(N43) West Ham - will they survive? - Sports Guardian; 30th April 2011
Goodbye Parker, Upson, Cole. Hello £40m black hole
- what the drop means for West Ham - by Jamie Jackson
Relegation from the Premier League would lead to squad break-up and financial crisis
Manchester City, Blackburn. Rovers, Wigan Athletic and Sunderland are all that now stand between West Ham United and oblivion. Six years after Alan Pardew guided the East End club back into the Premier League, Avram Grant has four games to prise his side off the bottom of the table, starting with tomorrow's Eastlands meeting with Roberto Mancini's team.
Plunge into the Championship and a financial shadow will darken over the club. West Ham have around £80m of debt and will become tenants of the Olympic Stadium at Stratford for the start of the 2014-15 season, legal challenges allowing. Balancing the books will be far trickier in the proposed 60,000-seat stadium without the £45m a-year TV money from the Premier League, despite what the club and the Olympic Park Legacy Company may claim. Without Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool, Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal as visitors, it seems unlikely that in the Championship they could lift this season's average attendance of 33,000 to 60,000.
Asked how nervous he is regarding the challenge of staying up Grant says:
If West Ham are relegated it will be the beginning of the end for an underachieving squad. Sullivan again questioned the players' commitment this week, rating their prospects of staying up at only "25%". Scott Parker, West Ham’s only star turn this campaign, is exempted from this criticism. But he would be sold to raise cash, though relegation would slice his value from around £15m to £10m. The midfielder would certainly be followed by many more, among them Carlton Cole, Robert Green, Mark Noble, Demba Ba, plus Thomas Hitzlsperger, the out-of-contract Matthew Upson and the loan signings Victor Obinna, Wayne Bridge and Robbie Keane.
These are all seasoned enough performers to suggest West Ham should not be two points from safety, and Julian Dicks, the former West Ham left-back, is clear where the blame lies.
This has been the tale since Gold and Sullivan bought the club last January. After Gianfranco Zola managed to avoid the drop but was sacked last summer, Grant took over, only to suffer a whispering campaign against him.
On the opening day West Ham left Villa Park having lost 3-0, and a turbulent eight months began. Standing 18th then, Grant and his troops had to wait nearly five more months for the table to show they were above the relegation zone.
Ahead of the visit of Wigan on 27 November West Ham were bottom, so the club designated the match a make-or-break "save our season" encounter. A 3-1 win followed but they remained 20th. When a ' Freddie Sears strike confirmed a 2-0 win at Wolves on New Year's day, Grant's mantra that fortunes would improve had a glimmer of credence.
Yet matters on and off the pitch were about to worsen for him. On 8 January Karren Brady, the vice-chairman, used her Saturday newspaper column to reveal that the deal to sign Steve Sidwell from Aston Villa was vetoed by her, not the manager, who then had to deal with awkward questions regarding this intervention. A week later West Ham were bottom, following a 5-0 reverse at Newcastle United, and Arsenal were due in east London.
That morning, reports claimed that Grant would be sacked whatever the result, with Martin O'Neill lined up to replace him. The owners were forced into denials and the sense of turbulence surrounding the club was heightened by the rumours. Arsenal defeated West Ham 3-0 but somehow Grant clung on. Cottee again: "The owners deserve credit for rescuing West Ham when they did as the club would have gone bankrupt. But since then they've made mistakes including the handling of the Martin O'Neill situation. If they'd sacked Avram Grant first they'd have got Martin."
If West Ham overcome the legal challenges by Tottenham Hotspur and Leyton Orient they will have to invest at least £95m in Stratford. This includes a £40m loan from Newham council, extending the debt to £120m. The OPLC says it has assurances that relegation Would not affect the club's ability to take over the stadium, and Ian Tomkins, the club's Olympic Stadium director, says: "The business plan has been modelled on different scenarios. The stadium is not only about West Ham United - concerts, potential naming rights, there's a whole range of [financial] opportunities.
"It is about taking West Ham United to the next level, breaking out of what can become an almost cyclical pattern of staying up and then the threat of relegation."
There are doubts over West Ham United's ability to fill the Olympic Stadium
Five unanswered questions
Over what time frame will the Newham loan be repaid?
Will the multi-use business plan payoff?
When will the lease be signed?
What is the detail of the west Ham business plan?
|"The ramifications of relegation don't bear thinking about. The club is already £80m in debt"|
The midfielder Scott Parker is one of a number of leading players who will leave West Ham if they are relegated
Photograph: Scott Heavey/Getty Images
Will they be able to fill the stadium?
Sports Guardian; 30th April 2011
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1/5/2011 Last updated 1/5/2011