West Ham write cricket into plans for stadium

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The Independent Football

West Ham United yesterday submitted their formal bid to move into the £547m Olympic Stadium after the 2012 Games in London. The club's plan, which has the full support of the local authority Newham Council, is to reduce the stadium's capacity from 80,000 to 60,000 and to retain the running track around the pitch so athletics events can still be staged there.

The move has also won the backing of Essex County Cricket Club who are interested is possibly holding Twenty20 matches at the ground. Experts estimate it would cost around £100m to convert the stadium to a permanent football ground, and it remains to be seen how West Ham propose to meet that cost.

West Ham vice-chairman Karren Brady said: "We believe this is the only bid that can deliver London's legacy commitment to the International Olympic Committee. The last thing anyone wants is for the Olympic Stadium to become a ghost of Olympics past. The only realistic solution is to make the stadium work for a Premier League football team and that should be West Ham United.

"As a top-flight football club we have the necessary expertise in running a major multi-purpose venue. Working with Newham Council we could ensure extensive use of the stadium that would create prosperity in the local area and see this club grow and move on to another level. Our plan to keep most of the stadium in place protects the public investment."

AEG, the firm that has turned the failing Millennium Dome into a hugely successful concert venue, is also bidding for the stadium.

A more pressing need for West Ham concerns appointing a new manager following the sacking last week of Gianfranco Zola. Portsmouth's Avram Grant is expected to be appointed in the coming days, and that move came a step closer yesterday when Andrew Andronikou, the south coast club's administrator, said he would not stand in the Israeli's way.

Andronikou said: "We'll sit down this week and have a discussion about his future. I want to make it clear we will support which ever decision he comes to. He's given unconditional support for us over the last four months when maybe other managers would have walked.

"If he wants to leave we won't stand in his way. We'll give him our full support. We're not going to hold anyone to ransom. If he wants to move on we'll be behind that. I think all the fans would be behind that decision, too."

Grant is the favourite for the job but he is not the only candidate being considered by the West Ham co-owners David Sullivan and David Gold.

The other names believed to be on the West Ham shortlist include Blackburn Rovers' manager Sam Allardyce, Dave Jones at Cardiff and Blackpool's maverick manager Ian Holloway.

Mark Hughes, Slaven Bilic and Steve McClaren have all been ruled out, after either asking for too much money or being put off by the way Gold and Sullivan handled Zola's situation once they bought the club in January.