World Cup bid is key for West Ham
Thursday 21 January 2010
The chances of West Ham United moving to the Olympic Stadium after 2012 could hinge on the success of England's bid to host the World Cup in 2018. The club's new owners David Sullivan and David Gold are keen on the idea of relocating to the £537m stadium in Stratford, only three miles from their current home Upton Park. Such a move is fraught with difficulty, not least the £100m cost of converting the stadium into a viable football ground.
The current plan is to reduce the Olympic Stadium's capacity from 80,000 to 25,000 after the Games. However the Olympic Park Legacy Company is currently reviewing all the options and is willing to speak with West Ham as long as the stadium retains the ability to host top level athletics.
The size of the stadium is key. One of the biggest factors in keeping the capacity at a high level, probably around 55,000, is whether England wins the bid to host the 2018 World Cup. The Olympic Stadium has been included as a potential host stadium, as an either-or with Tottenham Hotspur's proposed revamp of White Hart Lane. Should England win their bid then the Olympic Stadium is likely to remain at a higher capacity after the Games, a situation that would favour West Ham's proposed relocation.
An OPLC spokesperson said yesterday: "The Olympic Park Legacy Company is currently looking at the uses of the Olympic venues, including the stadium, after the Games. Nothing is ruled in or out at this stage."
Sullivan and Gold bought 50 per cent of West Ham for £52m on Tuesday, and yesterday they backed the club's manager Gianfranco Zola by claiming they will fund moves to sign two strikers and a defender before the transfer window closes. Benfica's veteran striker Nuno Gomes and Blackburn's Benni McCarthy are two possible targets.
Sullivan said yesterday he had given his full support to Zola and assistant manager Steve Clarke when they met up on Tuesday night. Sullivan said: "I was hugely impressed with Gianfranco and Steve. He has a 'can-do' attitude, but with a pragmatic approach. We agreed we need at least one striker by the Portsmouth match [on Tuesday] and the second by the end of the window."
Sullivan's partner Gold admitted he is keen on McCarthy, who came close to joining West Ham from Porto five years ago. Gold said: "He would be a good acquisition. It's possible, but all strikers that are available as we speak are possible."
The futures of technical director Gianluca Nani and chief executive officer Scott Duxbury remain uncertain. Sullivan confirmed that he intends dealing with transfers. New vice-chairman Karren Brady has been charged with finding ways of cutting West Ham's debt which Sullivan revealed has risen to £110m.
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