it's all about," the mayor said.

"You actually want something where the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and the Olympic Delivery Authority have a working partnership with the developer and are not simply arguing about who pays if there's a cost over-run, so when problems occur you get to hear of it and they are not hidden away."